Traveling with your family is always an adventure and a way to make lasting memories, whether you're traveling somewhere relatively close to home or somewhere really far away. This time of year is popular for families to travel, with many school systems having either a February vacation or a spring break in March. Summer is also a popular travel time for families.
Traveling with a family can really add up. Just getting and staying there can eat up quite a bit of money, and that's without taking into account any activities, meals or souvenirs at your destination. Even if you've saved up for your vacation, you probably still want to be thoughtful with how you spend your travel dollars. So how can you keep travel costs down while still having a great time?
Never fear, I've got some tips for you! I may be a RI family photographer, but I've also learned quite a bit about traveling frugally (but having fun!) from my own travel experiences. Read below for tips on how to save money on travel. Got your own tip? Let me know in the comments!
BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR FLIGHTS.
If you're flying to your destination, those ticket prices can eat up a huge piece of your travel budget, especially when you're buying for multiple people. You can save a fairly significant amount of money on flights if you're able to be flexible. Many people fly on weekend days, but those can be the most expensive days to fly. Shifting your flights just a few days to midweek or non-weekend days can really bring ticket prices down. Some travel and airline websites allow you to put in flexible dates so you can see how prices change if you leave and return on different days, which is very helpful.
In addition to being flexible with dates, being flexible with airports can often yield savings. If you have several airports around you that you are able to travel to (and/or several airports near your destination), do searches to see if flights are less expensive at another airport.
GET A CREDIT CARD THAT WORKS FOR YOU.
Having a credit card that gives you rewards for travel can be a HUGE bonus (and savings). There are lots of choices out there. Most airlines have a credit card that will reward you with frequent flyer miles (often 1 mile for each dollar spent, but check the conditions on each. Some cards may offer double points for purchases from specific stores or vendors as well.) If you always fly the same airline, these are a good choice. Other cards offer points or miles that aren't tied to a specific airline and you get to choose. There are also hotel chains that offer credit cards that have rewards or points that can be used towards stays there.
I have an airline branded credit card that I use for groceries and gas purchases, then pay off the bill in full each month. Miles add up fairly quickly and we are generally able to get at least one free airline ticket per trip, which is a big help.
THINK OUTSIDE THE (HOTEL ROOM) BOX
The accommodations during a vacation are often at least half the fun. When I was a kid, staying in hotels and motels was so cool. They were different than home, had free little soaps, the ice machine was always super fun (just me?) and sometimes the hotels were really fancy! Hotels can also be really expensive. Or, sometimes the hotel choices at your destination might not look all that great to you.
Nowadays, there are ways to find all kinds of great vacation rentals on sites like VRBO, Homeaway, and AirBNB. You can rent anything from a room to an entire house, and there accommodations in lots of price ranges. You can very often find a lot more than a hotel offer for less money. These properties are more home like than a hotel (because they actually are apartments or homes), giving your family a comfortable home base and a greater feeling of being part of the local community vs just a visitor.
If you're really adventurous and are traveling to a location that offers it (and the weather is right), camping is an option that can save you a ton over hotels. You can often pitch a tent for as low as $10 or $15 a day, though prices will vary. People either love or hate tent camping so it might be a no for you, but hey, it's worth suggesting!
Sampling local cuisine is the highlight of any vacation, especially if you're a foodie. It can also be expensive. Eating out three meals a day, for an entire family, is not cheap. One of my very favorite ways to save money on vacation is by eating in vs going out. On our own vacations, we always rent a place that has a kitchen (see above). Then we hit the local grocery store and stock up, and cook our own meals. This is SUCH a big savings over eating out. You can certainly still hit those special local restaurants, but even cooking some of your meals will save you lots. If you're not able to stay somewhere that allows for cooking, you can still find ways to eat in some of the time. Many hotel rooms offer mini fridges (ask if yours does...some don't advertise it, but they'll provide one if you ask). Fill the fridge with OJ, milk for cereal, coffee creamer, etc. Get some cereal, make coffee in the room's coffee maker, and your breakfasts are taken care of.