Traveling with your family can often mean added expenses, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Remember that children ages two and under fly for free on an adult’s lap, so take advantage of those first two years. However, what happens when the toddlers grow up? It’s usually a lot cheaper to opt for a road trip rather than using other forms of transportation where everyone needs their own ticket. Make sure you service your SUV regularly to keep the family safe on the road. It might be time for an upgrade if you have a sedan or smaller vehicle—road trips demand some ample cargo space and comfortable leg room.
However, there’s more to a family road trip on a budget than depending on your SUV. Here are a few more ways to save for savvy families:
- Travel during the offseason. This should be obvious, but it’s always surprising how many families are at top destinations like Disneyland during peak holiday season. Of course you have to schedule around work and the kids’ school, but that doesn’t mean you can only travel during the busiest times of the year. Choose an off-season destination or time, and you’ll save big on everything from airfare to hotels and entertainment.
- Pack your own food and entertainment. One of the biggest expenses of a family vacation is eating out as a family or opting for entertainment that isn’t necessary. Most destinations are going to have farmers markets or grocery stores nearby. Cook at your home away from home as much as possible and take snacks for the road.
- Go with an Airbnb with a kitchen. Cooking while you’re on vacation is going to require a kitchen. Hotels with kitchenettes are often quite costly, and for half the rate you can find an apartment or home with everything your family needs. To keep things interesting, challenge yourself to use ingredients that might only be available in your destination city.
- Check for discounts at major entertainment spots. Many companies offer discounts for the most popular destinations if you just ask. Your alma mater is another option, and AAA has a host of discounts. Savings are often available with a little digging around.
- Give yourself a daily cash allowance. It’s tougher to spend cash than it is a card, so if you give yourself an allowance it’s easy to track how much you spend and “budget” on a daily basis. It also helps kids understand that these vacations aren’t free. Talking about how you’ll spend the day’s allowance shows them the importance of money and planning for what you really want.
- Skip the coffee. This goes along with the cooking at home, but takes it the extra mile for coffee. If you buy a cup (or more) per day, it can quickly add up. Whether you bring a coffeemaker with you or go instant for vacation, it’s a big way to save. It also keeps the kids from wanting treats and hot chocolate at every coffee shop.
- Use a credit card with benefits you’ll really use. You’ll need to use a credit card for some things, like booking homes and flights. When it comes to credit, make sure you have a card with benefits that will really count for you and your family. Whether it’s miles, cash back, or gift cards to places you’d already spend money on, utilize cards in your favor. Just make sure they’re paid off before interest strikes.
Traveling on a budget requires creativity and commitment. You can ask the kids for tips and help, too. It’s never too early to learn to travel wisely.