From Airfares to Activities – How to save money before and during family trips

Tips and Tricks to Family Travel

My grandmother was known for her frugalness and passed that down to her daughters and granddaughters. My family prides itself on finding great deals whether it’s a designer purse or pair of socks, but what really gives me goosebumps is a $450 ticket to Tokyo or enough points on my credit card to pay for a hotel in San Francisco for four nights. Travel, especially travel with kids, can get expensive. Here are some of our tried and true ways to get the most bang for your buck before and during journeys with your family.

Our flights to Tokyo were almost 1/3 of their typical price

  1. We often fly out of a different airport than our “home” airport when traveling abroad. We live in Indianapolis, but for flights to Asia and Europe, I’ve discovered that it’s almost 1/2 price (per ticket) to fly from O’Hare in Chicago. It’s about a 3-hour drive, but we saved almost $2,000 by driving there versus flying from Indy on our trip to Europe this past summer. If you live in a smaller market, try checking flights from major airports like ORD, JFK, Newark, Boston, SFO, LAX, etc. before booking. You can also find some savings booking two different tickets. So, one ticket from Indy to Chicago and then separate ticket from Chicago to Europe or Asia.
    How to save money on a family trip

    Flight to Reykjavik – flying Icelandair from Chicago saved us a lot of $

  2. I’m hawkish looking for cheap flights and you can be, too. Subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights, Dollar Flight Club and Next Vacay, and use the Skyscanner and Hopper apps to get notifications on specific routes.
  3. To save on checked luggage costs, we try to just use carry-on bags or backpacks. And, we stay at Airbnbs or hotels with laundry facilities, so that we can do laundry halfway through our trip. There’s an added bonus: we’ve been able to cut our packing in half thanks to this tip. Also note that with cheaper airfares you typically also have to pay for checked luggage, seat selection, etc.

    Backpacks only for our trip to Europe this summer

  4. Purchase multi-day attraction city cards like the Copenhagen Card, New York Pass or Paris Pass to save on admission to museums, attractions and even ground transportation.  Cities around the world offer them and you can save at least 25% by using them.  Also check to see what age kids travel for free on public transportation.
  5. Purchase a membership to a museum who is a member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers. Your membership will grant you access to museums around the world through their Travel Passport Program. We have a membership to the Indiana State Museum (in our hometown of Indianapolis), but have used the member card to get in free at The Leonardo and the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City, the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL and the Field Museum and Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, among others. It has paid for itself three times over.
    Indiana State Museum membership can be used in other ATSC museums around the world

    How to save money on family trips: Indiana State Museum membership can be used in other ATSC museums around the world

  6. Our family of four often eats at least one meal in our hotel room. I go to a local grocery story and pick up ready-made food, or hummus with veggies and naan.  It’s not only a money saver, but at the end of a long day, it’s often more fun to sit on the floor of our hotel room, shoes off and noshing on things I’ve picked up.  Tip: try to find a hotel room with mini fridge.
  7.  For airport parking, find a spot a hotel instead of long-term lots the airport. It’s typically a few dollars a day cheaper than the airport, and they have shuttle service. SpotHero is our favorite Web site/app for finding inexpensive parking around airports.

These tips keep our family travel affordable and allow us to take more trips. Now, I’m off to check email to see if airfares to Dubrovnik and Marrakech are on sale.