These are our tips for affordable family vacations.
- Traveling can be expensive, especially with a family.
- Hitting the road, avoiding hotels, and maximizing credit card points are just a few ways to save money.
Before my husband and I had children, we used to travel quite a bit, and we were definitely willing to have a hard time exploring more corners of the world. But these days, having a rough time is harder with three kids in the mix. While it was reasonable (if not a little dirty) to book shared rooms in hostels when it was just my husband and I traveling, that really doesn’t work when you have kids.
Fortunately, though, my family has found ways to fit travel into our budget. Here are some of the tactics we use to keep our costs down so we can get out there and do more.
1. We drive instead of fly
Sometimes there is no choice but to get on a plane to get to your destination. And since my family calls the East Coast home, but my husband’s family still lives on the West Coast, air travel is something we can’t completely avoid.
But for trips that can be done by car, my family almost always chooses to hit the road instead of booking flights. Doing so often saves us a lot of money and somehow makes traveling a little less stressful. Sure, it can be exhausting to drive for 14 hours straight. But bringing the car also means not having to stress about packing too many things.
As an example of how driving can save us money, we’re thinking of going to Florida this spring. Flights for the week we’re heading into would put us around $1900, and that doesn’t include the cost of airport parking or checking luggage (which we’ll have to pay for unless we apply for a new travel rewards credit card). that offers free checked baggage). By contrast, I estimate driving will cost us less than $500, and that includes the cost of gas, lodging, and meals along the way.
2. We rent private houses instead of booking hotels
Putting a family of five in a hotel room is not always comfortable or feasible. Often when we stay in hotels we are forced to upgrade to a suite, which can be even more expensive.
This is why we tend to prefer private rentals to hotels. That not only saves us money on our nightly rate, but also gives us more space. Plus, when you rent a private home, you get access to a functional kitchen (whereas a hotel room may have nothing more than a mini-fridge). And while we commonly like to go out to dinner as part of our vacations, we don’t necessarily like to do it for every meal.
3. We use the right credit cards
Because we’ve curtailed air travel during the pandemic, we don’t currently have a travel rewards card, as many of the good ones impose an annual fee. For us, it’s not worth paying an annual fee right now. But we still do a good job of getting cash back over the course of our trips.
Last summer, we took a beach vacation and went out to dinner almost every night (we prepare our other meals in our rental house). By using the correct credit card at those restaurants, I was able to get additional reimbursement to offset the cost of our trip. We also have a credit card that offers additional cash back at the pump, and is our go-to option for those longer road trips.
While traveling with a family of five can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. These tactics have saved us a fair amount of money over the years, which has been especially welcome now that the days of booking cheap hostel stays are behind us.
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