Are you looking for the best ideas to plan budget family travel without the sacrifices? We have you covered. Whether you have a large family and are looking for ways to save or just looking for tips to have an affordable family vacation this will give you all the information to plan a great trip. These are our favorite tips and tricks for saving when booking budget family travel for a family of five. Affordable family vacations do not always require making sacrifices, it just takes a little extra time and planning. We’ll prove that with these cost-saving tips, you can still create amazing experiences for less.

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Let Flight Prices Select your Destination

Most people when planning a family vacation pick a location and then look for flights. If you have some flexibility on where you go this gives you more control of costs. For larger families, the cost of flights can be a significant portion of the budget when planning a family vacation. You can do this one of two ways. First, if you know exactly when you want to travel you can put those dates and your home airport in Google Flights and then select ‘Explore Destinations’. This will show you what it costs to fly everywhere in the world. There are others like Kayak Explore and Skyscanner that also allow you to search in this way.

The other option is to set flight alerts from your home airport and subscribe to emails like Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights), airfarewatchdog, and Next Vacay which allow you to quickly be notified when flights go on sale and to what destinations. Then you can pick a destination when you see a great deal. We’ve scored $400 flights to Scotland and flights under $100 in the US planning in this way.

Be cautious when reviewing fares from budget airlines and traditional carriers to factor in the all-in cost after baggage, seats, and extra fees. Many budget airlines also have lower baggage weight limits so if you’re over you pay more.

Go when everyone else is not

This is top on the list for the biggest family vacation budget saver. If you can travel in the off-season for your destination, not over holidays or common school break periods you can score some cheap flights and accommodations on travel. This can be difficult for families with school-age kids, but sometimes even just changing your departure or arrival by a day or two or extending it longer can save. We love off-season travel, especially to national parks, theme parks, or expensive destinations where you can save as well as beat the crowds.

How to save on accommodations

For families with kids, vacation home rentals can save a lot on accommodations as well as food costs because they often have kitchens. We have booked so many great stays through VRBO or AirB&B. But this isn’t always the case and over the last year, fees have increased substantially. So comparing the final costs and what you’re getting is a good idea.

Beyond the savings, unique home rentals can add to the experience and create lasting memories. We stayed in this amazing container house rental in southern Utah and our kids loved it and still talk about it.

When you find a rental home you like try the following tips to save even more on your family vacation.

Tips for Saving on Vacation Home Rentals

–Google the listing name to see if you can find a direct booking site. Booking directly can save you from substantial third-party fees. You can also find the same property listed on other sites (AirB&B, VRBO, Booking.com) to compare pricing.
–Vacation rentals only provide savings if booking for more than one night due to the cleaning and other service fees. If en route to a destination and in need of a one-night stay, check out the apps below.
–Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. Most vacation rentals provide discounts for 7-night or month-long stays. If you’re close to these periods don’t hesitate to ask the owner if they’d provide a discount. It helps to be polite and share the reason for your trip as this communicates you’ll be a good guest using their home.
–Earn airline miles with Delta when booking an AirB&B. Just go to delta.com/airbnb and add your SkyMiles number before booking every stay.

Camping or Glamping for the memories and savings

Sometimes camping can be the best option to save the travel budget, but also to create lasting memories. If visiting the National Parks, camping allows you to be in the park early and beat any lines or crowds for the most popular sites. Camping can be one of the cheapest family vacations if you plan it right. Camping is family-friendly and can provide a lot of flexibility in packing and sometimes scheduling. With the increased popularity of camping, many state parks are filling farther in advance. Camping in the national parks takes knowing when sites open up and if they’re full check back frequently for cancelations. Check out our how to Stay Warm While Camping if you’re going in cooler months.

Glamping can save when flying and driving

Glamping often refers to glamorous camping but doesn’t always mean glamorous in all situations. The nice part about glamping is if you’re flying and driving this is a way to save without bringing your own camping gear. Glamping can mean budget family travel depending on your location.

Tent in Yosemite camping saves money

Booking.com saves on fees

If you like vacation rentals but don’t like the fees Booking.com is a great option. You can search for hotels as well as home and apartment rentals with far fewer fees than AirB&B. We also like the option to reserve as refundable or non-refundable.

Road-tripping can save big

Driving can have significant savings over airfare and car rentals, especially for large families. Apps like GetUpside and GasBuddy can help save on gas. The app Hotel Tonight can provide steep discounts on same-day hotel bookings as well as Expedia’s app which has a dedicated “Tonight” section. These are great options for finding last-minute hotel rooms. Also, look for hotels with free breakfast as this can save a lot when traveling with kids. Packing a cooler while road-tripping can also help save on food costs. You can see so much on a road trip and it can allow for flexibility in stops and packing all the kids’ gear. For other road trip advice with kids check out all our tips for planning the best Road Trip with Kids.

