When people talk about vacations, sometimes I feel like there can be an elephant in the room … and that’s money. Travel is so expensive, and it is easy to look at a trip a family has taken and attach an assumed price tag in your mind. The thing is, the same trip could be taken by two different families but each family could have had an entirely different budget depending on choices made for their travel. We’re a family of 6, so we definitely know how expensive traveling can be, but we’ve learned some money saving tips for travel along the way that for us have taken certain vacations from being impossible to actually doable.
Before I share those tips, it means a lot to me to be real on this blog and true to who we are as a family and what we believe, so if we’re talking money, I want to share something important to me. We don’t always get this exactly right, but we try to view all we have as not our own … but rather that it is all from God. We believe whole-heartedly in working our butts off and being wise with what we’ve been given. We hope and pray that the value of hard work is being instilled in our kids and that we are teaching them to be wise and generous people. A non-negotiable for our family is always first and foremost giving to our local church, One Life, and the missions organization we support called Uncharted International. Yes, we love travel and adventure … but we love Jesus and people more.
Now, on to those money saving tips for travel!
#1 –Find the Deal First; Then Plan the Trip
The biggest saver for us is simply planning our trips around where we find the best deal! Thankfully we do have some flexibility in when we travel, but even when we have a particular time in mind for a trip, we typically don’t start with a destination in mind. We just start searching for deals. Some of the sources we use are:
Also, it is best to avoid peak seasons! There may be some attractions that are unavailable or some prime weather situation that is missed. But on the other hand, there will be less crowds, more parking, and definitely cheaper prices. In our minds, the off-season pros outweigh the cons!
#2 – If You are Flying, Don’t Check Bags
We never check bags. Seriously. Never. Our last trip was 11 days with 6 people in cold weather and we didn’t check a single bag. Check out our post on packing tips! I promise it is not that hard, and SO worth not paying that checking fee (or worrying about lost bags!).
#3 – Rewards Programs
Listen, my parents taught me well about not having credit card debt. I know some people who avoid credit cards altogether for that reason, and I respect that. Josh and I are adamant about paying every penny of every bill, but we DO take advantage of the cash back rewards that are offered by credit cards. Do some research and find the best rewards situation for you. Again, totally not encouraging credit card debt here … don’t spend what you don’t have … but there are some great rewards to be had if you handle it with wisdom. (Also, we’ve found using credit cards when traveling internationally to be so easy to the point that you don’t really have to exchange much money at all, and then you’re making cash back rewards while you travel!)
#4 – Make an Itinerary
We are known for being a family who travels last minute (hello, last minute deals!), but the more we travel, the more I realize the benefits of having an itinerary to go by. I always go into our plan as more of a guide, not necessarily a schedule we have to stick to. But the more we know about our plan before a trip, the more we can potentially save on our budget. I can plan ahead what restaurants would be in a good price range and suitable for kids that are near the location we plan to be. I can plan our activities so that we’re doing things in an order that makes for the least amount of taking transportation (walking or taking public transportation as much as possible). I can look for deals on tickets for things we want to do.
One example of this is when I was looking for tickets for a Seine River Cruise in Paris. There are several different ones to choose from for various prices. I ended up finding us a free one being offered for a particular day and time that was going to be during our stay there. The website said that there was going to be an “international guest,” on that particular cruise and that they were going to be doing some filming. All you had to do was email if you were interested. I was able to have that taken care of before our trip, saved us money, and it ended up being so fun! (The special guest was a singer who is apparently very big in Europe. I think we were the only ones on the boat that didn’t know and love this Mika guy!)
#5 – Sightseeing from the Outside
When traveling there are usually endless options of activities to do and sights to see, and they pretty much all cost money! We’ve found that in a lot of situations just seeing things from the outside is just fine! Pick and choose what you want to do the most without feeling the pressure to fully experience every single thing.
#6 – Food and Drinks
This is a part of traveling that can add up fast! Again, planning ahead here is great! We try to have an idea of what restaurants we will go to, but we also plan when and how we can NOT eat out while traveling. Staying in AirBnBs allows us to be able to cook some of our meals. We also share as a family a lot when we do eat out instead of paying for several kids’ meals. It has actually become a fun thing when we get ice cream or desserts that we’ll get 2 or 3 things and then just keep passing it around for everyone to get a few bites of each. Just drinking water when eating out saves on that check in a big way too.
#7 – Budget – Have one and Stick to it
We’ve heard several times people use the phrase, “a trip of a lifetime.” I love that because it’s true … traveling is SO exciting! Getting to travel is both humbling and amazing. It’s a big deal! But just because it is a trip of a lifetime, doesn’t mean it has to take your life savings! Figure out a realistic budget, look for where and when the best deals are happening, and pick and choose your activities, lodging, and meal options to stay within that budget. Don’t forget to include souvenirs in your budget too!
We actually give each of our kids a souvenir budget, which has been great. They are not asking to buy every little thing they see. They have to choose what they want wisely! Then as a family we always look for the same types of souvenirs on each trip: a Christmas ornament and a book from a local bookstore.
#8 – Research, Research, Research!
Actually, this probably should be Number 1 on the list because everything kind of comes back to this. The more I research when planning for a trip, the better our itinerary becomes and the more opportunities I find to save money and keep us within our budget. There are tons of sources out there. It just takes a bit of time and intentionality to find them. I hope that the Wheels Up Family website can be that type of helpful resource! We’re sharing on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, so click on the social media links to follow along with what we’re learning and sharing!
If you have any other money saving tips for travel, please share them in the comments below! Also, would you have known who Mika was??