Just because you have children doesn't mean you can never vacation again or have to pack up the tent and go camping. Of course, I'm not opposed to camping. I did it all the time as a kid, but nothing beats a good old fashioned family vacation. One where you don't have to do all the work and take freezing showers for a week. Sure, traveling with more than two can be hard on your wallet, but you can save on things to make it more manageable. There's also plenty of things you can do to keep your kids occupied in between "entertainment".
So, you want to go on a real vacation, but don't think you can afford it with your whole family? Well, you're wrong. Your first step is to pick a destination and your second is to start a vacation savings account. If you can set aside a bit of money each month, it makes it much easier to deal with the cost of a trip of any size, because you can chip away at it all year long. Below are some ways to save that can allow you to stay longer than a few days at your vacation and make the airfare worthwhile.
- Rent an apartment, house or condo. This is always a great option, but especially if you are traveling as a family, because it offers many advantages like cheaper rates than a hotel if you stay a week or more, more space for everyone to stretch out in, a kitchen to save on your dining budget and more privacy than most hotels offer. Here are some ones to check out.
- Visit a city that offers a pass card where you can visit many attractions for one low price. Here are just a few awesome ones. You buy one card for each person in your party (some even include transportation options) and then you skip the box-office queues at each location and just present your city pass as a ticket.
- If a city is safe to drive in, renting a car might end up being less expensive than public transportation in some cases. Do your homework, because in some cities, it would just be more cost-effective to drive your family around than to get multi-day bus/subway passes.
- Does your family love the beach? Instead of heading to the ocean, look into lakeside locations. They almost always have just as nice a beach and many of the same watersports, but at a fraction of the cost.
- Can your kids miss a few days of school? Travel in the Fall, Winter or Spring. Summer rates for everything can be double the price (or more), because that's when families can travel.
- Rent strollers and other baby equipment at your destination. They are available all over the world and can be much less than having to check through your personal ones and risk them getting damaged by baggage handlers. One of the best websites that has links to rental locations is Babies Travel Lite.
- Don't overpack. If you need diapers and formula, buy them at your destination. You don't need to spend an extra $15+ for each bag that needs to be checked through. Carry only what you need for the flight, plus a bit extra in case in case of delays. If you'll be traveling somewhere that might not have convenient stores nearby, you can also use Babies Travel Lite to to send "baby care packages" wherever you are.
- Children under the age of 2 fly for free if you aren't opposed to them sitting in your lap the whole flight. Probably not so doable on a trip across the Atlantic, but not too bad on a flight that's only a few hours long.
- Don't order off the kids' menu in restaurants. They are almost always overpriced and have a very limited (and repetitive) selection. Choose an entrée that you and your child can share. Not only will there be no waste that way (as can often happen when one is faced with another bowl of mac and cheese or pizza) but there will be a wider selection for them that normally includes a vegetable of some sort. Add a salad if it turns out that the one plate isn't enough.
- If you choose to stay in a hotel or resort, stay in ones where kids eat free. Almost all places offer kids STAY free, so it's not really a good deal. Kids can eat you out of house and home, so that's really the bargain you want to look for. If an all-inclusive is in the cards, find ones where kids stay, eat and play free. You'll be surprised how much that will save you over the course of the week.
- Stock up on snacks. Kids always want to eat when it isn't snack time and can get super cranky if they don't get something in their tummy pretty fast. Vacation is no different than at home. Bring snacks on all your outings to tide them over until it's time to actually sit down and have real food.
How do you save when you travel with your kids?