The Best Tips to Save Money on Family Travel

Child on airplane with mother
•••   Images By Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images 

Traveling with kids can be both life-changing and fun. You can spend quality time together, make memories that last a lifetime, and continue building the bond you’ve forged at home.

Unfortunately, family travel adds an extra layer to the planning process, and can quickly make your trip cost-prohibitive. Bringing more people along inevitably leads to more airfare, more food, and pricier hotel stays, and those costs can easily double the price of any trip.

That’s why, if you’re able, it’s smart to be strategic about costs when planning family travel. Here are the best tips to save a bundle yet still plan amazing vacations with your kids:

1. Use Travel Rewards to Cover Airfare and Hotels

Rewards credit cards can help anyone save on travel, but that’s especially true when you have a family in tow. Imagine covering flights with airline miles and at least part of your hotels with hotel points or flexible travel credit. With those major components covered, you could save the bulk of your travel budget for food and fun. Pick a great travel rewards credit card and you could

Which travel credit card should you get? It depends on your travel style and your needs.

2. …Or Avoid Airfare and Drive Instead

Average round-trip domestic airfare costs $300 and up; multiply that by every member of your family, and the cost of of your flight can quickly get out of control. By contrast, a rental car is significantly cheaper, especially since you can stuff your whole family in a car and just pay one rental fee (instead of four or five round-trip tickets). Even with daily charges and gas, you’ll probably come out way ahead.

With that in mind, you can set yourself up for savings by choosing destinations within driving distance.

3. Choose Your Hotel, Condo, or Resort Wisely

Do you prefer hotels or motels? Rental condos or resorts? Where you choose to stay can make a huge impact on the costs of your trip, especially when you have kids along.

Hotels and resorts tend to have more amenities, but food costs can add up quickly when you’re in a basic room. For families, it might be wiser to choose a rental condo so you can keep and prepare some snacks at “home.” Or, you could also choose an inexpensive hotel that offers a kitchenette.

4. Consider the Cost of Activities and Attractions

Where are you going and when? How you answer those questions can make a huge impact on how much you’ll spend on your trip in the end. While it may be easy to predict the costs of a cheap beach vacation where you plan to swim the day away, budgeting becomes trickier when you plan to visit theme parks or see other attractions.

Before you travel with kids, make sure to look up local parks and activities so you can work up a written estimate of how much each one could cost. From there, you can prioritize what you want to do most and figure out which “extras” to skip.

5. Travel Off-Peak When You Can

How old are your children? If they’re school-age, you may be limited to traveling during school breaks. This can be costly, but there may be a workaround. If you’re able to travel right after peak times, for example, costs go down quite a bit.

Instead of traveling over the Christmas holiday, for example, try leaving for your destination a few days after Christmas and returning home several days after the new year. Likewise, if you have a two-week spring break, try heading out of town Tuesday-Tuesday instead of heading to the airport the day after school gets out.

Play around with dates to find the lowest price for the vacation you want, and you’ll save money in the end.

6. Split Costs With Family and Friends

As a final tip, don’t forget how powerful sharing costs with family and friends can be. If you’re heading to a destination where you could split a huge rental home or condo with extended family or friends, you could save a bundle by divvying up the weekly rental rate.

Picture a giant beach house with eight or 10 bedrooms, its own pool, and an expansive beach just for you to enjoy. Or, a mountainside cottage with huge rooms, plenty of sleep space, its own hot tub, and gorgeous views of the mountains outdoors.The more people you can bring along, the less each family unit will pay for their piece of paradise. As an added bonus, you get to spend time with friends or the people you love.