The family vacation is one of the great staples of our culture. Along with allowing us to spend quality time with family, vacations can help kids learn more about the world, become more self-sufficient, and develop a stronger sense of curiosity.
However, the unhappy fact of the matter is that vacationing with kids can get expensive fast. Spending more on food, attractions, transportation, and more, as well as the extra expenses that come with bringing your brood, can make even modest trips financially unreachable.
Luckily, there are some tricks to making family vacations less expensive overall, allowing you to enjoy your well-earned rest and fun without worrying about your wallet. Here are a few:
As you plan your trip, it’s important to start with setting a budget and sticking with it. Once you have an idea of how much you want to spend, you can work on pre-departure planning to stay within your budget.
One aspect to consider when doing your planning is the potential of doing an all-inclusive holiday. This can be a great way to save money for families, since the cost of food, lodging, beverages, and excursions are all included in one flat rate – great for when your kids are making their fifth trip to the buffet.
You can also consider choosing a country that has a favorable currency exchange rate so that your dollars stretch a little further, as well as renting gear like strollers and playpens instead of paying to bring yours with you. By cutting costs here and there when you can before you leave, you can save a lot in the long run.
Where you and your kids stay makes a huge difference in vacation price. In general, a good rule of thumb is to avoid hotels and instead opt for an apartment rental. Not only are these options cheaper – often hovering around $100 a night whereas hotels can be $200 and more – you can also take advantage of amenities like more space and a full kitchen. Home rental websites like Airbnb and VRBO are great places to find lodging, as homeowners often rent their spaces to visitors at relatively low prices.
Another option is to plan a “sharecation,” which is travelling with another family and sharing your lodging. Dividing the cost of a villa or house among multiple families is often less expensive than staying in a hotel or even home-sharing on your own, and you won’t step on each other’s toes if you make sure you have enough space to spread out.
If all else fails, consider camping. Pitching a tent or parking a van in a beautiful location for a few days is a great way to introduce your kids to the adventure and self-reliance inherent in this less conventional, less expensive lodging style.
When you’re away from home, it’s easy to fall into the trap of eating out all the time, which can rack up costs quickly. Instead, consider cooking on your own to cut expenses.
Staying in an apartment or house with a kitchen will allow you to cook your meals, saving you huge; regular family meals at restaurants can get extremely expensive. Even better, you can cater to your kids’ picky food preferences more easily by cooking at home than at a restaurant.
When you’re out and about on your trip, pack a cooler with cold drinks and snacks to avoid expensive snack bar purchases. As hard as it can be to pry kids away from candy stalls in favor of apple slices from home, this strategy will help you eat healthier and more cheaply.
If you still want to sample local cuisine, eat where the locals eat. Tourists tend to gravitate towards higher-end restaurants in tourist traps, but more affordable and authentic dining is available everywhere. Consider going to a small taco shop, open-air market, or family-owned restaurant to expose your kids to real travel and save your dollars at the same time.
Shelling out cash for plane tickets might be an unavoidable expense. However, once you’re at your location, there are several kid-friendly ways to save money.
For instance, take advantage of the public transportation in your area. Kids often love public transit, and it’s much less expensive than renting a car or taking cabs or rideshares everywhere. Even better, for certain cities like San Francisco, Hong Kong, and Toronto, public transportation itself is an attraction – adding another inexpensive, great experience to your travels.
Also pay attention to children’s discounts on public transit, as many trains and buses offer reduced or even free fares for your little ones.
Expense should never be a barrier to taking a family vacation. If you plan well and cut costs where you can, you and your kids can have a memorable getaway without breaking the bank.