Use Turo when Booking a Car Rental

Car rentals are in high demand and with that comes limited availability as well as increased costs. We’ve found Turo to be a great option when trying to save money on car rental costs. It helps when traveling (especially with kids in car seats) that you know the exact vehicle you’ll get. If you’ll be doing a lot of driving or have a larger road trip planned consider renting a hybrid or electric vehicle through Turo as this can save a lot on gas.

Use Rewards programs and Credit Cards

Always enroll in every travel rewards program that you’ll use for a trip and don’t forget to sign the kids up as well. Even if it’s not an airline, hotel, or car rental brand you use often it’s worth it and can add up when it’s the whole family earning points. Using points or miles can be a great way to save on travel. Also, consider how and what you can redeem for and make sure it’s on travel brands your family will use. If you’re looking for a new credit card make sure to do your homework. Assess the rewards you’ll actually use and compare the value in the first year vs. the long-term value to the annual fee. Also, don’t forget non-travel-related rewards cards, because sometimes you can earn more value in everyday gift cards or cashback that can then allow more savings to be put towards travel. 

Do a home exchange

Exchanging homes with another family is a great way to ensure a family-friendly place to stay at a discount. If you have a cabin or a second home this can make it even easier to maximize a home exchange. Sites like Home Exchange and Love Home Swap are two of the most popular platforms for coordinating a swap.

Save on activities

Consider the activities you’re interested in doing on vacation before leaving home. Then do your research on discounted passes to museums, and city passes that give you a discount for visiting multiple attractions. A hop-on hop-off bus can also help save and allow you to see a lot with kids. We mainly focus on outdoor activities which saves a lot. If you’ll be visiting multiple national parks you’ll want to get the America the Beautiful annual pass which will save a lot on park entrance fees. If a National Parks trip is in your future check out our other articles on planning a great trip. Lastly, consider booking tours through Viator or Get Your Guide to see more with professional guides.

Packing food can help the budget

Whether road-tripping or flying we bring a cooler for easy lunches and meals on the go. This helps save time and expense. This flat-pack cooler is great for day trips and can easily go to the bottom of a suitcase. Road-tripping provides a lot more flexibility for bringing a bigger cooler. Getting groceries delivered to your destination saves time, and don’t forget the reusable bags for packing snacks and lunches for on-the-go. This helps to not only eat healthier but saves a lot of money and time when traveling with kids.

Traveling with kids under two=savings

Traveling with kids under two can pose some challenges, but in many ways, it’s the perfect time to save the travel budget and get them used to traveling early. Kids under two fly free on a lap and often are free for a lot of attractions. They also don’t take up a lot of additional space requiring additional hotel rooms unless you have multiple older kids.

That’s a wrap. So whether you’re planning a beach, outdoor, theme park, or an international family vacation we hope these tips help you save money when traveling with kids. Planning a family vacation on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t create unique and amazing travel experiences. Let us know if you try any of these ideas or if you have other tips that have helped you save on traveling with kids.

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19 Comments

  1. Great list of tips! And I agree TURO has been very helpful this past year- love you can guarantee which car you are getting.
    Added some new tips too!

  2. We’ve gotten more and more into renting a place so that we can save money and cook our own food! These are all great tips and they all add up to a lot of savings!

  3. I 100% agree with traveling according to flight prices! Transportation is usually the most expensive part of a trip budget so cutting that cost makes a huge difference.

  4. Love all of these tips and use many of them myself on a regular basis! I’ve never considered doing a home exchange, but that’s definitely something I would consider in the future. Xx Sara

  5. I think it’s a great idea to travel in the off-season, it’s incredible how much more you’ll save to still see the same amazing spots! Thanks for sharing your tips 🙂

  6. Yes, I agree with all of these. I love traveling, but what I love even more is budget family travel. I have never heard of the Explore Destination option of Google, next time, I’ll try it, thanks for the tip.

  7. Our little one is only 8 months old so we have been taking full advantage of road trips and local travel. Im dying to go on an international trip though so I am glad you included the tip about flying with kids 2 and under! Time to start booking some flights!

  8. Great tips, I will try a lot of these out on my next trip! I love going to grocery stores and preparing a few meals and snacks while I’m in a new place.

  9. Never let airline prices chose my destination, but have used prices to decide between cruises. I need to start looking at more destinations in the future.

  10. We have had to adjust travel a bit since having kids, and we do almost all of these tips! They make it so much smoother and, affordable! I love finding ways to make it affordable because that means more travel oportunities!

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