As many of us know all too well, family travel can get expensive. What initially seems like a bargain can end up costing a bundle when you figure in four, five or even six family members. Nevertheless, there are ways to avoid spending an arm and a leg and still have a great time. From a recent TRAVELWITHKIDS blog, here are seven tips for traveling with kids in tow and staying within a budget.
1. Travel in the off-season. Often, there’s a reason in-season is “in.” Just as often, however, that just happens to be when everyone traditionally goes to a destination, or the weather’s better, or it’s school vacation. Shoulder seasons (travel times on either end of high seasons, either before or after) can usually bring greatly reduced airfare and hotel prices. Another advantage of traveling in off-season is that there are fewer crowds. Just watch out for rainy seasons—no fun no matter how cheap the prices.
2. Get off the beaten path. Big cities and heavy-touristy areas are the most popular places to travel, but they’re also the most expensive. By visiting lesser-known destinations, you can save money and still have a wonderful vacation. For example, a hotel in Bath or the Cotswolds, approximately 2 hours outside London, will cost about 1/3rd the price of London. Plus, you have amazing countryside, small town life and nearby attractions like Stonehenge. If you want to see the big sites of London, you can always take a day trip.
3. Use airline miles. Even if you don’t travel a lot, you can fairly easily accrue airline miles through a point system on a credit card. And if you have no miles, don’t despair; many international airlines offer lower prices for kids under the age of 11. For deals, check sites like TravelZoo.com which has a Top 20 weekly email that lists discount fares. If you plan on visiting multiple countries, go to AirTreks.com for great deals on multiple-stop air routes.
4. Go local. Local accommodations, restaurants and transportation are much cheaper than the chain versions, or tours booked before you arrive. Besides saving money, the great benefit of going local is immersing yourselves in the culture of the place you are visiting. Staying in local guesthouses, eating at local restaurants and riding rickshaws and buses rather than taxis give you the opportunity to meet and interact with the actual people who live there. This way, you’ll get a feel for what life is like there, outside of the brochures.
5. Stay for free with the home exchange program. HomeExchange.com has over 40,000 members in hundreds of countries who offer their private homes in exchange for staying in the homes of other members. Just like “going local,” Home Exchange allows your family to better immerse yourselves in local life. Rather than staying in a generic hotel, you’re in a local neighborhood surrounded by neighborhood joints, shops and street life. Plus, there’s plenty of room to spread out (an entire house vs. a hotel room) and you can eat your meals in (big savings).
6. Eat in. Try eating out with a family of four or five every day and every night, especially in big cities, and you’ll quickly feel like you’re paying the mortgage all over again. Cooking your own meals, either all of them or just a few, really can help trim the budget. Look for a Home Exchange (see above), a vacation rental with a kitchen, or a hotel room with a kitchenette. Ask your hotel staff or neighbors about local restaurants; they’ll cost less and give you the opportunity to taste local cuisine. And don’t forget local farmer’s market where you can stock up on fruits, breads and cheese for meals.
7. Schedule FREE time. Locals don’t pay exorbitant prices to visit every attraction known to man every day, and neither should you. Yes, you want to visit the well-known tourist sites, but instead of stuffing your trip with day after day of hefty admission prices, pick a few must-sees and then balance it out with activities that the locals enjoy. It’ll be more relaxing for you and easier on the wallet. Explore places with no admission price (castles, gardens, forests, hikes). More often than not, these often turn out to be the most memorable parts of your trip!