If you are like us, learning how to travel cheap is a necessity. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel. Make the most out of your hard-earned dollars and enjoy some well deserved family time.
Does the following describe you?
- Your kids are getting older and you’re ready to make some memories outside of your hometown.
- You just feel like getting away as a family.
- You are afraid that you can’t afford a family vacation.
Here’s the deal.
We NEED to travel. We NEED to get away. You CAN make it happen.
The workaholic lifestyle is literally killing us and dividing our families. Travel helps you reconnect, make awesome memories, and appreciate life outside your normal routine.
We’d all like to vacation and travel more, but just looking at the cost of airfare and hotels can be intimidating.
Travel can be expensive if you just wing it, but with a little planning and some tempered expectations, you can totally learn how to travel cheap and afford to get away.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page” – Saint Augustine
How to Travel Cheap
A little time spent planning can go a long way…..
Establish a vacation budget from the get-go to reign in some of your wilder fantasies and make the decision-making process easier. Create a separate “vacation” account at your bank once you have an idea of how much money you can comfortably allocate to your trip and how long you have to save for it. Set up automatic deposits into the account on a regular basis and “Boom!” your vacation savings are on autopilot.
During your budget planning don’t forget to take advantage of all the credit card rewards programs you might have access to. Redeeming those rewards for airfare or hotel rooms will definitely help stretch those dollar bills y’all!
Once you set your budget, time to figure out what is actually possible in the realm of travel. You know, a camping trip close to home might cost a couple hundred dollars whereas a week in Bali could take a few thousand.
Using all the savings tips mentioned below, determine a ballpark figure of how much you think it would take for your ideal vacation spots considering: airfare, transportation, lodging, food, and entertainment.
Then you can match your budget with your ideal vacation spot and be on your way in no time!
I understand that planning can be both exciting (Yay, a getaway!) and dreadful (How can I pay for this?).
But with a good plan, you will save hundreds. Let me show you how…..
Flights can be ridiculously expensive and fares are ever increasing. Add in all the extra luggage fees that get tacked on, just getting to your destination can eat up a majority of your vacation budget.
Fortunately, there are some tricks to use to keep your air travel expenses down:
- Be flexible with your travel dates. Typically this is the easiest way to get cheaper flights. If at all possible, try to book flights on non-peak days. Sometimes flying on a weekday, versus a Saturday, can save you hundreds.
- Look for overnight flights. Yes, this still requires flexibility, but these are often significantly cheaper than the same day route. I know, it will be exhausting, but keep your eye on the prize!
- Keep an eye on sites like SkyScanner, TravelZoo, and Scott’s Cheap Flights. These can help you pick the best days to fly and will email you when special deals pop up.
- Pack light. Minimizing the luggage you take goes a long way. A few extra bags can add hundreds to your vacation expenses. Think minimalism. Pack only what you need!
- Take advantage of carry-on baggage count. For families traveling with children, remember that they are allowed one carry-on bag and personal item just like adults are, so use it. You could potentially skip checking luggage altogether.
Road tripping instead? Try these tips:
- Use apps like GasBuddy, RoadTrippers, and Waze to make your drive more organized and less expensive.
- Pack snacks and groceries to eat along the way. This will not only save you money, but it is also a healthier option over roadside fast food.
One of the most important things you can learn about how to travel cheap. Be flexible with your travel options.
Deciding on where to stay can be an adventure, especially if you are trying to save money.
Take time to compare locations, amenities, and dining options. When you are on a budget, the hotel closer to the grocery store that offers kid-friendly amenities will more than likely be a better fit than the swanky one with the expensive restaurant.
Having an indoor pool and snacks readily available has saved us hundreds on entertainment and dining over our kid traveling years. So when evaluating lodging, really consider what will actually work best for your family entertainment and downtime.
More ways to save on lodging:
- As I mentioned above, use your credit card rewards to get free or discounted lodging.
- Sign up for a hotel chain’s loyalty program. This is often free and can save you expenses like the daily wifi charge. Being a member can sometimes even get you a room when the hotel shows no availability for non-loyalty customers.
- Check out TravelZoo and TripAdvisor for deals and specials that hotels may be offering.
