Seeing a destination through your children’s eyes can be one of life’s great joys — and one of life’s great expensive joys, if you’re not careful. With some research, patience and planning, though, it is possible to dramatically cut down on the cost of family travel for your next vacation.


Nowadays most credit cards, car-rental programs, hotels and, of course, airlines have some sort of loyalty program that you’re likely contributing to even if you don’t know it. Prior to setting out to book, take the time to research what kind of rewards you’ve racked up. If someone in your family is a business traveler, odds are you’ve got some “free” stuff at the ready. A family vacation is the perfect time to take advantage: Saving on some of the basics can cut down overall costs, or allow you to funnel some money in your budget into a splurge.


Costs of airline travel (and all the associated fees) are already steep, so don’t overspend by booking too early. According to research from Expedia, the most affordable window for booking tickets is between 50 and 100 days prior to travel, with the magic number being somewhere around day 57. (If you’re booking internationally, go ahead and plan further out). The day of the week matters, too. You’re likely to save an average of $28 per ticket by booking on a Tuesday.

Prior to setting out to book, take the time to research what kind of rewards you’ve racked up.


Are you willing to fly in or out of an airport that is a little farther away? OK with connections? Would you be willing to travel to a destination off-season? If the answers are yes, it’s possible to save a considerable amount on flights, hotels or home rentals, and even local attractions. Especially in the case of off-season travel: Not only do you stand to save money, you won’t have to fight large crowds.


Sure, there are plenty of perks involved with a hotel: Who doesn’t love a room service splurge or crawling into a luxuriously made bed? But it comes at a huge cost, and if you’re traveling with kids, you’re likely to be cramped anyway. Look into renting an apartment or home instead. Not only can it be more economical, it can also afford you more space, and you can save money by stocking up the kitchen and having more meals at “home” instead of relying on restaurants.


Before you reach your destination, check out online city guides and even local parenting Facebook groups to scout out free family-friendly activities. Most major cities have loads of them, you just need to do a little digging. It’s also useful to call ahead to the museums you’re interested in visiting; many have designated hours where family or children’s admission is discounted or even free.


When possible, go local. Not in a seek-out-artisanally-sourced-pickles kind of way. We’re talking about skipping the chain restaurants you might be familiar with in favor of a spot that locals loves. Major chains often competitively price according to proximity of tourist-friendly areas, but you won’t get cuisine unique to the region. The same goes for transportation: See what public options are available, and get around that way instead of taking cabs or hired cars. It can save you money and allow you to take in more of the local charm of the city or town you’re visiting.

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