Traveling as a family can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many ways to make travel affordable, whether it involves traveling down the road or flying overseas. From smarter packing to a new money-saving app, there are plenty of ways to make family travel more affordable. Here are seven favorite money-saving travel tips, some you might have known and forgotten and others you never thought of before.
We’ve been traveling the world as a family of five for ten years and it isn’t cheap! With three growing boys, it’s a constant balancing act of keeping food costs in check and not overspending on accommodation. There have been many things we learned along the way. Some tips have stuck with us and a few of these are new. We’re up for anything that puts money back in our pocket! Check out our favorite money-saving tips:
1. Bring your own snacks or food
When traveling, food can be one thing that is a major budget buster. Get ahead of the game by bringing snacks when traveling. Favorite snacks include those that don’t spoil or make a huge mess, such as fruit strips and chewy granola bars. Bring water bottles that can be filled at drinking fountains along the way instead of purchasing drinks. Any snacks that can be brought from home will save money in the long run.
Another idea is to stay in lodging that offers a kitchenette or kitchen. This means no more eating out for every meal. We have enjoyed staying at a local apartment or home, shopping at the local market and preparing food our children like to eat. Our kids often appreciate staying in after a long day of running around and exploring.
2. Carry on bags only
When flying, don’t check bags! This is easy to say and harder to do, but those fees can add up. We use packing cubes to organize luggage space and keep everyone’s clothes separated. It helps to roll everything to maximize the space.
Color coordinate outfits so everything can be mixed and matched easily. I make our kids wear their heaviest pair of shoes on the plane and pack the rest. All of these things help keep clothing weight to a minimum and avoid luggage fees.
3. Be smart when booking hotels
When traveling with a family, always stay at hotels that serve breakfast when possible. When everyone fills up on food in the morning, there is less of a chance they ask for mid-morning snacks. If there are cereal boxes, granola bars, or apples, grab those and take them for snacks later in the day.
Don’t assume online booking gets the best price. Join hotel loyalty programs for extra benefits such as free wi-fi and parking. Also, don’t be afraid to call and ask for additional upgrades. More often than not, staff is willing and able to accommodate.
4. Walk everywhere when possible
It can be very tempting to use local transportation when traveling, but those fees can add up. Think about the cost of taking a taxi, a shuttle, or a subway, versus walking. It saves a ton of money! When traveling with a family, the fees can be exorbitant for a large group. As a family of five we often have to incur the expense of two taxis. Walking is not only good exercise, but it keeps more money in our wallets!
5. Stay on the edge of a big city
Don’t let the attraction of staying in the “city center” be your downfall. In many cities the most expensive hotels are in the center and prices drop as the properties go farther out. At this point, it might be best to rent a car. Not only does it save on transportation costs, it will be logistically necessary. Sometimes major attractions are located outside the city center so stay near one because some will offer “packages” with hotel/attraction discounts.
6. Invest in a city discount pass
Almost every major city has a discount pass that offers ticket holders a reduced admission to a variety of attractions in that city. Some places call it a Go City Card, others its a CityPASS, or simply the name of the city Card/Pass (ie. Copenhagen Card). Depending on how many sites you plan to see, these can be a worthwhile investment. They offer various discounts (and often free admission) on some of the most popular attractions in a city. A few of the passes include free transportation and dining discounts as well. We have used these as they have proven to be money savers time and time again.
7. Use apps that offer discounts
One of the latest apps out there offering travel discounts is called Dosh. This is a cash-back app that makes it easy to get money back on purchases. The app works by finding the best deals on hotels, car rentals, etc. and then putting cash back in the pockets of travelers. To begin, I simply had to enter my credit card in the app. Whenever I buy something at a merchant that uses Dosh, a cash rebate goes right back to my card. It’s pretty easy to use and I couldn’t believe the massive network of hotels and activities they have available. Everything can be sorted by destination, so when you’re traveling somewhere, just plug in the city and Dosh will tell you what’s available with cash back rewards. It’s definitely worth checking into before your next trip.
How does your family save money on travel?