By Ashley Rose, The Budget Girl
I love saving money and traveling can be a huge expense. There are several ways you can save while traveling, whether it’s with kids or solo. I live 18 hrs from the majority of our extended family. So, we end up traveling halfway across the country several times a year. My idea of what is worth the cost has definitely changed since we had kids. We used to drive straight through and now we can’t do that with kids. The cost of a hotel room is really a need now but we have still been able to save money while traveling even when we stay in a hotel.
Stay at Hotels that Include Meals
One way we save money while traveling is we stay at a hotel that serves us free dinner and free breakfast. I don’t know how many hotels do that now, but we stay at Drury Inn because they do and we can have our dog with us as well. It makes it a lot easier to travel when you know those couple of things are taken care of.
Stay with Family and Use Reward Points at Hotels
We also can save occasionally by going out of our way a little bit to stay with family along the way. It saves us the cost of a hotel room at least on the way there. Occasionally we will attempt to drive through instead of staying in a hotel but with two little kids, it’s not usually a good idea. It just depends on how they are acting and feeling. One big advantage to staying in a hotel is that they have a pool. My kids love swimming and it’s nice to take a break from the long drive and let them get some energy out. A lot of hotels also have reward points where you can earn a free nights stay after you stay with them so many times.
Time of Day
You may also consider the time of day you are traveling if you are traveling with kids. I know several families that will travel all night while the kids are sleeping. This would save money by not having to stop and feed them every couple of hours. This also saves time since you don’t have to stop as often to go to the bathroom. Plus if we are being honest, it will probably save your sanity as well.
Another way we save money while traveling is packing our snacks and drinks ahead of time. It’s very tempting to grab a few snacks and drinks at the convenience store but they are a lot cheaper at the grocery store. I usually take a small cooler to keep the drinks cold and pack a bag or two with food. This also saves us money once we get to our destination since we already have a few things for the kids to eat. So, if you have room, pack yourself some things to eat along the way to save some money.
Save on Air Travel
Some ways to save on air travel can include booking the flight several months in advance, checking prices throughout the week and looking at different days to leave and return besides the weekend. A lot of times leaving and returning on Tuesdays or Thursdays can save you quite a bit of money. Not to mention, it’s less busy and you won’t have to deal with as many people at the airport (hopefully anyway). It is also important to check different travel sites before booking your flight. Some sites have a price match guarantee so if the price goes down, they will refund the difference. Some sites have deals when you bundle your flight, hotel, and rental car together. Be open on your travel days, we saved $500 on our Disney trip by going 2 weeks earlier than originally planned.
Use a Travel Agent
Another way to save money is to use a travel agent. You don’t pay them, they get paid from the agencies you use. They have the time to shop around and schedule everything for you. Your time is valuable and letting someone else handle things can be less stressful. For example, if you are traveling to Disney, use a Disney travel agent. Trust me on this one, planning for Disney is a full-time job and I will never try to do it again. I will let someone else do it for free. They know when the deals are, you can make payments to them for the trip, and they know all the ins and outs of going to Disney. Sometimes, just not dealing with the stress of it all is worth it plus it’s FREE.
Don’t forget to check with your insurance company, AAA, your credit union, and other companies you deal with for any special rates. A lot of places will offer a discount if you are a member of a certain organization or if you are in the military. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount, a lot of places have them, if you just ask. The worst that can happen is that they say no.
Some other ways to travel and save money include, sleeping in your car, using Airbnb, Groupon, or camping. Once you get to your destination, look for more ways to save money. Look in the area for free activities, parks, or museums. There could also be Groupon’s for the area for certain activities, food, or lodging. You could join Facebook groups for the area and ask others what there is to do that is free or cheap. You will probably find that there are some neat and unique things to check out while you are there.
Now, before you begin your journey you should set a travel budget. This will help you save money because you will know how much you have to spend in the first place. Make sure you account for all the cost, some spending money, and a little extra in case of an emergency. You are less likely to overspend if you have a set amount to spend. Once you have your travel budget set, use cash, debit card or a prepaid Visa card. When you use a credit card, you spend on average 20% more. It is harder to keep track of your spending and where you are at with the travel budget, if you use a credit card.
These are just a few of the ways our family saves money while traveling. I’m sure there are lots of other ideas out there. What are some ways that you save money while traveling?
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