Since we travel so much with our kids and as a couple, we are always asked what we do to save more money and make the travel as “affordable” as it can be. Truth is, travel can be expensive if you do not know how to plan it right. We firmly believe that everyone has a different situation and circumstances, but if you’re willing to work hard for something — it too can be your reality! Sure, it would be nice to not have to worry about a budget and spend as we wish, but that really is not reality for us or millions of other families out there. Plus, it is a great feeling when we budget well and realize that there is still enough wiggle room to extend our trip or take part in additional activities that we did not expect to be able to when the planning began.
Flexible Travel Dates
The more flexible you are on your departure and arrival dates, the better luck you will have getting a good deal. Traveling in the off-season will also allow you to get the most bang for your buck, instead of paying inflated prices on or over holidays. We always search a few different options to gauge if changing around our travel days is worth the savings, or the additional costs. We also find that third-party websites often have more competitive pricing for cheap flights than the official airline or hotel.
If you have definite dates you are able to travel, booking early can also help save you some dollars. We find that the earlier you book your accommodations or air travel, you’re offered a lower rate. This last summer when we took the kids to Alberta and stayed at the West Edmonton Mall Fantasyland Hotel, we booked early and were able to save a decent amount from doing so.
Eat Breakfast In
We save a ton of money eating breakfast at the hotel (if it is included), or picking up our own basic breakfast necessities. It is also a time saver and easier when it is one less meal to entertain the kids at the table — with three kids five and under, it can make mealtime exhausting. It is also easier to bring along some of the kid’s favorite snacks than to try to find them at your location when you really just want to have fun. It also works well to bring along some snacks for the road so you can avoid paying a lot of marked-up costs for snacks.
Take Advantage Of Apps
While we still love reading guidebooks, actual books are more to carry and apps are more convenient. So much can change in the world so fast, that chances are a “new” guidebook may already be out of date. Instead of buying the book, get an app or two. Many have great suggestions for the best entertainment, attractions, food, freebies and keeping kids entertained. If you find a good one, chances are the app will always be up to date.
Take Public Transit
Public transit is a great way and a cheap way to get around a city. It is nice when we have a car to get around, but some cities are so busy and public transit makes the most sense. For example, New York is a great place to take advantage of their transit system. The transportation can also be fun and feel like an attraction at the same time, such as the historic cable cars in San Francisco, or the talented buskers in the New York subway stations.
It is WAY easier said than done when you’re traveling with little kids, but try to pack only the essentials. We try to utilize laundry services, or if we are in a pinch we will do some laundry in the hotel room. It is easier to bring more when you are on a road trip, but if you’re flying, the lighter the suitcases, the better.
Check Out Visitor Centres
Take a minute to stop into a Visitors Centre for a map of the city, but do not forget to grab some of those brochures. You can find some great coupons inside and the employees can give great invaluable advice; after all, they live there!
Utilize Reward Programs
Take a look at the different reward programs available to you and over time it really does add up. You’ll be able to redeem for many great discounts and even some free stays. If you frequent a certain hotel chain, join their rewards program. If you prefer a certain airline, join their rewards program. If you like to make purchases by credit card, make sure you use one that gives you the best travel rewards. It all adds up!
Check Out Free Activities
Just because an activity is “free” or nearly free does not mean it is not worth your time. It is always good for the soul to get out into nature, and often that is free, or only requires a day pass to use the park. There are also plenty of free museum days (go for opening), and getting right into life as a local in different neighborhoods can be a great learning tool. Walking tours are also a cheap (by donation) or a free way to see a city and to get to know your way around.