Traveling with kids can not only be overwhelming, it can be pretty expensive too. With a little planning and some ingenuity, you’ll find that kids and travel can mix well and it doesn’t have to ruin your budget. Follow these tips to save money the next time you travel with kids.
Do Kids and Travel Mix?
I vividly remember having the “should we start trying for kids?” conversation with my husband. We were on our way back home from a leisurely weekend trip when the subject was broached. He was ready to start trying for kids, and I was ready… to travel the world. We hadn’t had the time or money to travel when he was in law school and he’d just started making money in his first job as an attorney. I was ready to spend that money on vacations, not babies. I remember thinking that there was no way that kids and travel could go together.
Somehow my husband convinced me that affordable family travel could be done and before I knew it we had 3 kids! While I usually love to be right, I’m so happy to say that I was wrong and my husband was 100% right. Traveling with kids isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it isn’t as hard as you might imagine. It’s also not nearly as expensive as I’d once thought.
Five years of traveling with young children may not make me an expert, but it has made me aware of all the hacks there are to save money traveling with kids.
Hacks to Save Money when Traveling with Kids
Save money on transportation when traveling with kids
The biggest expense when traveling with kids is transportation. Here are a few easy ways to save money on travel transportation with kids.
Fly on Discounted Airlines
Your best bet for getting a cheap airline ticket is to buy through a discounted airline like Alegiant, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, or Spirit Airlines.
The reason this works so well for kids is that they can usually fit everything they need into a personal item sized bag that is free. If not, then you will have to spend more money on checked luggage.
No matter if you fly on a budget airline or a regular one, you’ll save money by packing smartly. We usually find that it’s best to have everyone with a paid seat bring a personal item and a carryon. Yes, that means we are carrying a lot of stuff through the airport, but we usually have a stroller and we make the bigger kids wear their backpacks. Then we try to pack as tightly as possible into any checked luggage.
Things like diapers and wipes can be bought when you arrive at your destination so you don’t waste space in your luggage.
Carseats and strollers are checked free of charge on most airlines, even budget airlines.
Use a Trash Bag to Cover Carseats
I’ve seen carseat travel bags on Amazon. They are super cool, but they really don’t protect the carseat much better than a trash bag! That’s way we always travel with a few large black trash bags.
Use a Bubblebum Carseat
We recently discovered the coolest thing, a Bubblebum. It’s an inflatable carseat that is perfect for kids that only need a booster seat.
This allows us to travel with only two regular carseats when flying. When we rent a car, we are able to inflate this carseat and use it instead of traveling with 3 or renting a carseat from the car rental place.
Protip: only rent carseats from a car rental agency if you have to. The rental fees are usually the same price you would have paid to buy a new carseat!
Don’t buy an infant a plane ticket
Most airlines will allow children under one to fly for free as long as they sit on an adult’s lap.
Buy travel insurance
I know that travel insurance seems like a waste of money to most people, but it’s totally worth it when traveling with a big family or young kids. You never know when a kid will get sick and you need to change your plans. At the very least, make sure to buy insurance for your plane ticket. I’m a big fan of Allianz and have even written a post about them!
Drive instead of flying
Do the math to see what is more expensive, flying or driving. If you have a large family, driving may be less expensive even if you have to get a hotel room along the way.
Save money on accommodations when traveling with young children
The more kids you have, the more expensive it gets when it comes to booking a room. We comfortably stayed in one room until we had three kids, now we enjoy the extra space of a suite or even a rental home. Check out these tips to save money on accommodations when traveling with kids.
Stay where breakfast is free
If you have to stay in a hotel, stay where breakfast is free. Even if it isn’t a great breakfast, you can usually still get coffee, cereal, and fruit.
Consider an all inclusive vacation
All inclusive vacations may seem like they have a hefty price tag, but they can be cheaper than doing everything yourself. Of course, booking an all inclusive vacation also saves you a ton of time!
All inclusive resorts and cruises usually include food, some beverages, and childcare. The childcare alone is enough to make me want to go! I’m all about spending time as a family, but sometimes I just want one dinner alone with my husband, you know what I mean?
We haven’t done it yet, but we plan to take a cruise with the kids once they are all old enough to enjoy the free childcare and entertainment rooms.
Skip the hotel and rent a house instead
Hotels and all inclusive vacations are great, but you can beat having the space with your own home rental. Renting a home or apartment allows you to save money by cooking your own food too! We’ve found that it’s always worth it to check VRBO and Air BnB when traveling to see if they rates are cheaper than a hotel. If so, we book that instead!
We recently booked a VRBO in Owensboro, KY for a family reunion. We saved a good bit of money compared to what we would have spent on a hotel and we had this priceless view!
Save money on food when traveling with kids
Food! It’s my favorite part of traveling. As a foodie, I tend to splurge on food when I travel, but I hate wasting money on food for the kids they don’t seem to care about food as much as I do. These tips will help you save money on food when you travel with kids.
Have kids split an adult meal instead of buying kids meals
Kids meals can be pretty inexpensive, but when you are buying several of them, they add up fast! We like to either have the kids split one or have them split an adult meal. This usually saves us a few bucks.
Take advantage of hotel freebies or book a suite with a kitchen
Free breakfast is key here! We also love hotels that have free happy hour.
Suites can be a little more expensive, but it’s usually worth it for a long stay so you can save money by cooking “at home” or at least prep sandwiches (like these super easy uncrustables).
Have food shipped to you via Amazon
Amazon pantry will ship food to you, even in a hotel room.
Don’t have Amazon? Click this link to get a free 30 day trial!
Related post: How to Make the Most of Your Amazon Prime Benefits
Bonus tips for traveling with kids
Consider a staycation
Who says you have to travel far in order to travel? A staycation is one of the cheapest ways to enjoy a vacation. You probably have all sorts of interesting things to explore within an hour or two of your home. Explore those areas before going on a bigger vacation with kids.
Head to an area known for family friendly activities
Some vacation destinations are much more family friendly than others. Typically family friendly destinations are affordable because they want to attract the typical American family. This isn’t always the case though! For example, Seaside and Panama City Beach are only about 40 minutes from each other. Both are family friendly destinations, but Panama City Beach is easily half the price of Seaside. In instances like this, book the cheaper vacation and then take a drive to the upscale version and spend the day there.
Related post: Best Affordable Florida Beaches for Spring Break
Take it slow
When traveling with kids, it’s always a good idea to take things slow. You don’t have to go, go, go. Pick one or two activities a day and give them plenty of downtime. Not only will this keep your kids from getting overtired, it can protect your wallet too!
Traveling with kids doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg!
Not only can family travel be fun, it can be affordable too. Don’t get me wrong, I still dream of the days where Tom and I can explore the world together on our own, but I’m quite happy showing my kids the world right now.
It’s an amazing experience to introduce travel to kids because everything is new and exciting to them. You may have seen the inside of an airport hundreds of times, but to a kid, it’s an exciting place! See the world through their eyes when you travel and you’ll realize that it’s all pretty fun.
What travel tips did I miss? Let me know and I’ll add them!