Parenting & Travel Blog with tips, guides, reviews and honesty about family travel and parenting.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Travel Tips: How to plan a family vacation without blowing the budget (maybe)

For a long time we didn't do any real family travel, other than visit family. No beach vacations, or big city exploring, no cruises or all inclusive tropical getaways for us and our babes.  

We were brave enough to take the littles on a plane, and even more brave by battling jet lag and time differences while naively trying to stick with their schedules (did I tell you about the time we thought weaning our kid off of her pacifier while driving from BC to Seattle was a good idea? Short version: it did not go well.)

But once we had gathered enough courage (and were no longer perpetually sleep deprived), we started to travel as a family. We were ready to explore the white sand beaches of tropical islands, to battle the concrete jungle of big cities, to take in the language, food and culture of places near and far. We were going to go on family vacations!

And if you've been following along on this blog, we've been travelling and having fun (that's my story and I'm sticking with it!). But it's not so much of a vacation for this mama, because I'm still parenting and 'momming' along during every trip. Yet, I'd still do it again, and again and again (sorry honey, didn't I tell you marrying me would be expensive?)

Gulp - yes family travel is expensive. I haven't figured out how to do it for free, but since I'm practically an expert (on nothing really) I've put some tips together that can help you plan a trip and maximize those dolla dolla bills y'all.

1. Set a budget: Figure out how much you can and will spend on a trip (then add a little buffer to that because it always goes over!) Every year I tell my husband (since he's our banker) about where I'd like to travel and when and how much I think each trip may cost. We then try to budget for them. In reality it's more about changing my expectations and putting off that trip to Bora Bora yet again (sigh).

2. Sign up for the offers: I know we don't love having random spam email come to our inbox, but sign up for emails from different airlines and hotels. For example,  in Canada there are really only the two major airlines, so I'm signed up for West Jet and Air Canada. Last week we received an email with 20% off flights anywhere in the world up until June. So I logged in at the last hour and booked flights for a trip in March! 

3. Try not to travel during high season: If you can pull your kids out of school, DO IT. I'm a firm believer that travel is education and the kids will be just fine missing a week of school. Plus the prices are often a lot less. Also, consider travelling during off season to some popular destinations. Yes, a beach trip sounds about perfection in the middle of a frigid Toronto winter in February, but it is likely to be more expensive than it would be in May. And really, a beach vacation is great any time of the year ( just watch out for hurricane season!). 

4. Reward Points: This may require some research on your part to find out how to best use the programs offered on different credit cards for travel. We use our CIBC Aventura for travel rewards.  Sometimes I use it just to pay for one person's airfare, depending on how many points we have.  We also use our yearly travel credit from American Express towards our flights, hotels or car rentals. Research to see what your credit card offers and use that to your advantage.

5. Book in advance: I like to book my flights in advance, about 3-6 months. That's also mostly because we are now limited to travelling during high seasons, and I have found that I can find the best prices then. But Sky Scanner has a full article here about when the best time to book flights out of Canada are.   

6. Check nearby airports: Expand your search to see if you can save on airfare if you drive out a little further. Sometimes driving to another city can save you big dollars if you are willing to spend more time driving.

7. All Inclusive : I'm not a lover of all inclusive trips, even though there is the appeal of not having to cook for an entire week! They can be quite expensive. We prefer to spend money ensuring we have spacious accommodations and to live more like home and to eat at local places.  But if that's your jam, go for it!  Check out this link for more tips about when to book an all inclusive vacation. 

8. Accommodation Rentals: Ask family or friends if they have any vacation rentals that they are renting out. One of our early trips was borrowing (yes for free!) a friend's townhouse in Miami. Another time we rented a 3 bedroom house from an acquaintance in Kauai for a fraction of the cost. I also like VRBO,, Sonder Stays, Air BnB, Kid and Coe for vacation rentals.

9. Travel with friends or family: If you can find someone you'd love to travel with, then you can share the cost of the accommodation and as a bonus the kids can have a built-in play dates! Meal sharing can help with costs as well as give you some down time and a little break. We do this in the summer when we rent a cottage with some family. 

10. Bring some food with you. When we stay in an accommodation with a kitchen, we often bring some of our own food since we can get gouged with exchange rates and inflated prices. Packing cereal (take the bag out of the box), bagels, snacks etc. can be helpful for both cost savings and convenience.  We invested in a durable large duffel bag for these extra things that we can fold up and put in our suitcase when we return since it will be empty. Just make sure you read the rules about what you can and can't bring into the country you are travelling to!

11. Early Check in/Late Check Out: check to see if the hotel that you are staying in has an early check in or late check out privileges.  We recently took our teen to LA and had 3 full days in the City of Angeles while only paying for two nights since we had early check in and late check out privileges. 

12. Adjust your expectations: Life with kids is unpredictable and on vacation even more so. Let them surprise you, but also let them eat ice cream every day if that's what will keep everyone happy.  When we took the kids to Paris years ago, the kids wanted to stop and play in every. single. playground we saw. And if you've been to Paris you'll know that there are a surprising number of playgrounds around every corner. Even though we came all that way, the best thing was watching our kids talk to other kids in French on Parisian playgrounds (while I got a mental break devouring my croissant).I can tell you that I hadn't included that in my itinerary.


1 comment

  1. If any one is planning for family vacation. Your tips will help them. You will get more savings if you follow these points. Explorer Travel Franchise also provide all the support that you have required.


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