How to budget travel for a family of four

Planning for a trip with two children involves a lot of planning, research and proper timing. We have tailored 20 helpful ways to make the most of our travel without breaking the bank. Take each one with a grain of salt. We have worked around these steps to be able to continue to travel with our growing family on a tight but manageable budget.

1. Book in advance

The number one rule of thumb- book atleast six months in advance. This gives you plenty of time to prepare and plan out itinerary in advance.

2. Consider subscribing through email updates to get ahead of airline deals and promos.

A big part of our travel revolve around this principle. We work around the airfare, book around the deal and go from there.

Use flight comparisons and talk to an airline agent before making a decision to book online. Sometimes buying tickets directly from the airline company by phone can save you a little more.

3. Fly off peak/season

This is by far the cheapest way for us to travel before the kids started going to school. Take advantage of this time. Book hotels on a sunday and leave on a thursday. Flying a red eye flight has two major benefits. (1) Less traffic when you get to your destination and (2) a sound sleeping child or children in the car or on the plane. There are also a lot less line in the hotel lobby when checking in late or early.

4. Kids fly free before the age of two

Take advantage of this time and ask for a baby basinet. This gives you an extra leg room and a space all for the baby. Here are few helpful tips when flying with a baby.

5. Take advantage of layovers and free tours

This is my favorite bang for the buck deal. It usually has a much cheaper air fare compared to a direct flight. Find an airport with a free tour bus guide around the City. South Korea has a wondeful tour bus geared towards people in transit and on a layover completely free of charge. They will take you to palaces and city tours. We have taken advantage of this during a return flight from the Philippines. We had a total 12 hour lay over is Seoul, South Korean. We booked a free bus tour for a 6 hours tour to the City. Ask the help desk or check the Incheon airport transit tours.

Other free tours we did was in Hanoi, Vietnam with a local girl Mai, studying tourism, who took us to wonderful authentic side of the City otherwise overlooked by more generic tourist guide. Visit free tours by foot to learn more. Make sure to bring few broken up cash and give a generous tip. They are wonderful local people and bring culture and stories from their own personal experiences. Read our Hanoi travel.

6. Bring small snacks on the plane and bring foldable water bottles

Children snacks are essential during transit and flight. It is allowed in the plane. Water bottle are not allowed through the TSA. Consider buying a foldable water bottle and refill at the airport. Many European and American international airports have water refilling station available. Take advantage of it instead of buying a 3 dollar bottle of water inside the terminal.

7. Use point system for hotel deals

We use the Hyatt Hotel 95% of the time for accomodations. We have been a loyal member for several years and are now enjoying their many benifits of being a globalist status which includes an early check ins at 11 am, a late check out at 4 pm and free breakfast for the whole family. The best part of being a globalist is the hotel suite upgrades on most of our request. Read more about our world of Hyatt Globalist experience.

8. Book for Hotels with free breakfast

Book for a hotel with free breakfast for the whole family. This saves you a ton of money. A serving for four breakfast has enough left overs for a mini snacks for the kids to take out. It’s always a good idea for snacking on the road. It saves you time and ofcourse money!

9. Use public transportation

This is the best way to get around the city. Make sure to do a thorough research and download an app or google map. Plan your itinerary in advance.

10. Consider a tour bus

Specifically a hop on hop off tour bus. This will take you to all the must see’s and touristy attractions. This also gives you the freedom to work on your pace and time with the children. While your at it, look for museums with no entrance fee. You will be surprise how many there are around the world.

We also booked our bus tour around Europe on the Goeugo website. It was a package for transportation, accommodation and free breakfast. Follow and read our Europe bus tour.

11. Cruise ship

The caveat for this is to not get into any expensive excursions. Plan your own excursion in advance and research nerby attractions. This will cost you a lot less than buying your tours through the cruise line. The one down side to a cruise ship is coming home from the vacation and expecting a meal served all day. Expect withdrawals for several day.

