Money-Saving Tips for Traveling with Kids

in Family Vacations, Traveling with Kids, Trip Planning

Family vacations are fun, but they can also be quite expensive. Whether it’s a camping trip or a week-long Disney cruise, one thing is constant: you typically end up spending more than you expected. Here are some tips for making your family trip memorable without breaking the bank.

  • Develop a reasonable budget and stick to it. Reasonable is the word here. Developing your budget will take a bit of research to find out how much you can realistically survive on (and still have fun) while traveling with kids. For example, if you’re hoping to eat cheaply in Paris, research the median price for lunch in a casual restaurant (and don’t forget about less expensive options like grabbing a baguette and cheese for lunch). This will give you a starting point for figuring out your daily food budget. If you’re going on an all-inclusive vacation (like a cruise), plan a budget for the things you can control (like souvenirs, extras, tours, etc.). Knowing how much these things will cost (or at least approximately) will ease your mind and help you plan better and stay within your budget. Depending on the ages of your children, you may want to include them in your budget planning as well. Web-savvy kids (there aren’t many who aren’t anymore) can help you by researching options for eating and things to do. This process can be very fun, and teaches your kids about the importance of budgeting and trip planning.
  • Be smart about purchasing souvenirs. Although it may be tempting to buy out the souvenir shop for your kids, resist. Help them cultivate the art of sophisticated and meaningful souvenirs early on. Photos, journals (even young kids can do this) and small cultural mementos will mean much more to them in the long run than expensive toys and souvenirs. You may want to set a souvenir budget for each child. This can make it easier to say the all important word “no.”
  • If possible, rent a place with a kitchen. Let’s face it, eating out can be expensive (and tiresome, especially if you’re traveling with picky eaters). Renting a place to stay with a kitchen gives you the option of cooking your own meals (and saving money). Get your kids in on the action. You can shop groceries together at the local market (this shopping experience can be new and exciting, especially if you go to an open-air market) and prepare food together. Even if your kids don’t usually cook at home, encourage them to do so during your trip. After all, trips are about experiencing new things.
  • Consider participating in a “home exchange.” Housing swaps (when you trade your house with someone who lives in another place) are a great way to save money on accommodations. It’s even better if the family you’re swapping with has kids around the same age as yours. Ask them for ideas for frugal kid-friendly activities nearby. In some programs, you can even swap cars. If your “swap partners” have a vehicle that accommodates your entire family, then you can avoid the costs of renting a large vehicle to haul everyone around in.
  • Choose your “experiences” wisely. Depending on your kids’ ages and energy levels, packing your days full with museum visits, tours and cultural performances might qualify as going overboard. While you may remember your afternoon at the Louvre as an enlightening cultural experience, your kids may not remember the experience quite as fondly. Remember that while the purpose of a vacation is to discover new things, it’s also to spend time together as a family. Having a picnic, hanging out by the pool, having an ice cream cone or simply taking a walk together are all inexpensive ways to spend quality time while on vacation.

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