Traveling with Kids on a Budget
“Travel is the only thing you buy, that makes you richer.”
We all hear it. Travel now because once you have kids, you won’t have time to travel due to time and money! Personally, I’ve found that I travel much more now than ever before. Traveling can be great for kids. It opens their eyes to different cultures and experiences, all while bonding and creating amazing memories with their family. Budget-friendly trips can be tough to find and even tougher when kids are involved. However, here are some tips for helping your family travel on a budget.
WAYS TO GET THERE:
In most cases, airline tickets are the most expensive part of any trip. Why not try to save a few bucks or, in some cases, a few hundred bucks? Take the money you save and put it toward another trip, excursions or spending money for this trip, or put it in your savings account! As someone who has traveled extensively around the world, here is a short list of tips to help you search for those cheapest tickets while trying to get the biggest bang for your buck!
Rewards Programs. Look for rewards programs on each website you are on. Example: Expedia offers a free rewards program and is worth looking into.
Package Deals. Are you looking to book a hotel or car along with your airline tickets? Many of the airline search engine websites offer vacation package deals and discounts when booking multiple things at the same time! Note: in some cases, it might actually be cheaper to book the flight, hotel, and/or car separately. You will need to search for combined holiday packages and then compare that to booking each item separately.
Be Flexible. Before booking, decide how flexible your travel dates are. The more flexible you are, the better deal you will find! Some airlines have cheaper flights on Tuesdays/Wednesdays and recently, a few have offered cheaper flights on Sundays. Each website and airline carrier is different. On some websites such as Webjet, you can choose "flexible dates" when searching. If you can swing it, be flexible!
Consider Different Airports. Make a list of other airports you are willing to drive to for your flight. Don't forget to include petrol money and parking when figuring out how much you can save by driving to another airport. You may also like to consider making your own stopover. For example Malindo Air have really cheap flights to Bali but only fly out of Brisbane and Perth. It is sometimes cheaper for people from Melbourne, Sydney, Tassie etc to get a budget flight to Brisbane and leave for Bali from there.
Look for Discounts. Senior citizen discounts. Student discounts. Discount codes. Look for them online before you search for your tickets.
Check Baggage Fees. Don't forget to take baggage fees into consideration before you book your flights. Most airlines are charging these fees. Other airlines are not. If you have to pay $25 each way for one piece of luggage, that means you should add on $50 to the flight cost, for each ticket.
o Tip: Use carry-on bags wisely. Fit as much as you are able to in your carry-on (following the weight and dimension requirements for carry-ons). You might be able to fit all of your clothing rolled up in your carry-on. Even if you have to pay the baggage fee for just one bag versus three or four, you just saved a bit of money!
List of Websites for Booking/Comparing Flights:
Direct Airline Sites
Travel Alerts. If you didn't find the flight or price you were looking for, sign up for travel alerts! Some websites, such as Airfare Watchdog, will e-mail you when fares are lowered.
Frequent Flyers. Once you have booked your flight, don't forget to add your frequent flyer account number to your booking.
Confirm Booking. No matter what search engine you choose to book through, don't forget to confirm both your reservation and seats directly through the airline carrier as well.
Travel by Car
Traveling by car will almost always save you money. Granted, there is the general wear and tear on the car, fuel and/or hire car prices, but don’t let a ten plus hour road trip scare you. Whether you travel during the day or decide to leave around bedtime, ensure the kids have plenty of activities to do (travel games, books, drawing supplies, toys, movies). If traveling during the day, don’t forget to make frequent stops along the way.
Example: if your route takes you through north Texas, take a ten minute side trip to visit Paris! Yes, you can visit an Eiffel Tower look-a-like in Paris, Texas! These little stops can help break up a long day of travel. Another money saving quick tip - do some grocery shopping before you leave and make some meals in the car....and don't forget that the Kooshy Kids Kooshion can still be used in the car!
WHERE TO SLEEP
If booking hotels only (versus a flight/hotel package), find the best price that you are able to online. This may mean finding a good deal on Booking.com, Wotif or a similar site. Once you’ve found the best deal, call the hotel directly. See if they will beat the online price you found. In many cases, they will.
Pay close attention to bed sizes. If you aren’t afraid of some little legs in your face and if a king size bed is cheaper than 2 doubles, consider having your child bunk with you for the night. Perhaps a room with a double bed and pull out couch is cheaper than a room with two double beds.
- Look for hotels that offer free breakfast! If they don’t, bring breakfast foods from home!
- Look for hotel rooms with a kitchen set-up. Whether it’s a simple microwave or one with more amenities, you can save money by cooking meals in your room.
- If you plan to use the Internet, book hotels that offer free Wi-Fi/Internet connections.
- If flying and spending the night in a hotel before you leave, look for hotels that offer free parking. Not just free parking for the night you are staying, but some hotels allow you to keep your vehicle parked in their lot during the entire length of your trip, even if you are not physically there, for free!
- If your kids love the water, consider this! If two hotels are the same price and one offers a pool, book the one that has a pool! It will give the kids something to look forward to after a long day of traveling.
- Don’t forget to check AirBnb/Stayz. You can often find great deals and save money!
If the temperature is right, consider camping. Whether it’s just for one night during your road trip or a longer period of time during your vacation, camping is a very budget-friendly option. Plus, the kids will love it! Many campsites will allow families to book tent sites anywhere from around $12 - $40 a night, depending on the season of course. Not only do you save money on hotels, but you can also save money by cooking on the campfire or camping grill versus going out to eat at a restaurant. Freecampsites.net is a great website to find free places to camp!
