40+ Tips to Save Money on Your Family Travels

After nineteen years of traveling the world with kids, we’ve learned quite a bit about travel on a budget. Whether you’re planning a trip on your family travel bucket list or a local staycation, there are endless options for reducing your travel expenses. Here’s how to save money on your family travels. These are money saving travel tips everyone can use.

How to Save Money on Family Travels-Kids Are A Trip

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How to save money when you’re traveling with family

Sometimes we get caught up in everyday life and forget to set aside money for our family vacation fund. There’s no need to worry if you haven’t stashed away extra money in the past year because you can always find ways to save when traveling with family.

We tell you how to find free things, reduced admission, and travel discounts so your family can enjoy the trip without the stress of blowing your vacation budget. These are some of the best ways to save money when your family travels.

Use travel credit cards to save money

1. Before traveling, put all of your purchases on a credit card that will earn you miles or points (be sure to pay them off every month or the headache won’t be worth the effort).

Use credit card points to pay for your flight, accommodation, and/or rental car. This is one of the easiest ways to book free travel.

The Points Guy knows the ins and outs of earning travel rewards and Trips with Tykes has come great resources too, so definitely use their sites as a reference.

WANT TO KNOW WHAT CREDIT CARDS ARE BEST FOR TRAVEL? CLICK HERE TO FIND THE ONES WE RECOMMEND!

2. When traveling internationally, be sure to use a credit card that does not charge you for ATM withdrawals or foreign transaction fees. When in doubt, ask before you travel.

Credit cards for family travels

3. If you’re making a purchase in a foreign store and they ask if you want to pay in US dollars or the local currency, always choose the local currency. There can be a big difference between their conversion rate and the bank’s conversion rate, so it’s always best to use the local currency option.

Tips to Save Money on Flights

4. Use online sites to compare and find the best ticket prices. Some of my favorite search engines to use are: Google Flights, Momondo, and Skyscanner.

Clear your browser before you book tickets because airlines can track your previous searches and price flights accordingly.

5. Find the airline rewards program that is right for you. Figure out if you will be rewarded for miles flown or dollars spent or a combination of the two. 

If you are a frequent traveler and upgrades and waived baggage fees are important, consider these things when researching your options. Travelers who know that most of their points will be earned through purchases should find the program that rewards accordingly.

6. Don’t rule out flying on a budget airline because they will often have the cheapest airfare. Just because the price is less, it doesn’t mean the plane isn’t great (well sometimes it does, so do your research).

Be mindful of add-on costs, such as baggage fare and preferred seat assignments because those can add up quickly. Here’s a great comparison of budget airlines.

Saving money on airfare

7. If you need help packing for carry-on only travel, we highly recommend using packing cubes to organize luggage and keep everyone’s clothes separated.

Be sure to roll everything to maximize the space. Color coordinate outfits so everything can be mixed and matched easily.

8. In order to accommodate carry on baggage rules, I make our kids wear their heaviest pair of shoes on the plane and pack the rest. This helps keep clothing weight to a minimum so we can avoid luggage fees.

Another trick is to bring a zippered pillow case on the plane and stuff your extra clothes inside it. It’s one of the most creative ways we’ve seen to get around baggage limits.

9. When booking airline tickets, shop around, two one way flights may be cheaper than a round trip.

How to Save Money on Family Hotel Stays

10. One thing we look for when booking a hotel is whether or not they serve breakfast. When everyone in our family eats breakfast, they are less likely to ask for mid-morning snacks.

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The Carry On Travel Essentials You Need for Every Type of Trip

If the hotel offers cereal boxes, granola bars, or apples, grab those as you’re walking out and take them for snacks later in the day. 

11. Use online sites to compare and find the best hotel prices. Some of my go to websites are: TravelocityHotels.com, and Expedia.com.

Don’t be afraid to call a hotel and ask for a better deal. Often they will match what you find on-line, and they might even throw in extras such as free breakfast and/or overnight parking.

Resort pool in Mexico palm trees

12. Sign up for hotel chain loyalty programs. Similar to airline rewards programs, find one that offers accommodation discounts, free nights, and upgrades.

13. If you can wait until the last minute, you can find a hotel room at Roomer and HotelTonight.com (which actually allows you to book a room a week or more in advance as well depending on the destination).

Save on Your Family Travels by staying at Vacation Rentals

14. Don’t be afraid to try online rental accommodations such as VRBO and Plum Guide which match owners and potential guests. We have tried all of these and have experienced varying levels of success with each.

A couple you might not know about are Vacatia (resort residences with the space of a home and amenities of a hotel) and Glamping Hub (glamping and cabin rentals).

Glamping yurt interior
There are some really unique glamping opportunities!

15. Do your research when it comes to booking a rental home. I would never recommend booking somewhere that has less than 15-20 positive reviews and one that doesn’t show a lot of pictures.

Communication is key when renting someone else’s home. Ask questions and if you don’t get the answers you want, don’t stay there. Check out our other tips before booking a vacation rental.

16. Staying in an accommodation with kitchen facilities can save money on food when traveling. We will often make a stop at the local grocery store and stock up on snacks to make our own meals. Here our some of our favorite meals to make on vacation.

Street food is always an option if you feel comfortable with this and food allergies aren’t an issue. Also, consider packing a re-usable water bottle for everyone. All of these will help keep your travel costs in check.

How to Travel on a Budget HomeAway Stay-Kids Are A Trip
This property came with a private beach and stunning sunsets.

17. Consider staying on the outskirts of a larger city. In many places the most expensive properties are in the center (I’m looking at you New York, Chicago, and San Francisco), and prices drop the further they are away from local attractions.

