Last Updated on October 13, 2020
Is there a better feeing than being able to take a break from the crazy of life and be able to have some undisturbed time to connect with your family? When you are dreaming of all the family trips you would love to take, it can be overwhelming. It feels like all the families who travel are either wealthy, or sold everything to be able to take off on all these adventures. How can you make family travel on a budget work for you?
“The greatest legacy we can leave our children is happy memories” -Og Mandino
From our experience, it does not have to be that way. After all, we are an average family in expensive Vancouver, BC who have found ways to make it work. We are so blessed to have so many opportunities that have allowed us this adventurous life, such as being born in Canada, and working hard in decent paying jobs, but what it comes down to in the long run is (1) Making travel a priority, and (2) Making sacrifices and “going without” in your everyday life to keep experiences more important than owning the “nicest stuff”.
Vacations do not have to be something that you have to “splurge” on and blow your budget. With a little creativity and thinking outside the box, you can make anything possible.
“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” – Dr.Seuss
Adventure Doesn’t Only Happen In Far Off Destinations
This is the first point we like to really stress every time we hear people say that they could never make travel work. Adventure does not always have to be in far off, fancy destinations. Travel is what you make it to be. We find that we always end up taking our hometown for granted. It is so easy to want to jet-set off to somewhere else in the world, but you’re also missing out on so many hidden gems. You would be surprised how many gems are around you and all within a day’s drive, and are within your goal of family travel on a budget.
This last summer while I was at the end of my pregnancy with baby #4, we felt that staying around beautiful BC would still give us plenty of adventure and would be a little more comfortable being around home before our last adventure buddy arrived. We found plenty of adventure. So much, in fact, that the kids asked to have a couple days off of all the adventure to be able to rest and relax. Adventure is everywhere and is what you make of it! It was great to have a summer where we were able to play tourist in our home Province of BC and learn more about where we live. There’s always more to discover — especially in an outdoor paradise like BC.
Visiting Friends And Family
When you visit friends and family, providing they have the space, you could find yourself with some free lodging. They are also the best source for the local scoop on their city. You are also able to save on meals by buying groceries and eating with your hosts. They may also be able to help you secure some resident-friendly prices for local theme parks and attractions. Visiting friends and family has more benefits than just getting to spend quality time with them. Just be willing to return the favour when they want to come and see you.
“Blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures” – Lovelle Drachman
Choose Your Destination First
We find we have the most success sticking to a budget when we take a look at a few places we would like to visit and compare the costs of when we want to travel. For example, if you use Google Flights, you can take a look at the best flight deals over the next several months. This shows us the most affordable options at that point in time, and then we can figure out how we can get the most out of our money.
Credit Card Reward Points
In Canada the reward programs are not as generous as we keep hearing some of the reward programs are in the United States, but points still do add up. It took us five years of saving up our points, but we finally have enough points that we are planning a getaway in a year for our 10 year wedding anniversary and though it will not be anything over the top extravagant, we can still go on a hot and sexy couples getaway for free or almost free, depending on the destination we end up choosing. The key is to use the card for your everyday purchases and pay it off in full each month. Use it responsibly! We personally recommend the RBC Avion.
“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams” – Oprah Winfrey
If you plan on leaving and returning on a weekend, you’ll end up spending a lot more than if you can plan it around mid-week travel. It may make things a little more difficult when work or taking kids out of school is concerned, but we have found that we save a considerable amount flying mid-week. We use Google Flights to compare options and with four kids now, every bit of money we can save to take our kids on experiences gives us more freedom to have more adventures on our trips.
Sure it can feel good to stay in a fancy hotel, but how much time do you actually spend in your hotel room when you travel? The one nice-to-have that helps with kids is trying to get a hotel with a swimming pool, but to travel with our kids more often, we have learned to lower our standards to clean and basic hotels. We also try to search out some AirBnbs that are usually more affordable when there are so many of us. We are willing to sacrifice extra fancy hotels to have more funds for additional adventures.
Eating Out Too Much
Food is a huge part of experiencing a new destination, but we try to be as creative as we can to pick some special meals and treats we want to try. The rest of the time we will buy our own groceries and make our own meals. You can always make a meal more special by going for a picnic or near some attractions you want to see in your current destination.
Spending Too Much On Attractions
It is all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new destination and wanting to “see it all”. By being more selective with attractions and only paying for what you want to see most, you’ll find that you are having the experiences that you also really want to have. You’ll also find your trip is more relaxed instead of running around trying to do it all.
Blog About It
It takes a LOT of work, but if you are willing to work for it, you really can find companies that you can help create value for in exchange for a free admission or hotel stay and review. We really care about the companies that we work with and pride ourselves on being honest with our readers as well. Blogging really helps us stretch our travel money as far as we can. We have been able to work with some incredible companies and have some fantastic adventures that have left us with some priceless memories.
Keep Tabs On Travel Deal Websites
In Vancouver, one of the best travel websites for being alerted about deals is YVRdeals.com. If you’re able to take off on a whim when a good deal pops up, you can get some fantastic travel deals. We once flew from Vancouver to Los Angeles for free and only had to pay the flight taxes, which were $60CDN (roundtrip) per person. There are also several other sites like Next Vacay and Airfare Watchdog. If you sign up for their notifications, and if you’re alert enough, you can find some fantastic deals. Which, leads into my next point: making sure you keep a travel fund.
‘Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show”
Save, Save, Save
If you are not consistently putting aside money for travel that you do not touch, you’re not setting yourself up to make sure that you have the funds available when a good deal comes up to get away. We have an automatic transfer that goes into an account we do not let ourselves touch, except for travel. After a few weeks, your mindset will adjust and you will think of it as money that is not even there and it will continue to grow, grow and grow.
Go Where Everybody Else Isn’t
If you’re able to travel out of peak season, you’ll find more affordable options. But, if you must travel in the busy seasons, opt for the alternatives that will have a lower amount of tourists and lower cost. Also take a look at what celebrations and festivals are going to be happening. If you’re planning on going to Mount Rushmore during the Sturgis South Dakota Annual Motorcycle Rally, or New Mexico during their famous International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, you may find higher prices on hotel stays and airfare. Unless you are specifically going for the event, find a less-popular time to visit.
“Two of the greatest gifts we can give our children are roots and wings” – Hodding Carter
Taking a car over a plane with a large family like we have, can make the trip more affordable. Road trips are great because we can pull over and take a break when the kids need it, take our own pace and explore some extra interesting places you would have otherwise not seen or flown over. You may just have to figure out how to deal with continually hearing the phrase “Are we there yet?”.
On our road trips, we also try to save some money by camping. Though camping is not for everyone, if you can stand to rough it for a night here or there, you can still save money over a hotel. These days, there are plenty of campsites that offer bathrooms with flushing toilets and showers and you can pack basic items to eat that don’t require lighting a fire.
What are some tips we missed that help you to make travel possible for your family?