No question, you can drop thousands of dollars on a one-week getaway, but you certainly don’t have to. If you know a few simple secrets, you can stay within your budget and still enjoy an exciting, unforgettable trip with the kids. All it takes is a little creativity and knowledge.
Here’s what you need to know:
Saving on Family Airfare
Airline travel is unquestionably expensive, but many opt to fly over driving because of the time involved, as well as the cost of gasoline. There are a number of steps you can take to reduce your family airfare.
Many airlines still allow children under the age of two to fly free. The caveat is that no seat is guaranteed for the free price. Mom should expect to hold baby or toddler in her lap during the flight. Many times the airline will try to seat families traveling with a non-ticketed child next to an empty seat so that baby isn’t restricted to a lap during the whole flight.
If you don’t need much advance notice you can pick up some great last-minute online fares. This is often difficult when a parent needs to schedule time off work and the children are in school. However, if you can leave on a moment’s notice, it is a wonderful, affordable option. Do a Google search for “last-minute flights” to locate these rates.
To save even more on airline travel, it really helps if you can be flexible with your travel dates. Typically Monday, Friday, and Sunday are departure days that garner higher rates than if you left on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. It used to be that you had to stay over on a Saturday to get a better rate, but that’s not always the case. Online booking sites, such as Travelocity and Expedia, allow you to play around with different dates and find out, at a glance, what your best option may be. One day earlier or later can save you big on the price of the ticket.
Also, check surrounding airports at both the departure and the arrival city. You may need to drive an hour or two to get to the different departure or arrival airport; however if it saves enough money on each ticket, it will be well worth the drive.
One family in the Midwest finds it much more affordable to fly out of O’Hare in Chicago. Yet they live over three hours away from ORD and also do not particularly care to drive in Chicago traffic. They found a win/win solution.
They drive 90 minutes toward Chicago and then pick up a motor coach bus that drops them off at the terminal of the airport. The children ride the motor coach for free and there are no long-term airport parking fees either because they left their car at a park and ride. It’s a creative way that offers them less hassle and cost less money in the long run.
Saving on Food While Traveling
Recent airline security makes it difficult to travel with food and beverages in carrying on bags. However, you can place some staples inside your suitcase and check your luggage under the belly of the plane. Peanut butter, bottled water, crackers, fruit and cans of tuna make great snacks when the kids are hungry. You can pick up additional items such as a loaf of bread, once you land. Don’t forget to pack a can opener.
If you are driving to your destination pack a cooler full of food. It may be a little tricky making space in the trunk for the cooler; but once you realize the cost savings of not having to eat out every time someone is hungry, you’ll be glad you brought it with you.
Saving Money on Lodging
You can also save money on lodging. Complete an online search using the words “kids stay free hotel.” You’ll be amazed at the number of hotels and inns that offer this perk. Also look over their amenities because many hotels also offer free continental breakfast.
Continental breakfast means a variety of things. In some places, it means cold bagels, a banana and orange juice. In other hotels and suites, free continental breakfast includes sausage, cereal, eggs, potatoes, bagels, bananas, apples, oranges, juice, and coffee. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and nothing like a free one to start the day right!
Traveling with the family on a budget doesn’t mean you have skimp and cut back. It just means you may need to be creative and flexible – and that’s what having a family is all about.