Taking your family on vacation is awesome, but let’s be honest – it can get expensive! If you have money falling out of the sky into your lap, you can probably skip this post. If not, keep reading for my best money saving tips for family travel.
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Money Saving Tip #1: Choose The Right Hotel
Choosing the right hotel can save you money! Some chains offer free breakfast as part of the room rate. If you have a whole family to feed, this can really help keep your food costs down. I have found that these tend to be pretty full buffets with enough to fill you up. I always take a piece of fruit or granola bar from the buffet with me for a snack later in the day, too.
If you need some more space or a separate bedroom so you can close the door to let the little ones sleep, look for a hotel where every room is a suite. We stayed at the Hyatt House in Scottsdale, AZ and thought it would be a great hotel for family travel. Every room is a suite with kitchen and separate bedroom. There was a pool, fire pit and grills available and, best of all, breakfast is included!
Hotels That Offer Free Breakfast:
- Hyatt Place
- Hampton By Hilton
- Holiday Inn Express (IHG)
- Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott
All Suites Hotels That Offer Free Breakfast:
- Hyatt House
- Homewood Suites By Hilton
- Embassy Suites By Hilton
- Staybridge Suites (IHG)
- SpringHill Suites by Marriott
- Towneplace Suites by Marriott
- Residence Inn by Marriott
Money Saving Tip #2: Get The Right Credit Card
Having the right credit card in your wallet can bring huge travel benefits as long as you use your credit wisely! (You must promise me you will pay off your bill every month with no exceptions).
Even if you don’t want to go full force into the world of miles and points like me, you can still get some amazing benefits from having only 1 or 2 cards. There are a lot of options, but here are a few of my favorites for family travel.
The World of Hyatt Visa
This is my favorite hotel credit card It currently comes with up to a 50,000 point bonus and only a $95 annual fee.
Earning World of Hyatt points is easy with this credit card:
- 4x points at Hyatt properties
- 2x points at restaurants
- 2x points on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline
- 2x points on local and commuter transit like taxis, tolls, and ride share services like Uber
- 2x points at gyms and fitness establishments (so you can stay healthy while traveling)
- 1x points on all other purchases
Plus you will receive 1 free night every year in a category 1-4 hotel after your cardmember anniversary.
IHG Rewards Club Premier
This is a great card to keep in your wallet because you get a free night at select IHG properties each year after your account anniversary. Currently is an 80,000 point sign up bonus after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. Plus you can earn an additional 40,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months.
You can earn 10x points at IHG properties, 2x points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
This card comes with a 50,000 point bonus and the $95 annual fee is waived the first year. You will earn 2x points on all dining and travel purchases and 1x points on all other purchases.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Points transfer to partners like Marriott Bonvoy, IHG, World of Hyatt, Southwest Rapid Rewards and United, or can be used to book through the Chase Travel portal at 1.25 cents each.
The Amex Everyday credit card is a great card for budget conscious families because it has no annual fee!
Sign up now to earn 15,000 membership rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
This card earns:
- 2x points at US Grocery Stores (up to $6,000 per year)
- 1x points on all other purchases.
American Express Membership Rewards Points transfer to partners like Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy, Jet Blue and Delta.
Hilton Honors American Express
This is a no fee card that currently comes with a 80,000 point bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. You will earn 7x points at Hilton properties, 5x points at US restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations and 2x points on all other purchases.
Money Saving Tip #3: Choose Your Airline Wisely
If you are flying to your destination, be sure to pay attention to any additional fees the airline might tack on in addition to your ticket price. My favorite airline for money saving travel is Southwest.
Their prices are usually equal to or lower than other airlines and you can still bring 2 checked bags for FREE. That’s a huge money saver if you are bringing the whole family on vacation (because you’ll need more than a carry-on bag when traveling with kids)! You can also make changes to your flights without a fee. If you are traveling with children under 6, you are able to board with Family Boarding to ensure you will get seats together, without paying for priority boarding.
Many budget airlines like Spirit charge for bags, seat assignments and ticket changes as well as not having a great customer service reputation. Most domestic airlines like Delta, United and American charge for baggage, and many basic economy tickets don’t include seat assignments ahead of time. So, you are left with either higher ticket prices or totally random seats that might not be together.