It’s also a good idea to look into Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sites. BLM sites are public land maintained by the government that you can camp at – for free! Granted, they often do not have the same full amenities as a campground run as a business offers, but it’s free! These areas are typically found in western states. So, if you are planning a trip to Estes Park in Colorado or perhaps to see beautiful Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, look into BLM sites. Note: You are not able to reserve spots on BLM land. It is first come, first serve. However, do a little research online and you’ll be able to see which BLM locations are less crowded.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE
Spending can add up quickly when looking at tours and excursions. If you are set on booking those through a tour company, scour the Internet for coupon codes, Groupon deals, and general discounts.
If looking for ways to save money, manage the tour yourself! Look at what tour companies are doing and then do the same thing, but on your own. Example: if you want to take your family on the Chocolate Walking Tour in Boston, simply find out what locations they visit and then do it on your own! Many tour companies are booked simply for the convenience factor, but just see what they are doing and plan your own tour.
Take a free walking tour. Many nonprofit organizations offer free walking tours in certain cities. Tips are requested, but these can be a great budget-friendly activity for your family to do. Or, skip the tour/tip and create your own walking tour. Find the sites you want to visit, pinpoint them on a city map, and take your own walking tour.
Free or Discounted Activities
If you plan to visit museums, check out the calendars beforehand. Many museums may offer a discount after 4:00 p.m., or may be free to the public on the last Tuesday of each month! Plan your itinerary in advance so you can take advance of these deals.
Visit websites such as TripAdvisor and search for recommendations on free activities. Whether it’s the free New York City to Staten Island Ferry or visiting a beach on Cape Cod, look for those activities that are free and that you think your kids will enjoy.
Yes, it might seem strange to single this out, but National Parks are great places for families to visit. Most National Parks have a Junior Ranger Program that is free for kids. Kid can complete a few fun tasks in the park where they learn about the park, the animals in the park, etc. and upon completion of their activity booklet and Junior Ranger oath; they are given a Junior Ranger badge for free. Entrance fees across many National Parks increased in October 2015, but visiting them are still budget-friendly item for the family. Spend the day hiking through the park, helping your kids determine what sort of animal footprints they see, and help them appreciate the National Parks. Note: A few weekends each year, National Parks open up free to the public! Take advantage of those weekends which can be found on their websites.
Random Budget Saving Tips
When eating out, look for restaurants where kids eat free. Or, if at a park, pack a picnic and skip the restaurant.
Check out TripAdvisor for budget friendly restaurants and choose your restaurants before going on vacation. Or, once you arrive to your destination, stop and talk to a local. Ask them for advice on the best place to get a budget friendly meal that represents the cuisine of the area. They will certainly give you a few options!
- Get off the beaten path. Yes, some of those tourist attractions are a must for many, but getting off the beaten path is a must as well and, in most cases, it will save you money. Chat with the locals. They can point you in the direction of those secret places that are must-sees.
- For those must-sees, determine what you need to experience and see. Example, if you are visiting Niagara Falls, I would personally say that the Maid of the Mist boat ride is a must-experience for kids – but not necessarily the Journey Behind the Falls experience. Looking into this before you go on vacation can help you save money.
- If you have a membership to a Children’s Museum, check to see what other museums your pass will allow you to get into. For many museums, having a pass for one museum means you can also get into others in the area with your pass.
- If you enjoy souvenirs, have a firm budget. You could also allow each child to select one or two souvenir items from wherever you are traveling. Or, allow them to choose one main item and then they can choose a postcard to add to a postcard collection. Postcards are cheap souvenirs and can be fun for kids to collect!
- Skip the taxis and the bus. Go by foot! Of course, if it's a five mile walk, one kid needs a nap, and you are short on time, consider a different option. However, when wandering around a city by foot, nothing beats stumbling upon the most quaint cobblestone street with beautiful buildings surrounding you. Your kids might not appreciate it as much as you, but you can help them experience so much more by opting to travel by foot! Plus, you never know when you might stumble upon the coolest city park and playground!
- Take what your kids love to do and build that into your travel. If your child loves taking pictures, take an hour doing your own photography walking tour where you walk around taking pictures. If your child loves animals, look into volunteering at an animal shelter where you will be going or ask if you can stop by to visit. If your child loves to play basketball, bring along a basketball and find a court to play on during your trip. Vacations can be tough for some kids, but gearing a few activities toward them can keep them happy – plus you can do all of these activities for free.
As the old saying goes, “Travel is the only thing you buy, that makes you richer.” That statement, in itself, is absolutely true. The things you experience and the people you meet will make you richer. However, it definitely chips away at the wallet. It’s important to keep a budget and stick to it, but it’s absolutely possible to travel on a budget and travel cheaply with kids.
THE BEST AND SAFEST WAY TO ENSURE THAT YOUR TRIP DOESN'T END UP COSTING YOU THE EARTH IS TO HAVE FAMILY TRAVEL INSURANCE.
We purchase a multi-trip policy from 1Cover that covers the whole family for 12 months. It is extremely useful...even if you only go overseas once in that year as it covers you domestically too. For example your car hire rental excess is covered and means you don't have to pay the extra $20 per day that they charge you to reduce the excess. Click here for an obligation free quote or use the tool bar below.
As always, Kooshy Kids wishes you happy and safe travels x
Blog written by Kooshy Kids & Nyah14