Do you travel with children? While it can be fun, it can be expensive. Even though they get discounts on everything from zoo admission to bus rides, it can still be hard to keep costs down on family travel. Don’t resign yourself to thinking you can never go on vacation again until your children are old enough to get jobs to help pay for your trips. As always, I have learned a lot of things in my travels that you can use to keep money in your wallet, or at least keep trips within your meager budget and still have a great time. Remember, just because you don't stay in a 5-star resort and eat at Michelin-starred restaurants doesn't mean that you can't have a good time, create lasting memories and also have a luxurious vacation experience. Here are 5 ways to save a bundle:
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Travel in the off-season. When your children are small and don’t yet go to school, you have the choice of being able to travel year-round. Worldwide, the busiest and most expensive time to travel is summer break. The second week in June through the second week in August is a peak time to go anywhere. Airfare and hotel rates can double and most places you go are packed with tourists. Plan your holidays outside of this time and save big, but also avoid crowds that make it impossible to efficiently do as much as you otherwise could. Even with shorter operating hours for theme parks and other activities, you will be able to do more when it is less busy.
Look for Kids Eat Free deals at restaurants and hotels. Dining can be a huge chunk of your holiday budget and with little ones around, you add to that cost. Most hotels have a kids-stay-free deal, so don’t let this fool you as a “discount”. Instead, look for those that have restaurants that include kids eat free. There are a lot of restaurants worldwide that also offer free meals for children with the purchase of an adult entrée. If you are traveling in the
, the website Kids EatFor is a great resource. They even have an iPhone app, so you can find out on-the-go which restaurants are participating. If you’re traveling other parts of the world, search the Internet for “kids eat free” and your destination. There is a wonderful selection of Kids Eat Free Cards for popular locations, including London and Spain, available for a reasonable fee. U.S.
Book a vacation rental. When you travel with your family, it’s helpful to have a little extra room to spread out. Four people in a small room with two beds and nowhere to hide for a bit of privacy is a nightmare. Also, not everyone wants to be on a toddler’s sleep schedule. When taking a holiday with four or more, consider booking a vacation rental home or condo. You’ll have separate living and sleeping spaces, a kitchen to prepare snacks or full meals – which will also save you money – and you don’t have to worry about your children making too much noise for your hotel neighbors or the other way around. Flipkey and VRBO have extensive listings for vacation rentals worldwide for all budgets. Generally, you save more if you are staying for a week, which can’t be said for almost any hotel. With the space and privacy you get along with it, it really can’t be beat for family travel.
Rent baby equipment. Dragging all your bags and kids along can be more than enough to deal with when you travel. You don’t want to worry whether or not your buggy or car seat will make it to your destination as well. You also have to pay baggage fees for those items. Save money and keep your arms more free by renting those items at your destination. BabiesTravelLite has a comprehensive list of rental locations across the globe where you may pay less for an entire week’s rental of an item than you would to check it at the airport (one-way) to your destination. That way, you don’t have to juggle everything you own or deal with your personal equipment being damaged in transit.
Go all-inclusive. With all the costs associated with a family holiday, it can sometimes be easier to pay for everything up front and not have to worry about your budget at all when you travel. Many all-inclusive resorts offer kids stay and eat free deals for children of all ages. Sometimes it includes those up to age 14. If you find a resort you would like to stay at and the rate seems like a bargain, price out what you think you would end up paying separately to see if it really is. All-inclusive stays include all your meals and drinks – some include snacks – as well as entertainment and a selection of activities. It also helps if what are offered are things you and your family will want to take advantage of. Keep in mind that you may end up paying for some things, like sightseeing, shopping and maybe other activities not provided in the rate, so the total for the resort may not be the total for your vacation. Family-friendly resorts often have a kids club on site, so your kids can make friends with other travellers and give you some adult time.
By being more creative with your holiday planning, you can save money and still have a great time with your kids. Let them help you find things to do, so everyone will feel like they had a hand in making your holiday great. Kids big and small like to feel included and helpful. Plus, by saving on one aspect of your trip, you can spend a little more somewhere else and make your family holiday one to remember.