10 Money-Saving Tips for Traveling on a Budget

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Summertime is high travel time, as families everywhere head out on road trips and annual vacations. But traveling as a family is a far cry from the wandering days of your life pre-kids. You can’t just hit the road with a backpack and no plan when you’ve got little ones. Besides that, traveling is expensive! Airfare, hotel, food, entertainment – the costs add up, and fast. But if you’ve been itching to get out of your town for a little fun, don’t let cost put a damper on your plans! Vacations are doable, as long as you’re committed to traveling on a budget. These tips can turn your dream vacation into a reality. I can’t do anything about having to take your kids with you, though. Sorry.

Traveling on a budget requires some planning. If you know you want to hit a faraway destination, save some money by buying your plane tickets at least two months in advance.

Ticket prices will increase the closer you get to your departure date, so nail down your vacay dates and don’t waste time booking flights. Airlines will typically adjust fares early in the week, so you might get a better deal if you buy them Sunday – Tuesday. If you’re worried about something coming up between booking and and when you leave on your trip, check your credit card’s trip insurance policy, or look into trip insurance offered by the airline.

2. Another to way to save money when it comes to air travel: fly smart!

Economy class is just fine for everyone, thank you very much. You might get better deals on your tickets if you leave at certain times on certain days (mid-week flights are cheaper than weekend flights). If it’s a short flight, consider flying a budget airline. And if you can, pack everything in your carry-on, to avoid checked bag fees (and lost luggage!).

3. Dreaming of a family cruise vacation? Time it right.

Booking a cruise at least 6-months in advance can save you big bucks, as supply is high and demand is low. As the date gets closer, demand increases, and those prices will go up. If you’re the gambling type, wait until just a couple of weeks before the cruise to book; ships need to fill rooms, and you can score a sweet deal in the fire sale.

4. Save money by having a solid plan.

Let’s be honest, doing ANYTHING spontaneously when you have kids is either impossible or an incredibly bad idea. But when it comes to traveling on a budget, spontaneity can also cost you. Last minute flights or hotel bookings are going to be way more expensive. If you’re flying to a destination, plan out your itinerary, including travel on your trip (rental cars, public transport, etc.). Do a little research into where you’ll be staying, like finding the cheapest restaurants or free entertainment and tourist attractions during your stay.

5. Speaking of food: don’t blow your wad eating out for every meal!

If you stay in a vacation rental, you’ll have a kitchen at your disposal. Plenty of hotel rooms also offer rooms with kitchenettes (look into extended-stay hotels for that perk). When you arrive at your lodgings, hit the market and stock up on snacks and stuff for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Definitely plan a few meals out and about – sampling local cuisine is one of the best parts of traveling. But eating out for three meals and day PLUS snacks for a family can get really expensive.

6. When you’re booking your hotel or vacation rental, don’t jump at the cheapest room you find before you do your research.

Sure, you want to save some money during your stay. But consider location and other amenities before you book. If you find a room that’s $20-30 less per night than other hotels, research the location. If it’s way outside the city center or where you’ll be spending most of your time, you need to factor in daily travel costs. Also, when researching hotels, check out their amenities. Plenty of hotels offer a free continental breakfast every morning, or happy hour with snacks in the evenings. You can definitely save some money eating all that free food!

7. Traveling on a budget means making use of the resources at your disposal.

Sure, you could rent a car! Or, you could take advantage of public transportation. When you’re planning your itinerary, check out the bus or train stops near the spots you want to visit. If you’re doing the super tourist thing, like a family trip to Disneyland, ask your hotel if they have a daily park shuttle. You’ll save on transportation AND parking!

8. Skip the plane and hit the road!

Maybe you don’t necessarily want to fly your entire family somewhere, but just want to get out of Dodge for a bit. Family road trip! This is a super budget-friendly way to travel, and honestly, one of the most fun. Grab a map and a pen and plan your route, and then research hotels and attractions along the way. Make sure to plan plenty of time to stop at some of the oddities you’ll discover on the drive.

9. Skip a few nights in a hotel on your road trip, and camp out under the stars.

Camping can be a lot of fun (especially with these hacks!). Campgrounds are also a lot cheaper than hotel rooms. Now, I’m not suggesting going camping for a week or anything, hot showers and comfy beds are always nice. But for a night or two on your road trip? Hell yeah! Save some money and create lasting memories.

10. Traveling on a budget means planning your trips in the off-season.

I know it can be hard to plan around school breaks. But if you want to travel on the cheap, it’s in your best interest to avoid the high-travel times (like school breaks, whomp whomp). If you travel during the high season or at holidays, EVERYTHING is going to be more expensive. We all want perfect weather on vacation, but it’s worth sacrificing a little sun to save several hundred dollars. Plus, it’ll be way less crowded.

When traveling on a budget, remember: travel smart, plan ahead, and do your research! Dream vacations don’t have to drain the bank.

(Image: iStock / monkeybusinessimages)