If you’re like us, you love to travel. Traveling allows us to make memories with our kids — but it’s definitely not easy to fit it into a budget. Over the years, we have developed a method to booking vacations that has allowed us to save thousands of dollars. We use a variety of sites, plus date flexibility to come up with an itinerary that we look forward to, as well as are comfortable with financially! While the majority of our vacations are during warm weather, we do travel year round in some capacity!
The first thing we decide on is if we have a flying budget or a driving budget. Generally, we prefer to drive because we LOVE road trips. We enjoy the time together, as well as the stops at random locations along the way. We take our time, but at the same time try to limit overnight stops as much as possible. A general rule of thumb is we look to drive no more than 10 hours in a day, but much less if only one of us wants to drive. Courtney & I will trade off every few hours to keep us fresh and allow for a potential nap.
For driving trips, I will usually pick a few major cities within a 4-16 hour radius of us and research family friendly things to do. For example, we randomly decided to take a weekend trip last summer. I didn’t want to go too far for this trip, so I wrote down the major cities within 4 hours of us. These included Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The next step is to use Google to find attractions that fit your families lifestyles within those cities. Try to stay away from date specific events because these tend to be events that drive up hotel or accommodation costs, as well as limit your ability to be flexible in your travel dates.
Lift off! Flying Trips:
First, let’s talk about Skyscanner. Skyscanner allows you to search for any destination and sort by price. After you search for a specific date, you can click a link that says View Entire Month. This will give you prices for every day (per ticket) of the month. Look for the prices that are in green and select the lowest price you see that works for you! This likely means you’ll be departing on a mid-week date, but this tip alone could save you a ton!
For Adioso, I suggest picking a month and letting its algorithm show you flights for the entire month. Adioso really lets you be spontaneous and fly to any where based on your budget. With this site, it’s often fun to go and look where you can fly for say $200 a ticket round trip, and THEN research what you can do there! We crave spontaneity and what a better way to break up the monotony than to book a random trip to a random location and find a way to make the best of it!
Where are you going to rest your head at night?
The last part of booking your trip is to find hotel accommodations. A big money saving tip is to stick to hotels that offer a full kitchen. We always plan on eating as much food as possible in our hotel room, and saving a night or two for a meal out at a restaurant.
We actually prefer to look at AirBnB first, for a couple reasons. First, AirBnB allows you to stay in a full house, with a full kitchen. You can often get a place that has a nice patio or deck to keep the vacation feel going when you are home or away from attractions. Privacy is also much better at AirBnB places because you can easily find a house that you do not need to share or be close to neighbors.
The second big benefit of AirBnB is that it works on a review system. I always read reviews prior to booking. The host will also have an opportunity to review your family, as guests, so that future hosts can decide if they want to approve your stay. We are sure to communicate with the host to make sure our expectations of the stay are on the same page as the host. We also make sure we leave the accommodation exactly how it was when we arrived, and follow the hosts instructions carefully.
Make eating at your stay fun!
To make eating at your accommodation fun and interactive, we always have a family discussion and come to an agreement as to what meals we all want. We make these meals unique. If you have pizza 5 nights a week at home regularly, don’t make pizza on vacation! Come up with a game plan either before your trip or while on the drive so that you do not need to spend too much time at the grocery store.
We also strongly encourage you to plan out meals or snacks for your car ride! We like to bring beef jerky, chocolate covered espresso beans, bananas, and stuff to make sandwiches. This makes the drive go much faster and keeps the costs down too!
To see recommendations on what to pack for a warm weather vacation with kids, check out our post about this here!