Nearly every year, people look to plan family vacations and empty vacation savings accounts or rack up charges on credit cards while pursuing some “fun” they will pay for over the next several months. The thing is, you can do better. Yes, it is great to give your kids the experiences that come with family travel to wonderful destinations, but you don’t have to bankrupt yourself to do so.
The truth is there are a lot of ways to save money on family travel that have nothing to do with compromising the experience or going super cheap. It’s more about deciding how and when to spend money, and what to invest in on your family vacation. Here are five common and rather easy ways to save money on family travel.
Think Bigger than a Hotel
Guess what one of the top expenses is on nearly everyone’s vacation? Hotels and lodging. However, you’re trading your spacious home in the suburbs for square footage the equivalent of a studio apartment that you will share with your entire family, kids included. If you are going to stay in one destination long enough, there are other options.
Thanks to services like Airbnb and others, you can rent a home or condominium for the same price or even less and have a lot more space. The key is to know where you are going and book far enough in advance. Know your neighborhoods and be sure you are close to the attractions and the areas where you want to be.
These services often offer maps, and you can contact owners directly with questions about things that are nearby and transportation options. The point is that if you are going to go on vacation, make it enjoyable for everyone. Think bigger than hotels and you’ll probably save some money along the way.
Look at the Off-Peak Season
So Greece is filled with tourists and is really hot in August. It is cooler, emptier, and cheaper in September. Even if you have to pull your kids from school for a few days to visit the Mediterranean, it probably won’t hurt their education and can even help.
Also, look at visiting attractions on off days. Amusement park lines are long on Friday and Saturday, but much shorter on Tuesdays, and the rides are the same. You can also save money by booking flights on these days rather than the more popular Friday through Monday. Tuesday and Thursday will usually be the cheapest.
The idea is to be creative. Go to the same hotels and attractions, fly on the same airlines, but look at off-peak seasons and times to save money and save yourself from the crowds.
Change How and When You Eat
Vacation is not the time to start a new diet or suddenly switch to a vegan lifestyle. It is your time to indulge, but you can do it wisely, especially with your whole family along. Try eating out for lunches and packing dinners and snacks. Eat during restaurant happy hours and off-peak dining times as well.
Look at buffets and pizza, foods that are filling and will satisfy the kids for hours. This is another argument for an Airbnb or something similar. Kitchenettes or places where you can cook together as a family or at least store and heat leftovers can make your vacation much more affordable.
Also, think of coupons. There are discounts through Groupon and even tourist sites or local tourism departments that will allow you to eat out at a much more reasonable rate. Look at them before you go and try to pick them up at your destination.
Bring Your Own Entertainment
Yes, often hotels or even Airbnb locations will have titles for rent or ones you can purchase on their television screens. With Netflix and other services and portable DVD players that can easily be paired with most televisions, it is easy to bring your own though and save those rental charges. Even a $6 or $10 movie here and there can really add up.
Just be sure you are ready just in case and have your own entertainment if you need it. A Roku stick or Apple TV is actually pretty easy to carry along, and you’ll have all the streaming accounts you have at home right at your fingertips.
Share Your Experience
How do you save money by sharing your experiences? Simple. You can offer reviews of places or products, and even do some family travel blogging? Sound too complicated? Not at all. With modern technology and connectivity, it is easy to set up your trip, your blog, and even get free stuff or discounts ahead of time.
Here’s how it works. First, you will need to have a strong social media presence. The companies that offer you discounts and freebies want to see that their products will be shared far and wide. If you are going to travel blog as well, but another sure way to get an in, you will need to set up a website by finding and choosing a domain name, finding hosting often from the same provider, and then designing a website or having one set up for you.
Thankfully there are many travel blog templates out there and they are easy to set up and use. Once you have your website set up and a strong social media presence that is active, contact the places you will be traveling and the airlines you will be using.
Let them know that you are a travel blogger and destination/services, reviewer. Include your social media links and your blog links. Then ask if they would be interested in your posting a review of your experience. Most of the time, you don’t even have to ask for discounts or freebies: the company will offer them to you in exchange for an honest review.
Of course, there are many other ways you can save money on your family vacation as well, but if you start with these, you can be well on your way to a vacation that is just as memorable and enjoyable minus the financial stress and strain.