Money Saving Family Travel Tips

by Lee Rose Emery

Money Saving Family Travel TipsWith summer around the corner, you may be planning some trips with the kids. Traveling with kids is always a challenge but there are a number of websites that can help you find great spots and also great deals. If you are quick with your mouse and don’t mind shopping around online, you can save yourself quite a lot of money. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

1)   Plan Early

Visiting grandparents for Christmas? Start looking at fares now. It really is supply and demand that drives up the prices. You can save as much as 50% by booking early.

2) Shop Around

Of course there are the big search sites you probably know about: Expedia, Hotels, Booking, Venere and Kyack, which combs through all of them. But I like the more obscure ones too, like Skyscanner, which searches some budget airlines, and Tablet, which curates boutique hotels.

There are some small distinctions between these travel sights but all are worth exploring, and some offer loyalty programs.
Expedia.com has comprehensive offerings of packages, hotels, flights, cruises and activities.

Hotels.com has a large selection of hotels.

Booking.com‘s hotel listings are also vast and the site is easy to navigate.

Getaroom.com offers some more obscure but worthwhile listings.

Venere.com offers a selection of Hotels, and includes B&Bs and vacation rentals.

Kyack.com searches hundreds of travel sites at once, comparing prices.

Skyscanner.com searches airline tickets and includes a number of budget airlines.

Tablet is a chic hotel booking site with less options but a more curated collection of hip boutique hotels.

Keep in mind often a hotel will match prices, too – if you see something listed on one of these sites it sometimes is worth calling the hotel directly. You can ask specific questions about room arrangement and they are often happy to have your business directly. Sometimes I will book a couple of refundable room online so we have something lined up and then keep searching deals closer to the date for even bigger last minute deals.

For family specific deals try a new niche family travel site called Minitime.com. This site caters to families. Minitime has a great array of family friendly hotels rated by other families! You can even plug in your kids’ ages and find a perfect destination for you. I love their resource guide of places of interest, as it gives you LACityMom-like tips in whatever destination you are visiting.

Also there’s a new APP I just stumbled on called Elizabeth Street which is a collaborative of worldwide Chic Mom City Guides. This is not a booking site but it offers hotel recommendations and other insider favorite hot spots for families, written by stylish Moms.

3) Rent a House

Or forget a hotel and try for a rental house or apartment somewhere. It is so handy to have access to a kitchen when you are traveling with kids, and to be able to have a little more space. Plus some hotels require you to have two or three rooms when traveling with a large family. That can really start to sting financially when booking a holiday. A house can be a great economical solution.

VRBO stands for “vacation rental by owner.” My family has had good luck with this site, and it can be quite economical. If you are going away for a long time you may consider listing your own house or apartment to rent to offset your trip costs. Renting your home to strangers is not for the faint of heart and requires a lot of work in putting items of value away, and finding the right people to rent – but it can be done and when it works, it is fantastic.

4) Consider a Swap

This too can be a great and inexpensive way to travel. It takes some work to get photos together and present your offer but, again, when it works it can be a wonderful experience. Try Home Away or Love Home Swap. Or if you have a friend with a house somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, ask for a swap directly. We spent New Year’s in London at our friends’ place, while our friends were away which, especially due to the steep exchange rate between the dollar and the pound made the trip so much more affordable.

5) Be Diligent About Accumulating Points Through the Year

The Points Guy has an elaborate system of which credit cards give the most airlines points. It seems like a job in itself to keep track – but if you can, you may be able to get at least a few of the family members free airline tickets with points. That can be a huge savings especially on a cross-country trip. I like the Capital One Card www.capitalone.com as there are no foreign transaction fees, and no black out dates. If you use your card even for a coffee – over time you will be surprised how points many will accumulate.

Some hotels also have their own credit cards, which accumulate points with purchases.  My father, a longtime Marriott loyalist, has had his Marriott card for many years. Because of their many worldwide locations, he usually has at least a few free nights of points good for most cities in the world. Plus he has access to the club lounges, which provide hearty snacks and cocktails. This is also a huge savings.

So if you are just looking now into some fun family travel, don’t despair. There are good deals to be had out there. It just may take some searching, and some patience. And even a night or two in a different locale can feel like a treat. But while you are looking for summer getaways, also start to research for next year. The earlier you book, the more you save.

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