12. All inclusive hotels

The same with cruise ship, research the place in advance and plan your trip ahead. We rented a car in Cancun with our 10 month old and drove to the chichen itza and valladolid and toured on our own. All inclusive and cruise ship are an incredible way to save money on food, which is the bigger pie on the budget list. Book in advance if you want to take advantage of great deals. Or consider subscribing to get updates.

13. Keep documents up to date

Print your own 2×2 photos for the kids. make sure to have passports ready before the flight. when you book 6 months ahead, it is always a good idea to check each of your family’s passport. Renew ahead of time to prevent from paying unnecessary charges for an expedite service. Print 2×2 photos for your child. Follow our simple steps on printing your own passport photos at home. Open a Walmart or Target photo store online, upload and print same day. We did this on our travel to Vietnam for a temporary visa. Saved us tons of money to get our 2×2 taken at CVS which cost almost x10.

14. Look for street food

Try to find street food. You might just be able to like it. The street is where you find the locals and the wonderful authentic food that does not break the travel budget. It is also a great way to ask for directions and local attractions from the locals as you converse with them. You find wonderful stories and the children can meet new friends and mingle with different culture and language. It is always a win-win for us. Every single time.

15. Stay longer and travel farther

This is a bold statement to make and sound counter intuitive but is defdinately worth considering. Our flight to London was worth half of what we paid for flying to Canada. Our stay at a family suite in Lake tahoe with friends saved us a ton of money and we all had budget for food and rotated cooking for meals.

There are discounted deals for longer lenght of stay in hotels. Car rentals usually have the same deal when renting for a week or more. This usually applies to anything that involes a package deal. You just have to look around to find the deal and book in advance.

16. Buy local grocery and eat in

Book for an air bnb for longer stay or a hotel with a small kitchenet so you can prepapare a meal. It is usually cheaper to stay longer like I mentioned previously. Wake up early, serve breakfast, go out and explore while the sun is just rising and come home for lunch, when the sun is peaked and glaring. Take a nap and wake up two hours before sunset. These are the perfect time to go to a destination and take family photos. I will put a helpful tips and tricks on taking family photos soon. You can decide if you want to serve dinner or eat out.

17. Buy extra large coffee

Yes! I have been doing this for most of my long road trips with the family. When the coffee turns cold, stop at a gas station, fill with ice., and Viola! You have yourself an iced coffee for the next leg of the travel as you enjoy your snacks.

18. Consider camping, RV or family bike rides

If you are not considering flying or is too expensive to book for that flight, consider renting an RV. It gives you the flexibility to drive and see different places at a different time of the day (best photoshoot opportunity) with a bed ready for you all day any day if you need to crash and recharge. Camping and cylcing is a great outdoor and fun activity for the whole family that does not break the wallet. Check out our pacific bike route.

19. Take advantage of anual passes

From theme parks, national parks and day pass to local parks, this is a favorite for our family living in California. And really anywhere you are. We rotate yearly on the passes we buy. We go to a theme park 3-4 hours at a time, (read our Legoland one year pass), and only in the late afternoon till closing. This gives us time to enjoy the rides as people start to head out and it beats the California traffic going home. It also gives us a wonderful time to enjoy fireworks display at night without being exhausted from walking the park the whole day.

Our day pass for parks gives us a private way to enjoy the bike trail in lake Perris with the the golden poppy day pass and many other state parks near by including some some beaches.

20. Rent a car

Our last tip and if you must, to rent a car. Don’t use your own car for long road trips. Rent a car instead. This prevents wear and tear and preserves your milleage. Use your own car insurance to save you from acquiring extra charges with the car rental service.

These are few of our best compiled tips in saving you the most buck while not compromising comfort and the deatination. Remember to plan ahead of time. This is the best way to save you on your budget. I hope this helped you in a way. Please leave us a few comments if you have additional ideas to share.

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