If you plan to do this, be sure there are good public transit options or you may end up spending more money than you save.

18. Consider doing a home exchange but do your research. Find a reputable company like Home Exchange that charges a membership fee so you know that users are committed to the service.

19. Housesitting while traveling is also an option, but it requires a different level of commitment. Here are some ideas for finding housesitter jobs to help you find the right match. A housesitting service we like is TrustedHousesitters.

How to Save Money on a Cruise

20. Consider booking a cruise using travel agents. They have access to perks from the cruise company and often pass those along to you at no extra charge.

21. Make travel plans in advance when it comes to shore excursions. It is often cheaper to arrange them on your own.

22. If you have flexible travel dates, wait until the last minute to book your cruise. You can find great rates at the last minute (typically 60 to 90 days ahead of time) which can save a ton of money. Find last minute deals on Cruise Critic.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

23. Don’t travel in high season. There’s a huge difference in pricing between peak times and off season. Look at hurricane season in the Caribbean or after the holiday break in early January.

24. Shop around for the best deal. Often cruises will throw in incentives if they’re trying to earn your business. You can always call and tell them what you’re considering booking on another cruise line and see if they can do better.

Don’t miss these other money saving tips: 10 Things to Know Before You Go On A Cruise.

How Social Media Can Save Money on Family Travels

25. Follow your favorite airlines, hotels, cruise lines and travel related businesses on social media. They will often post discounts and deals on social media before they post them elsewhere. (ie. Instagram and Facebook).

Sign up for their newsletters, or industry newsletters that share the latest travel deals. I like Travel Zoo, Scott’s Cheap Flights, and The Flight Deal.

Saving money on travel

26. Use Skype and What’s App to connect with loved ones back home. Turn off your cellular service when you travel (set your phone to airplane mode) and stick to free wi-fi frequently found in airports, hotels, and restaurants.

27. Another option for saving money on international calls is to buy a SIM card for your phone once you reach your destination. These are often available from local cellular providers, grocery stores, or kiosks.

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How to Prepare Kids for Flying Alone

Switch it out with your existing SIM card and then you are able to make phone calls paying the local rate instead of international rates. This also allows you to use your GPS on your phone when you are out exploring instead of paying roaming fees.

How to Find Discounts on Tours and Activities

28. Find free activities in the city you are visiting. Stop in at the local tourist office or check with them before you visit. Often you can find a free concert, festival, or museum, or just walk around. Hiking, playgrounds, and relaxing at the beach are usually free.

29. Head to the local library if you’re traveling close to home. Many offer discount cards for museums and other attractions in the local area.

30. Look for tourist or travel discount cards for the city you are visiting. These can be a great deal if you plan on visiting most of the sights included on the card. Look for CityPASS and Go City Cards in various destinations. 

They offer discounts (and often free admission) on some of the most popular attractions in a city. A few of the passes include free transportation and dining discounts as well. We have used these often as they have proven to be money savers time and time again.

31. Consider trying an Airbnb Experience. These are locals who provide local experiences like cooking classes, city tours, and more. For some Airbnb experiences you might enjoy, check out this post. 

We also find a way to set aside some of our travel budget for guided tours from companies like Viator or Get Your Guide. Sometimes we use our budget for family photos from Flytographer and we’ve never been disappointed. Click HERE to get $25 off your booking!

32. Try public transportation. Better yet, walk everywhere. It’s great exercise and will always be cheaper and more efficient than a taxi.

Best Tips for Saving Money Local Transportation-Kids Are A Trip
Don’t be intimidated by public transportation.

33. If you’re heading to the theme parks, check before you go because many allow you to bring in your own snacks and/or water. This can save a lot of money.

34. A great way to save on souvenirs is to set a budget before your family trip. We used to give our kids a “souvenir budget” they could use at the end of each trip. This helped keep costs to a minimum. If you just can’t resist, these are the Disney souvenirs that are worth the money.

35. If you’re planning your next family vacation a little bit in advance, consider asking for gift cards from family members. So if you have young children who like to shop at the theme parks this could take a bit of the financial burden off of the parents.

Zion National Park

36. If your family is heading to the National Parks, be sure to invest in an annual National Parks pass. It will save a ton of money on admission and pays for itself after the first visit.

We used it last year to visit the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks. It’s definitely the best option out there.

Invest in Travel Insurance for Family Travels

37. As we all know, travel insurance can save us a lot of heartache. I would highly recommend purchasing especially if you are traveling to or from a destination that could have weather issues.

We carry a policy with Allianz, since we are often traveling with three kids and you never know what could happen. Another good option is MedJet which will provide global air medical transport if needed. Of course there are other reasons to have travel insurance, but sometimes it just makes sense.

How to Save Money on Rental Cars

38. Use a site like Rentalcars.com or AutoEurope to help you find the best deals on car rentals. They can compare different companies, and help find the best rates.

AAA and military discounts are also available at most car rental agencies. Taking a road trip instead of flying is usually the cheaper option.

driving a car family travels

39. Check with your credit cards and car insurance and see if they offer rental car coverage. This will save paying the car insurance fees to the agency.

40. Consider renting at a location that isn’t the airport. We will often book a car off-site, then take a cab to the rental car agency. This saves us a lot on daily airport taxes and fees.

If you’re looking for other money saving tips, check out our post How to Travel Europe on a Budget and How Large Families Can Save Money on Travel.

We have found all of these trips to be very useful throughout our nineteen years of traveling with kids. With a little research you can spend less money on travel and avoid the extra cost of unplanned travel expenses. And that makes everyone happy!