Family vacation travel can really eat into your savings. An adult – or even a few adults traveling together – can take advantage of cheap eats and nearly-free digs like hostels and campsites, and if they go a few extra hours between meals, it’s no big deal. When you’re traveling with kids, though, you have to make sure that everyone gets fed regularly and that your lodgings, at the very least, provide a bit of privacy and climate control. That doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of other savings, many of them aimed squarely at families with kids. Check out these top 10 family vacation travel tips from experts who hit the road with their families on a regular basis.
Score with Free Food
Kids eat free in many restaurants – and that extends to a lot of resort destinations and hotel restaurants. Florida and California destinations are most likely to offer free food in their hotel rates, but you can nearly always find hotel rooms that include a continental breakfast in their overnight rates – and more than a few include free breakfast buffet at least a few days a week. Check out the offerings at Holiday Inn, Days Inn, Hampton Inn and Suites and Courtyard by Marriot chains.
Ask at the Desk
You can also find restaurants that offer cheap eats for kids or kids-eat-free nights by asking at the check-in desk when you arrive at your hotel. Desk clerks are a great source of information about the city you’re visiting – and not just for tourist-y things. A lot of them are parents and all of them live locally. Just ask them where they take their own kids when they have a chance to get out. Most will be happy to point you in the right direction – and you’ll find local places that most tourist packets won’t mention.
Booking your hotel reservations two to three weeks in advance can still score you significant savings over booking within a week of your intended stay. This is actually easier to do with kids, since you’ve probably already had to plan ahead to make sure that school timing is right.
Kids’ school vacation weeks are often among the busiest weeks for a lot of tourist areas, but you can save by going where the crowds don’t. Book a winter week at a northern seaside resort, for example, and you could save as much as 40% on the summer rates. Your kids will love staying in a hotel and taking advantage of the game room, fitness center, hotel pool and other amenities – and most of the tourist traps that suck money out of your wallet will be closed for the season.
Stay in a Vacation Rental
Vacation rentals cost about the same as you’d pay for a hotel room, but offer perks you won’t find at the Red Roof Inn. They’re especially great for family vacations, offering individual bedrooms instead of a cot in the parents’ hotel room, a full kitchen and little extras like game shelves, barbecue grills on the patio and fireplaces in the living room. You’ll save hundreds of dollars on restaurant meals and entertainment, and have a far more comfortable pied a terre in your vacation destination.
Fly Early for Big Savings
Flights before 6 a.m. can save you hundreds of dollars over the exact same seat on a plane four hours later. It will take surprisingly little effort to get your kids up and out the door for an early-morning flight. As far as they’re concerned, it’s just one more part of the adventure.
Choose an All-inclusive Vacation
Whether on sea or on land, all-inclusive vacations can be the least expensive and most fun type of holiday for families. All-inclusive cruises fit your travel, lodgings and meals into one overall price, which may seem expensive on the face of it. When you total up the cost of lodgings, meals and all the little activities to which you have access on board a cruise ship or at a resort, though, you’ll find that you save a lot by paying for everything at once.