Family travel on a budget isn’t hard to do! These hacks and tricks will save your pocketbook while you’re adventuring with your family.
Family travel on a budget doesn’t have to be hard, scary, or unheard of! If your family has a taste for wanderlust there are dozens of ways to scratch that travel itch without breaking the bank.
We’ve traveled extensively as a couple and now as a family of four. We have travel posts on everything from Traveling with a Baby, to Traveling with Kids, and tons of very specific kid-friendly city guides.
So let’s dig in to family travel on a budget, from start to finish.
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Choose a Budget-Friendly Destination
Not all cities, states, or countries are created equal when it comes to expenses. As you plan your travel, look into destinations with a lower cost of living if you’re trying to travel your family on a budget.
Also consider the cost of travel to your destination. Depending where you are in the world, airfare costs will have a wide range for your desired location.
Consider Your Travel Season
It’s going to cost a lot more to travel to a destination during its peak season than it will on the off season!
If it’s feasible for your family, look into travel on your destination’s off season to save a substantial amount of money.
You’ll have to weight the pros and cons. Weather can be a consideration, along with whether your desired attractions will be open and operational.
Do Lots of Research
The more you plan, the more you can save!
Some of this will be due to comparing things like airfare, accommodation costs, and so on.
But other aspects of planning will center more around the logistics of your stay! How close is the nearest grocery store? What type of transportation to you need? How will you get from the airport to your destination once you arrive?
The more you plan for these types of instances, the more you can cost-compare and save.
There are some really great deal sites or cost comparison sites for finding airfare deals.
I love Secret Flying for finding great deals, especially if your timeline or destinations are flexible.
Otherwise, be sure to run your destinations and desired flights through comparison sites like Kayak to see deals across various airlines.
Consider Road Trips or Camping
To avoid airfare altogether, look for destinations that are near enough for a road trip. For a family traveling together, avoiding the cost of plane tickets can be a huge savings, even if you’re paying for gas.
Another way to shave cost off of your road trip is to camp along the way, rather than staying in hotels or rental accommodations. This takes a lot of planning and a hardy crew, but can also make for a beautiful adventure!
Plan Ahead to Make travel Days Cheap
Planning ahead for a day of travel with a family is crucial if you don’t want to get caught with a whole string of extra charges and purchases!
If you’re traveling by plane, be sure to pack enough snacks for everyone, as many airlines no longer offer complimentary food. Check ahead to ensure that your snacks will be allowed on board (your airline will have an FAQ section on their website outlining what you can bring).
We’re also always sure to bring empty water bottles into an airport to refill once we’re past security. This saves on expensive and wasteful water bottles.
Finally, bring entertainment for your children for the flight or trip so that you don’t end up paying for movies, books, magazines, or toys.
Stay In an Apartment
We find that it’s much more cost effective and comfortable for our family to search for apartment housing rather than hotel accommodations (in most cases).
We often book through airbnb, and have also traded houses via Home Exchange. Both have been wonderful experiences.
Grocery Shop and Cook
Another benefit of staying in an apartment or home is that you have a whole kitchen at your disposal! Often, the first thing we do once we unpack at our destination is to go to the nearest grocery store and stock up on groceries for our stay.
We almost always cook breakfast in the apartment, rather than eating out. If we’ll be out for the day, we bring along all the snacks we’ll need.
We also tend to cook a few dinners in if we’re trying to save extra money.
Snacks Snacks Snacks
I mentioned it before, but pack those snacks! You’ll save tons of money if you don’t have to stop every so often and find food.
It’ll also save headaches and outbursts to have snacks and water easily on hand for those moments when kids (or grownups!) get hungry and cranky.
Carry Water Bottles
We treat water with the same consideration, carrying a bottle everywhere!
Depending on how many of us are traveling, we might share a bottle or have a few between us. But it can save lots of money and time to not have to stop at a convenience store to pick up a bottle to stay hydrated.
Use Local Transportation at Your Destination
When we were traveling as a couple without kids, we would often bike around cities and it was my very favorite thing. It was an incredible way to get to know the town well, to become familiar with navigating, and to experience it like a local.
Many cities have city bike programs or bike rental options.
Once kids came along, we did lots of research to stay in a central location and we walked everywhere. We had a very sturdy travel stroller which came with us to multiple states and countries. The kids could rest and sightsee while we walked.
Now that they’re getting a little older, we take public transportation. Using trains, subways, buses, and more is another incredible way to really dig into your destination (and save lots of money on cabs or rental cars).
Choose Local Restaurants
Be bold and wander off the main streets to find some incredible local places! You can also do some research online to find the best local spots.
You’ll often find that the little mom-and-pop shops have the most authentic food for incredible prices.
Order Wisely, Save Leftovers
When we’re eating out during travel, we always try to keep our family travel on a budget.
We look for meals that we could share, or order fewer meals and just split a few things between us. Often the kids don’t finish their plates anyway, so we’ll order one adult meal between them and have them split it.
If a meal has a particularly large portion size, we’ll pack the extra to go and take it home to repurpose for lunch or dinner the next day. (That’s where it also comes in handy to have accommodations with a refrigerator.)
Negotiate and Bargain
If you’re shopping in local markets, get a feel for whether negotiating or bargaining is culturally appropriate.
You may find that you can negotiate everything from accommodations to airfare as well.
Collect Experiences, not Souvenirs
When we travel, we often prepare the kids ahead of time that we won’t be purchasing souvenirs. We do our best to collect photos, memories, and experiences.
I find that if you make this the norm on your family travels, your kids will respond well and understand the idea behind it.
Look for City Passes or Discount Cards
Do research ahead of time for your destination and whether the visitors board offers a city pass or any discount cards for local attractions, eateries, or transportation.
Often, cities will offer a discount card or package that makes sense for a larger family to utilize and save some money.
Research Discount Days at aTtractions
Often, local attractions will offer discounted or free rates of admission on certain days of the week. Museums often do this, along with amusement parks or other attractions.
If you can plan ahead to configure your trip so that you can hit those discounted days you’ll do your budget a favor!
Research Free Attractions
Check your destination for local attractions that are completely free! Think in terms of “sightseeing,” rather than buying your way into attractions or exhibits.
Parks, playgrounds, monuments, and more are all perfect for family travel on a budget. They’ll keep your costs low, provide an opportunity to discuss local history, and give kids a chance to run around.
Decide on your Priorities
You may naturally want to experience some attractions that you’ll have to pay for. Before you arrive at your destination, decide your priorities and which things you are comfortable splurging on.
If you have a goal in mind of the things your family wants to experience, you’ll save time and money.
The lighter you travel, the easier and more budget friendly you’ll be! We strive to get our family of four into one full-size suitcase (we’ve done this for two weeks in Italy and two weeks in Mexico).
You’ll save on luggage fees, and on transportation if you need to pay for bags on trains or in shuttles. It’s also just easter to get around!
More Famly Travel Ideas to Try
Hope all of these ideas help you keep your family travels on a budget! See below for some of our favorite places to travel with kids. xoxo
- Family Travel to Carmel-by-the-Sea
- Travel Guide to Puerto Vallarta
- Travel Guide to Sayulita
- Tahoe Travel with Kids
- Things to Do in Morro Bay with Kids
- Kaua‘i with Kids (and a Packing List!)
- Things to Do in Florence, Italy with Kids
- Things to Do on the Amalfi Coast with Kids
- Rome with Kids
- Travel // Tulum Guide
- Things To Do in Cabo San Lucas with Kids
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