How to Minimize Family Vacation Expenses
So you have decided to take a family vacation. Everyone needs a break. But often, the expense of just reaching your destination can be daunting. Here are some ideas and tips to help you cut down or minimize some of the expenses while still enjoying a wonderful vacation.
If you could travel anywhere in the world with your family, where would you go? What is holding you back? One of the main responses is probably the cost of the trip. Traveling can get expensive. Add traveling with the entire family and the price often goes up exponentially. But, there are ways to get around that with a bit of planning and creativity.
Where do you want to visit this year? Create a list of places you would like to visit with the family. Are you planning for a major vacation or would an alternative to a faraway destination such as exploring your own area work? You could even break up the vacation into several weekend trips instead of one week-long excursion. Children will think that they are getting a treat every couple of weeks.
Once you make the selection on the destination, start planning your itinerary that will include visiting not only the popular sights, but things in the area that are free to the public or included in your lodging. Plan a picnic at a local park instead of eating out every night. Enjoy a late lunch (when prices are cheaper) and then have snacks before bed at the hotel. Learn about public transportation and use that when visiting a destination that offers it.
If you are set on a popular resort destination, make sure to look into travel packages. Depending on when and where, families can travel to the Caribbean or other locations and stay at an all-inclusive resort. Packages for these trips often include airfare and while you are there, the food and drinks (and some of the entertainment) are included as well.
Mode of Transportation
While everyone, or most of us would rather just hop on the plane, it isn’t always the most cost effective or convenient – especially when traveling with children. Spend a little time checking out train and bus fares. Yes, it will take you a little longer (okay maybe a lot longer) to reach your destination but the traveling can be part of the adventure. Learn about the sights you will be passing or make up games that the family can play to pass the time. If traveling by rail, I suggest at least two of the tickets share a sleeping compartment. Everyone can rotate through, but when not sleeping they can be in the main cabins. If the family has never ridden a train, treat it as an adventure. We have over the years, split the transportation methods up depending on the ages of the children. Some would drive with one of the parents and the other parent would fly when the little ones were able to sit on laps and fly for free. Believe me, it saved a ton of time, money and the sanity of us all.
When planning flights, check several airlines and multiple dates when you have the option of when to travel. I have found that flying in the mid-afternoon on Friday (before everyone gets off work) is cheaper than later that night or on Saturday morning. Also booking as far in advance as possible will save money and let you select your seats.
If you are driving to your destination, will you take your own vehicle or rent one? Make sure to check the rental fees closely, especially if you are renting for more than three days. Once you cross the time into the fourth day, it is often cheaper to rent the vehicle for the entire week. This can be helpful when you can pick up the vehicle the day before leaving and not return until the day after you get home. It allows time for you to load it and unload it without being rushed.
While most would advise that you should rent the smallest, most fuel-efficient vehicle you can reserve; I will tell you that listening to “he is touching me” or “I am being squashed” for 12 hours is worth looking at a larger vehicle. Yes, you may pay a little more for the vehicle but your sanity is worth it. Before renting, make sure to check with your insurance carrier or with the credit card company you are planning on using. Sometimes your personal insurance will cover you on rentals and some credit cards cover the additional insurance fee if you use them. Yay for American Express!
Food and Snacks
By far, food can be the biggest hidden cost of a vacation after transportation and lodging. With a family of four or more, food costs can amount to hundreds of dollars a day. While eating out can be fun and exciting, you can save a ton of money by planning out your meals. Depending on how you are traveling, you can bring snacks and drinks that your family enjoys (or purchase once you reach your destination). When traveling on extended trips, look for lodging locations that offer a kitchenette so you can prepare some of your own meals and save the difference. Certain hotel chains offer breakfast with your room rate. Others like the Drury include dinner and breakfast in their room rates. Yep, you read that right! Drury Hotels are the first place I check when planning a trip because by the time I factor in dinner and breakfast for my crew, it is a no brainer where we are staying. Embassy Suites also include an evening manager’s reception (aka hot wings, wedges, finger food) and a full breakfast in their room rates. The Embassy offers two room suites which are great when traveling with mixed genders.
Vacations are fun but can cost quite a pretty penny. Start your planning process by identifying the largest expenses and then finding ways to cut back or save on the cost without sacrificing the quality of the trip. Between travel packages and lodging with meals included, we have been able to travel to several places that at first glance didn’t seem affordable.