- Look into home rentals if possible. Not only would you likely get a nicer place, but the savings compared to a hotel stay can be substantial. (This has also been beneficial for us being able to have a “dividing line” between kids and parent spaces, unlike a single hotel room.)
- If you are traveling with a group, you can rent a bigger home and split the costs.
- AirBnB, VRBO, and HomeAway are great resources for home rentals.
If you are anything like us, dining costs can totally get out of control when we travel. So plan wisely.
Expect the food to be priced above average if you are traveling in a tourist hotspot. Luckily, your food budget is one you have a lot of control over.
Whether you picked a hotel or home rental to stay in, make sure it has a kitchen or kitchenette. Something as simple as having a mini fridge in the room to keep foods cold goes a long way for saving cash at mealtimes.
Go grocery shopping when you arrive and pick up simple items for breakfasts and lunches. There’s really no need to have three sit down meals every day. Meals eat up too much of your precious vacation time and balloon your expenses. Save your money for a nice dinner out once per day.
Using sites like TripAdvisor can help you find great restaurants to visit for dinner. You can often find coupons and gift certificates on sites like Groupon, Restaurant.com, CouponDivas, and Entertainment.com
Check out the local guys. You came all this way to experience something new. Don’t stick with the same old foods and restaurants you have back home. Food sourced locally can be had at a discount when compared to foods that have to be shipped in. Not to mention it will be fresher and taste amazing.
Traveling with Kids
Your idea of entertainment might be a cool drink, the warm sun, and nothing to do for hours on end.
Unfortunately, if you ask any kid that is coming along, I’d bet they have a different answer. Most kids’ answers consist of endless entertainment that just screams money drainage!
Use these handy tips to save some cash when traveling with your kiddos:
- Set expectations early to save some cash.
- Discuss how the money will be spent upfront so there will be no impromptu excursions that blow the budget.
- Involve them in the savings phase by using a wall chart to track progress.
- Involvement provides a broad sense of time in relation to money. Money does not grow on trees contrary to my kids’ beliefs.
- Give your kids a set daily budget for things like snacks and souvenirs.
- They will become more aware of the value of their money and prioritize their wants.
- Stock up on books, audiobooks, DVDs from the local library for downtime and travel time entertainment.
- Invest a few dollars for each child on some coloring or activity books from the dollar store.
- Search for discounted attraction and activity tickets before you go.
- A quick google search can almost always find some form of deal that will save you money rather than paying full price at the gate.
Involving the kids in planning the family vacation is a great way to teach them the value of money and have them appreciate the activities you can afford. When the kids have their own money to spend, it’s amazing how quickly they recognize that an overpriced toy might not be worth it if that means no ice cream later that day.
Just Can’t Wait to Get Away?
Running short on time to save or do y’all just want to get away NOW? Here are a few ways to scrape together the cash to get you out of the house:
- Have a “pantry week” where you make do with eating whatever is in your pantry.
- This will save you a week or more of food expenses, but also get some of the food out before it goes to waste.
- If you typically buy groceries every week, this can save you $75-$150.
- Plan to travel with others.
- Traveling with a group can offer several benefits like splitting the cost of larger rentals and sharing cooking duties.
- PERK: Families with kids can arrange kiddo watching schedules so that the adults can each have a night of freedom!
- Sell the kid’s clothes and other things you don’t use anymore.
- Selling items on Craigslist, local Facebook groups, or garage sales are a great way to make some extra cash.
- Lookout for sales.
- If you are planning an equipment heavy vacation like camping, keep an eye out for sales. Better to buy a few months ahead at a discount if one pops up.
- If you are an adventurer at heart, just go good old fashioned tent camping.
- Borrow a tent from a friend, grab an ice chest, and a cast iron skillet, then hit the road!
You Can Travel on the Cheap
You can do it. You need to do it. The memories you will make with your family will last a lifetime.
- Make a plan.
- Maximize your budget with credit card rewards, travel sites, online ticket deals, and smart packing.
- Embrace the idea of grocery shopping on vacation.
- Prepare your kids upfront about travel planning and budgeting.
- If all else fails, pile up in a one-room tent and make memories you and your kids are sure to remember!
I’m a firm believer that we don’t travel or vacation near as much as we should in America. There always seem to be competing priorities on our time and wallets. But with some careful planning and diligent saving, you’ll be on your way in no time.
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