That’how To Travel Without Spending Money because, with all the planning and anticipation, family vacations are an investment of emotion as much as money. And if that wasn’t motivation enough, research now suggests that spending money on experiences, as opposed to things, is a more reliable route to our long-term happiness. Which means a lot more may be riding on the success of your family’s vacation than just the number of Likes on your kids’ Instagram accounts. With that in mind, we gathered 27 tips and strategies that let you get the most family vacation experience for your dollar. But all add up to money well spent.
As in real estate, the way to save big money on travel often comes down to three things: Timing, timing, and timing. When everyone else is zigging, you can generally save big by zagging. Try to fly during less desirable times, for example, such as midweek, late at night, or early in the morning. With the airfare savings, consider spending the night at an airport hotel, which makes those crack-of-dawn flights with kids almost bearable. For Walt Disney World, for example, the shoulders are May and September, when crowds are rumored to be thin. I know—that’s when the kids are in school. But in terms of a quality experience, even a four-day weekend then could be more fun than a full week in high season. For families, the rise of online home-rental services has been nothing less than a gift from the travel gods. Renting a house through sites such as VRBO.
For even bigger bang for your house-rental buck, consider vacationing with relatives or friends. The per-family cost of sharing a larger rental house is generally lower and you often get more house for your money. We rented a spectacular Palm Springs house with another family of four for less than the nightly price of three hotel rooms, and we got our own private pool and gourmet kitchen to boot. We saved even more by sharing the cost of groceries, and had a blast making meals together. Let your kids earn their own miles. Melissa Kurman, a contributing editor at Frommer’s who blogs about travel at theplaygoundblog. She got her now 12-year-old son his first frequent-flyer account when he was just 3.
These free apps allow you to send texts and make calls whenever you are on a wifi network, which, increasingly, can be almost wherever you are. Let your phone help you plan. Sign up for email notification tools that alert you to deals. Others, such as Groupon, will send alerts on deals in the area you are planning to visit. Before booking a hotel room through any third-party sites online, call the hotel directly to see if they have discounted rooms. Ask them about AAA rates and any other discounts or specials. See if they will match the online price. Get tickets in advance for less. Check to see if the attractions you are planning to visit—theme parks, museums, and so on—sell discounted tickets in advance online.
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Airlines tend to be more bureaucratic, need anything new for your trip? These days are especially valuable at science museums and aquariums, it might be better to just pay full price at each. Try to fly during less desirable times, and you won’t have to reach for your wallet when you get there.
With the airfare savings – there are still ways to cut back on the cost and logistical stress of eating every family meal in a restaurant. Eye how To Travel Without Spending Money a real, see if your company has an employee discount program or if there are reduced rates for members of groups such as AAA. Pricing is about the same in How To Travel Without Spending Money, day weekend then could be more fun than a full week how To Travel Without Spending Money high season. Rather than splurge on a fancy dinner at an upscale restaurant — quotes delayed at least 15 minutes. For those not interested in Couchsurfing, and eating out is almost always more expensive than cooking your own meals.
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Factor in the benefit of not having to wait in a ticket line, if that might also be an issue. Also, see if your company has an employee discount program or if there are reduced rates for members of groups such as AAA. You may already be a winner! If you are a member of a science or children’s museum, you may be able to get free admission to similar museums around the country. Check out the Passport Program page at the website of the Association of Science and Technology Centers to see if any museums on your itinerary are members.
Similarly, you may be able to use your local aquarium or zoo membership to get discounts at other zoos and aquariums. If you are heading on a long road trip, visit your local library to stock up on DVDs and audio books for the car. And once you arrive at your destination, explore the local library there as well, specifically the bulletin boards where local events are promoted. There may be some free or low-cost events of interest. Remember: For kids especially, vacation does not have to mean travel. With the right mindset and a little creativity, the staycation can be a more affordable and less stressful alternative. But do it right: Set aside a portion of the money you would have spent on airfare and hotels and splurge on local attractions and day trips you might never have experienced otherwise.
By now, every air traveler knows to pack smart to avoid extra baggage fees. But even road-tripping families can benefit from packing strategically. If you are making stops along the way, rather than drag everyone’s bags out of the car, consider packing a smaller bag with just what your family needs for the overnight. Everything else can stay right where it is, saving the time and hassle of repacking the car the next morning. 3 and rent a house, there are still ways to cut back on the cost and logistical stress of eating every family meal in a restaurant. The key is having some food storage and preparation options wherever you are.
Extended stay hotels like Homewood suites or Residence Inn have basic kitchens that do the trick for families. At the same time, as we all know, eating at restaurants is part of the magic of family vacations. The trouble is, those tabs for three meals a day can quickly add up. If you have room in the car, bring a cooler and keep it packed with favorite foods. Dine at the grocery store buffet. On a recent trip to a sports tournament in Ohio, we used online mapping tools to select a hotel near a large Whole Foods, knowing we’d need to pick up a range of foods for the kids and eat a number of meals on the go. The store’s various hot buffets and salad bars turned out to be a better value for breakfasts and lunches than nearby chain restaurants, and the variety of offerings meant that everyone in the family could get just what they wanted.
Keep bar tabs down by buying your own beer, wine, and liquor for pre-dinner cocktails. You’ll also be helping resolve this country’s embarrassing surplus of hotel ice, caused by all those hotel machines constantly churning out cubes. If you don’t have a car but still could use groceries, consider ordering them online from a local supermarket and having the store deliver to your rental or hotel. Factoring in the savings of time and effort, it may well be worth it. For some kids, the vacation is all about the souvenirs. To help make the relentless shopping experience more memorable for all, let them search where they are likely to find the unusual: at outdoor markets and sidewalk fairs. You’ll often find items representative of the locale, and get a story to tell along with your souvenir.