Traveling with Kids on a Budget

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Traveling is a fantastic way to expand your horizons.
Putting travel and children together… well, that can be a challenge, especially if you’re working on a budget. Providing and caring for a family is tough enough in a stationary location, but it’s all the more difficult in transit or staying in an unfamiliar location.
If you can pull it off, however, your whole family will be left with memories to last a lifetime and a bag full of tacky souvenirs. Now read these tips we’ve gathered from our experts so you can be certain none of those souvenirs are “massive debt.”

Keep it simple

There’s no reason you should feel pressured to pack every single second of your schedule. The more activities you take on, the more difficult it can be to coordinate everything (especially if you have multiple younger kids) and the more expensive the trip will become. Easy meals can also keep costs down.

That’s why Brittany Arnold, owner of Catchie Concepts (@catchieconcepts), advises against complex family trips: “Our family does a whole lot of traveling and the best advice we have is to keep it simple! We normally make a schedule for a few days of the trip then leave a day or so for free play at local parks, ocean etc. (something free). We always purchase our food from a grocery store and ask for a hotel room with a fridge. If they don’t have one we get bagels for breakfast or something similar like granola bars etc. This cuts costs greatly as well and you have your kids’ favorites without having to worry about them not liking what’s on the menu :). When we do go out to dinner, it’s fun and gives us a chance to find good local places.”

Take advantage of every deal you can

We would never call you a sucker for missing out on every possible deal. But someone might! And you don’t want that. You don’t want that at all! Like we explained in our coupons article, the internet is just filled with deals waiting for a non-sucker like you to scoop them up. But don’t take our word for it. Listen to Isaac Diaz, president of Starmark Vacation Homes (@starmarkhomes):

“As a person with a family with two kids, a travel blog writer, and owner of a vacation home company, here are a few tips about keeping costs down while traveling.

“Flights are expensive, especially when traveling with kids, so sign up directly with airlines for deals and special offers or become a member of watchdog sites like Ambitious Travel where you get a heads up on the best and cheapest tickets to selected destinations.

“Accommodations can be the next most expensive cost for travel. To get the most space and bang for your buck, look for a vacation rental property, like a condo, townhome, or private pool home. You get way more space than a hotel room at about the same price or less. 3 bedroom 2 bath condos can cost about $75 to $150 per night, while a 3 bedroom private pool home can be $150 to $199 per night and you still get resort style amenities at the community. Companies like Starmark Vacation Homes, Airbnb, and HomeAway all offer specific homes in a large list of destinations.

“Vacation home rentals also help you save on food costs. On average you can save 35% over dining out every night since you have a full kitchen available.

“For attraction tickets, I suggest you look for a reputable local ticket/attraction company rather than going directly to the venue. Usually they provide discounts and packages that work best for the family. Expedia local expert and Fubble.com have created local ticket options before you even arrive at your destination.”

Remember that free is the cheapest price there is

Getting a deal will save you some money, but finding free options will save you all of the money. The only way you’ll get an entirely free vacation is by winning any number of game show prizes, but you can get pretty close!

“When we travel with kids, I always keep a lookout for state or national parks,” Jamie Jeffers, creator of the Medium Sized Family (@MediumSizedFam) blog, told us. “That’s a great place to stop for a picnic lunch when you’re on a long road trip. The kids can stretch and run around while you make sandwiches.

“Look for a hotel that includes free breakfast with your stay. You can keep lunches simple with food from a grocery store. Even if you splurge on a treat you don’t normally buy, you’ll still save over paying for lunches from a restaurant.

“Before you get everyone a pricey souvenir, consider what the playroom at home looks like. If there are already toys scattered everywhere, skip it. They’ll forget they wanted it within days (if not hours!).”

Karen Hoxmeier, creator and owner of My Bargain Buddy (@MyBargainBuddy), backed up Jeffer’s assessments: “I have 3 kids and 3 stepkids, so I know how expensive travel can get when you are bringing the whole family. National Parks can be a great inexpensive vacation destination. Free and discounted passes are available online at http://www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm

“Additionally, the ‘Every Kid in a Park Program’ gives 4th graders and their families free access to hundreds of parks, lands, and waters for an entire year. The pass is for U.S. 4th grade (or home-school equivalent) students.

“Choose a destination that offers a lot of ‘free activities’ such as nature walks, beaches, walking tours, landmarks, and libraries.”

Strike when the time is right

Beyond how you take your trips, when you take your trips is a very important factor. Who knew?!

Writer and business journalist Eileen Gunn (@familiesgo) knew. And she still knows. And she told us about it.

“Saving money with kids is hard once they are in school and you are limited to school breaks, when everyone else is traveling. Here are some tips:

“Before school-age, take those last 2-3 years to travel slightly off-peak. Europe in early fall. Caribbean in January, between holiday and winter break etc.

“Everyone has off for Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas week, and the week of President’s Day (or at least that weekend). Spring break varies more. So if you know that your spring break week is not a common one, use that for your Caribbean cruise or resort trip instead of winter break.

“When kids are young enough to miss a day or two of school, leaving a day or two before break starts and coming back a day or two before it ends can make a big difference with airfare and and your wallet will be as happy as your family!”

Traveling on a budget is a tough game, and traveling on a budget with kids is like playing that game on hard mode. But follow all of these tips, and your wallet will be as happy as your family!


Contributors

Brittany Arnold is a career orientated mom of three energetic kids Alexa 15, Kenedy 10, and Jackson 5.. I have always loved creative ventures. Catchie Concepts, LLC. was established in 2013 and since has grown to be in boutiques and large retails worldwide. Catchie Concepts was created by necessity. As an on-the-go mom with a career in the automotive industry, I knew there had to be an easier way to simplify the one hour commute in the company car with my son who loves to make a mess. I decided to collaborate with a few other creative specialists in the automotive field, and Catchie Concepts was born!

Isaac Diaz, President of Starmark Vacation Homes, is a brain-stormer, executer and hospitality professional in the travel industry.  A top level executive with over a 18 years of hospitality experience in marketing, service and management. Isaac has directly assisted in the growth and success of building businesses into tourism industry leaders. In 2010 Isaac co-founded Starmark Vacation Homes Florida’s fastest growing specialty lodging and vacation home rental company located in Orlando, FL.  Since Starmark Vacation Homes launch the company has grown from 50 properties to 1500+ available rentals throughout Florida, providing vacation’s for family, group and business travelers.  An advocate for travel and tourism Isaac is on the Florida Vacation Rental Management board of directors, Visit Florida tourism committee and is a writer for his company’s travel blog.

Eileen Gunn is a veteran consumer and business journalist, fearless traveler and mom of one. She’s written a career-advice book that took lessons from extreme sports, climbed a volcano in the pitch black, gone kayaking in a typhoon, and most daring of all, launched a business. Eileen created FamiliesGo! to help parents more easily plan memorable vacations that both kids and adults will enjoy.

As a stay-home-mom, Karen Hoxmeier took up couponing and bargain hunting to keep her family’s finances in order. She turned her love of frugal living into a blog in 1999. Over the last 18 years, she has helped her readers save millions of dollars with her tips.

Jamie Jeffer is a wife and mother of 5, clawing her way out of credit card debt.  She dreams of bottomless coffee and scones that magically appear on her desk where she blogs at Medium Sized Family.