I am constantly, constantly thinking about ways to save money traveling; no matter where we are heading, so the kids and I can go more places and see more of this amazing world we live in!
There’s truly something wonderful about putting your feet down on a piece of land they’ve not touched before. Don’t you think that there’s magic in watching your kids’ eyes light up as they experience the sights and sounds of a brand new place? It makes me feel like I’ve never seen it before; I feel fully present, totally engaged, and so, so grateful to be sharing the moment with them. I want my babies to have these memories… Wouldn’t you want to have these memories forever?
My friends ask me fairly often how I go on so many trips with them- first of all, I make travel a HUGE priority, because it’s something we love to do. As a single mom of 4, I have saving money (read: being thrifty haha) down to a science.
What I always begin with is researching some of the places that we want to go, plenty of time before planning for the trip actually starts. I have found that there are several ways to travel inexpensively- or at least ways to save money when on the actual vacation. I always picture myself hemorrhaging but it’s not blood. It’s dollar bills.
Ways to save money traveling- flights/packages:
Can you go last minute?
Be flexible with dates AND airports!
The very thought of flexibility will KILL my Type A’s out there, but for the rest of us its easy… if you build in a little wiggle room on your vacation dates. Last minute vacationers can save big when airlines and hotels are scrambling to fill those empty seats and rooms. Adjustable dates are always a win! You can save a ton of cash by looking a few days ahead or a few days behind your original dates.
Consider a low cost carrier, rather than Delta (sorry, Delta, it’s nothing personal. Kinda. Except for that time I paid $45 to check a bag and my luggage went to Ohio).
Example one: flying from an airport a little farther up the road will save $573 on flight costs, plus hours in the air- check out those flight times! 8 days on a plane vs a nonstop 1.5 hour trip. Hmmm.
Example two: flying from the other airport and traveling a week later saves $838- again, look at the flight times! 10+ hours BOTH WAYS.
Example three: flying from the other airport, two weeks later saves $805. Flying from my home airport results in a 27 hour flight… what in the holy hell is the point of even going on the trip- you’d spend more time in the airport and on the plane!
How- and what- you pack will impact your savings.
Learn to pack lightly. This is soooo not a suggestion.
Luggage fees are astronomical these days- prices can be as high as $35 for the first bag and $60 for the second! That’s INSANE. I try to pack all 5 of us in one suitcase and sometimes a carryon. Ridiculous, you say? $60+ for luggage is ridic, I say. If it’s an airline that allows 1 free carryon (most do), then we carry our own backpacks. If it’s a low-cost airline- like Spirit or Frontier- they charge for everything separately since the flights are cheap, so that’s when it’s one suitcase time.
Insider tip: roll your clothes. This is both space saving and money saving. Check out this handy YouTube video for a visual explanation.
Plan ahead and figure out what activities you want to do. If you’ll be doing a ton of walking and/or more outdoor things, you aren’t going to need 47 pairs of heels and purses, just don’t bring them. You do need to be realistic about what you’ll be doing. This will help you coordinate your outfits. Can you pair one t-shirt with a pair of jeans and with some shorts also?
Are you willing to go in the off-season?
Most of the time, there are some major deals available when you’re not doing what everyone else does.
Example: I live in Florida, but my 15 year old and I have been going to DC almost every year. It costs right around $600 for flights and a really nice (I’m talking 4 star, here, people, not some dive) hotel for a weekend. Because we go in the WINTER! Ha! It’s freeeeeezing up there in February or March, but guess what? It’s cheap as hell, and we don’t have to worry about bumping into someone every third step- most cities tend to be slower when the weather is at one extreme or the other.
Bundle it! Flight/hotel/car all in one shot saves more money than booking everything separately. I love Orbitz and book through them as often as possible. For the flight savings above, I used my Momondo app.
A few more ways to save money on travel:
Use the holy hell out of Groupon (or LivingSocial) when possible for outings. It’s everywhere you are if you have a smartphone and the apps- I bet you know maybe 3 people total that don’t have them. No reason to pay full price for anything these days, especially if you are a bigger family like we are. You might find a deal on a more entertaining or more unique experience that may have been passed up if it went unseen.
Bigger cities, bigger savings:
CityPass it!! When my son and I hit up NYC in September 2016 (see posts here and here and here), we used CityPass and saw 5 different things we wanted to see at a huge discount. We ran out of time on the trip before we used the 6th item (another museum entry), but it was still one hell of a deal. We saved so much, in fact, that I took him to another Broadway show while we were in the city. I can’t say enough good things about this company- highly, highly recommend them.
CityPass has available deals on certain attractions in:
• New York City
• Chicago (I’ll be using it again this coming September!)
• San Fransisco
Stay in something that meets your needs:
It would be beyond amazing to stay at the Ritz-Carlton every time we went anywhere, but it’s simply not realistic for many families… my own included, haha. Eating out for every. single. meal. means I’m broke before we even leave our home airport.
Find a place with a kitchen! There’s not many places you can go that don’t have a grocery store close by. Try AirBnB and do your laundry while you’re there. You won’t need to pack as much.
If you have some tips on more ways to save money traveling, we’d be thrilled to hear them. Comment below and tell us your favorite travel hacks so we can use them next time we’re out and about!
Safe travels! xo