Shereen Rayle is author of the blog Shereen Travels Cheap and a book of the same name — Shereen Travels Cheap that has just been published. For years she has been planning her own vacations using the Internet to extend her limited budget as far as possible and shares the tips and tricks she has learned on her blog, along with useful sites like FareCompare.com and Madame Deals, to help others get the most out of their travel dollars. And to further inspire budget travelers everywhere, she finds terrific travel bargains and posts them each day on her Facebook page.
Family Travels on a Budget
Traveling is something we do for fun, but it can also be good for your sanity. When you are young and have a lot of expendable income, it’s easy to fit into your life, but as you get older and your family grows, travel expenses multiply. While you make more than you did (hopefully), you also have bills and obligations that might make budgets tight. You have some extra money, but you don’t feel like it’s enough to go anywhere. Maybe you take weekend trips, go camping or just stay home, because you just can’t see how you can stretch your dollars to take a real vacation. Fortunately, there are so many things you can do that can save you money and also make traveling less expensive, especially when you have small children or even a larger family. Here are five things to help you make your money go further.
Rent a house, apartment or condo. Hotels charge extra for more than two guests, but they sure don’t give you more room for your money. If you plan to stay at your destination for a week – or even more – a vacation rental can be highly economical and even less than a hotel room, plus you get more room, furniture to sit on beyond a bed and the comforts of home, like Internet access, cable, a kitchen and, many times, laundry facilities. You don’t have to spend your time cramped together in a small room, you have a place if you need to have nap-time in the middle of the day, you won’t have to worry about maid service, and generally you aren’t surrounded by other tourists, making your stay more quiet and comfortable. Check out websites like FlipKey (from TripAdvisor) and HomeAway for huge, reasonably priced selections.
Make your own meals. This is easy if you have a vacation rental. If you don’t, you can still look to rent a room that has a kitchen or kitchenette and make some (or all) of your own meals. Food can really take up a big chunk of your budget, so even if you only replace one dine-out meal per day with one you make yourself, you can still save a bundle. You can get a whole bag of groceries for less than you might spend at a restaurant for one meal.
Use daily deal sites. You can save a ton of money by using sites like Living Social, Groupon and Sharing Spree. You can save 50-90% off dining, activities, personal services and more. This can be a lifesaver and help you do so much more on the budget you have. Sign up for your desired vacation destination and get emails with the deal of the day. Buy the ones that will work for your trip and then change your destination after you travel to your next holiday location.
Travel in the off-season. Summer is the season that everyone wants to travel. Why? Because the kids have three months off from school, stores and tourist destinations are open longer and the weather is better. The big downsides to traveling in summer are that there are huge crowds and airfare and hotel rooms cost more. Vacationing in the fall and winter can save you up to half (and sometimes more), plus with fewer tourists, even though things are open shorter hours, you can do more in the same amount of time. If going somewhere during the school year is just not feasible, then opt for winter break and still keep some money in your pocket.
Visit developing countries. Not only is this a wonderful way to save huge, it’s also a great way to introduce your family to other cultures that aren’t as well off financially as they are. Try new foods, interact with friendly and interesting locals and live a little differently. Because the economic situations in these types of countries (like Ecuador, Belize or Peru) are not as good as ours, your money goes farther. Even after paying for airfare, you can still get away with spending less on your overall trip.
These are just a few of many ways to save on a family vacation. Make use of all the discounts your kids may be eligible for and look for coupons to restaurants and attractions in the airport and hotel lobbies. Your family will love all the amazing places you’ll take them and you’ll love that you don’t go into debt taking them!