Taking a family vacation can seem out of reach when living on a budget, but there are ways to cut down on the expenses without forgoing the fun. The key to getting the most for your hard earned money is to know the tips and tricks for getting the best deal.
Prices for everything from airfare to hotels are calculated using a supply and demand model. The more people that are expected to travel during a given time frame, the higher the price. For this reason, you want to try and plan your vacation when everyone else is not travelling too. Most vacation spots in the U.S. are considered in driving distance, so prices usually take after regional school calendars. So prices will be highest when kids are not in school.
If you are planning a vacation outside of your region, try and plan it for when the local kids are still in school. This could mean travelling at the very beginning of summer or at the tail end.
Domestic flights usually start to go on sale up to 11 months prior to the departure date but the ideal time to buy your plane tickets for a domestic flight is anywhere between six and 21 months in advance. The lowest prices will usually appear anywhere from two to three months before your travel date. The key is to not wait till the last minute. Yes, there could be some deals but you don't want to risk it when you are trying to do this on a budget.
When it comes to pricing for a seat, airlines will charge different prices within the same section. One reason for this is because airlines group seats together. When you do a search for multiple seats, the airline will search out the lowest price seats first. If that is not available, it will keep searching until it finds the number of seats you need. This could really jack up the price. If you are okay with separate seats, try booking each seat individually. This usually will get you a lower fare across the board.
Food can really eat away at your budget. When you are eating out three meals a day for a week or longer, the bill can be very high. The easy way to get around this is to try and stay at a place that offers a full kitchen. Even if you only prepare some of your meals and eat out for some, you will save a nice chunk of money.
If you are travelling with a big group or just like lots of room to spread out, checking out a vacation rental property may make sense for you. More often than not, these will be cheaper than staying at a hotel. Especially if you have a big group. Websites like Airbnb, Homeaway and Flipkey are just a few of the sites you can search on.
Pricing will fluctuate as supply and demand does. For this reason, the price you paid for your hotel or airfare will most likely drop at any given point. The good news is that you are entitled to a refund for the difference. There are three great websites that will keep track of your purchase and let you know if the price has gone down. Tingo for hotels, Autoslash for car rentals, and Yapta for airfare refunds are all sites that will help you with this.
Entertainment on a family vacation can be very expensive. A great way to save some money is to mix in as many cheap or free activities as you can. There are so many great free activities happening especially in big cities like New York or Chicago etc., if you take the time to do some research. The local newspaper, Facebook events and eventbrite.com are just a few places you can find out what is happening in the area you are visiting.
Hard to believe this is still around but the Entertainment Coupon Book has many 2 for 1 deals in it for both food and attractions. Online, check out sites like Groupon or Livingsocial for deals for any places you visit. Also take the time to see if any attractions offer free admission. Some of the big museums do. If you are travelling with teens (who pay adult prices) it may even make sense to purchase the annual pass rather than pay individually. Some museums or zoos are part of a wider network so you may be able to enjoy the savings at other destinations too.
There are many credit cards that give you rewards for hotel stays. Charge your purchases for groceries, gas, restaurants and earn points. If you are good at sticking to a budget and can pay off the card in full each month, you can really rack up points for free stays at a number of hotels.
Kids love collecting things. For each place you visit, have them find something to keep and bring home. If you are at the beach, they can collect seashells. If you visit a park or show, they can keep the ticket stub. Maps from tourist offices are also fun to keep as a memoir. The point here is to keep the kids engaged in finding things to collect which helps keep them from seeking out those expensive souvenirs.
Travelling is something every family wants to enjoy but the expense of it may seem out of reach for some. With that being said, if you are willing to do the research and cut back where you can, taking a memorable family trip will be well within reach. Travelling does not need to be high-end hotels and expensive meals. The idea of travelling somewhere new and experiencing a new locale is really what most families are striving for.