Traveling as a family can add up quickly. Think of all those snacks, meals, souvenirs and hidden extra fees lurking around every corner. When we travel as a family of four having fun is our main goal, but saving money is my personal challenge. So what do I do? Here are my 10 tips for getting away with great family travel deals.
1. Timing. If you can get away, try traveling during the week. We just went to Great Wolf Lodge and saved half the weekend room fee by booking mid week. The added bonus is that it wasn't as busy.
2. Do your research. After you choose your destination find out what it has to offer. Is there an organized hike, free shows or story times? Take advantage of all the free opportunities your family would enjoy.
3. Eat breakfast in! We enjoy eating out as a family for dinner, but breakfast is hard to swing with 2 small children. Because getting out the door is half the battle, I pack single servings of cereal so we can eat in our hotel room. No, I don't spend extra for individual boxes, but measure out a serving or so into a Tupperware container. (It also doubles as a bowl). I then pack milk, silverware and fruit to finish off our meal. This saves us time and money from eating out.
4. Check on Sales. If you want to do it all and get the souvenirs, too, find out if there are any special passes or discounts for doing multiple activities or buying a set of souvenirs. Many times getting a pass or package will save you money in the long run.
5. Find a room or suite with a kitchen, fridge or microwave. Having access to making your own food, or reheating leftovers will save more money than you might think! Even cutting out buying coffee will give you more money in your pocket for other fun pursuits.
6. Travel in numbers. Defraying costs among more people can multiply the fun as well as the savings. Carpool, share housing and get family style meals. Also check into group discounts if you have 10 or more people. Some resorts even have special rooms with separate quarters for adults and kids. This can be kind on your wallet as well as your sanity.
7. Use Social Networking. Find out what you want to do, restaurants of interest in the area or activities and then connect on Facebook and twitter. It is a good way to pick up tips from other travelers as well as hear about deals, coupons or specials. Some businesses have Facebook exclusive deals or coupons to print out on their site.
8. Camp a night or two. As you are traveling, if the weather allows think of camping for a night or two. Camping doesn't need to be the whole vacation, and a hotel thrown in for a night or two is a great chance to get showered and relax. My husband and I camped out for a few nights as we traveled to Mt. Fuji in Japan. It was a great savings and made us appreciate our hotel rooms even more.
9. Ask friends, family and twitter followers for advice. Nothing beats experience, so use it. After you decide where you are going ask others for tips on getting good deals. The answers might surprise you.
10. Travel on a budget and stick with it. Common sense? Maybe, but to save money make sure you stick with a plan and then see all the great things you can do while still sticking to it. We always make sure there is a cushion, but vacation should never put us in financial ruin.
I hope all of you have some great vacations planned. If you have any great frugal traveling tips I would love to hear them. Ultimately traveling and vacations require planning and flexibility, but the goal is always to have fun.
*Disclaimer - I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.