June 15th, 2015

How to Save Money for Family Travel: 5 Tips for Parents

How to Save Money for Family Travel: 5 Tips for Parents

Ready to hit the road as a family? Learn how to save money before you travel with these top tips.

Hitting the road as a family is one of the most rewarding types of travel. Kids will see and learn new things and have their minds opened by fresh experiences, the trip gives you all a chance to spend more time together and bond, and you’ll make memories that will last a lifetime. But travel costs add up quickly when you are bringing a whole family along with you. Luckily, there are plenty of ways that you can cut corners in order to afford it. So before you pack your bags and head to your next destination together, check out these top five tips.

1. Get Credit Card Rewards

Smart household managers use their plastic wisely to earn perks for their next family getaway. Read your credit card's website carefully to find out how to earn the most points, which you can then redeem for flights, rental cars, hotel rooms, and more. Usually, any type of purchase will help you gain points, but certain types of purchases might provide you with extra points. For instance, with the Citi Thank You Preferred Card, you earn twice as many points when you use it for making restaurant- or entertainment-related purposes. Just be sure that you pay off the balance in full on time each month, so you don't end up paying interest.

2. Stick to a Budget

It’s nearly impossible to save money effectively unless you create a budget and follow it. You can choose to budget weekly, biweekly, or monthly, depending on your pay schedule and when you handle your bills. First, figure out how much you generally spend on your needs (housing, utilities, foods, gas, childcare, emergency fund, retirement fund, etc.) and your wants (movies, music, clothes, etc.). Then figure out how much money you can afford move into a vacation fund on a regular basis. If there isn't much money left for a vacation fund, brainstorm with your family about how you might be able to cut back on some of your immediate wants in order to take an amazing vacation later in the year. For instance, perhaps instead of going out to dinner every Saturday night, you can save by cooking together. Once you have figured out a plan, automate as many payments as you can. For example, have your bank directly deposit a specific sum of money into a vacation fund, say, once a month. That way, you're more likely to stick to your budget, because if you don't see the extra money in your checking account, you'll be less tempted to spend it.

3. Earn Extra Money

Get together with your family to brainstorm ways that you all can make extra cash. One great idea is to organize a garage sale or sell unwanted items on Craigslist. Households with children are usually bursting with stuff, and a lot of the excess items that are taking up space in your attic or closets could be turned into dollars for your travel fund. Pre-teens and high schoolers can also babysit or do odd jobs around the neighborhood (mowing lawns, raking leaves, taking out trash for older neighbors) to earn money. Is anyone in the family crafty? Try getting on Etsy and selling your creations. With a little creativity, you'll have your money belt filled to the brim during your next trip. 

4. Keep a Change Jar

It’s a tried-and-true tradition, but it works. Use an old five-gallon bucket or water jug and turn it into the designated family change jar. You and your spouse can make a daily habit of emptying your pockets or wallets of all their change, and even older kids can get in on it. You'll be amazed how quickly the dollars add up.

5. Make Smart Travel Choices

Save big by avoiding traveling to destinations during their "high seasons" (a.k.a. their busiest times of the year). For example, if you're willing to grab your backpacks and travel to Costa Rica between May and November—its rainy, low season—you'll find that prices tend to be lower during that time. Before you book a hotel, find out if it's cheaper to rent someone's apartment or home on a site such as Airbnb.com. If you need to fly, be flexible with your dates and you may find more affordable flights mid-week. Or, better yet, try driving to your destination, rather than flying, if possible.

Your turn, families. What are your favorite ways to save money for travel? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Shannon O’Donnell is a long-term traveler who has been on the road since 2008. She is an acclaimed travel speaker and works with universities and businesses all over the U.S. to talk about the role that travel can play in helping to support developing countries and increase global connection.

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by Shannon ODonnell

Shannon O'Donnell is a long-term traveler who has been on the road since 2008; she travels slowly and supports grassroots tourism along the way. She is an acclaimed travel speaker and works with universities and businesses all over the U.S. to talk about supporting developing countries.

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