The good news is that some airline credit cards can get you perks like priority boarding and free checked bags!
Gold Delta Sky Miles Card:
This card currently comes with a 30,000 point bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year. If you have this card you are eligible for 1 checked bag for you and up to 8 companions on the same reservation.
Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard:
This card comes with a 60,000 mile bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year. This card includes 1 free checked bag for up to 4 people on your reservation on domestic flights.
Pro Tip: If you are only taking carry-on luggage, be sure to choose a lightweight, compact suitcase that’s small enough to fit in the overhead bin.
Money Saving Tip #4: Bring Your Own Snacks and Drinks
Whether you are going on a road trip, day trip or flying across the country, packing some of your own snacks can help keep your expenses low. For road trips, I like to pack a cooler with sandwiches (PB&J for everyone to keep things simple) as well as llightweight stainless steel containers with cut up fruits and snacks (grapes, apple slices, pretzels, goldfish, etc.). Bring a couple of extra water bottles filled with ice to keep your food cool and to refill your water bottles.
When I am flying I always bring an empty stainless steel water bottle with me through security that I fill up once I am in the terminal (don’t forget you can’t bring beverages with you through security). Most airports have water bottle filling stations right next to the drinking fountains.
This way you can have water with you on your flight without having to purchase it or wait for the flight attendant. Even if it’s a short flight, I bring snacks because it’s a general rule that kids will want snacks if it’s been more than 3 minutes since they have last eaten! I bring a gallon ziplock bag with different granola bars or fruit bars, plus small containers of Goldfish or raisins (or whatever your kids will eat!)
Money Saving Tip #5: Don’t Buy Souvenirs
You will get more joy out of your money when you spend it on the actual vacation rather than crap you find at a souvenir store. Set the expectation ahead of time with your kids that you won’t be getting any souvenirs. Instead, use that money for a special meal together or a fun activity that you can do as a family.
During your trip, have your children all take photos from their point of view. Then, once your trip is over, make a photo book as your family’s souvenir. Let each family member get involved by making their own section of the photo book. There are lots of services out there but I personally use Shutterfly for my photo books.
Pro Tip: Use this link for a free 8×8 photo book — Free Photo Book at Shutterfly
Money Saving Tip #6: Look For Free Activities At Your Destination
There are lots of great free things to do most places – you just have to find them. Do a quick Google search or head to Pinterest and search for “Free Things To Do in _____.” Pinterest is a great search tool to find activities, restaurants and hotels! Try finding some of these activities on your next trip:
- Public Art Installations
- Go On A Self Guided Walking Tour
- Find a Great Hiking Trail
- Playgrounds or Splash Pads
- Do An Outdoor Scavenger Hunt
- Make Use Of Your Hotel’s Pool
Money Saving Tip #7: Look For Discounts Online
So many times, we have bought tickets for an excursion or tour only to think afterwards that we should have looked for discounts. Often, you can find a Groupon deal, CityPASS ticket (which lets you save up to 50% on combined prices for admission to great attractions) or even just a discount online vs. at the door.
And if you are like us sometimes and wait till the last minute to decide what to do, it’s worth a quick search on your phone before you purchase tickets at the door.
Money Saving Tip #8: Make A Great Packing List
Sure, most everything you would need could be bought once you are at your destination, but it will probably be more expensive. If you make a great list ahead of time, you won’t forget any of the necessities and have to resort to purchasing them at inflated prices in a gift shop.
I usually start a list at least a week ahead of time and leave it out so I can keep adding to it. When it comes time to pack, I refer to my list so I don’t forget anything.
Pro Tip: If you are traveling with young children, throw in some children’s Tylenol just to be on the safe side. You probably won’t need it, but you will be thrilled to have it if you do. My daughter came down with a fever while we were in Mexico. We ended up having to try to translate the Spanish on the bottle at the hotel gift shop!
The Bottom Line
Most people think traveling is expensive and can only be done once a year at best. While it can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. There are lots of ways to cut down on expenses, but still have a memorable family vacation. I hope you can use some of these money saving tips for family travel on your next vacation.
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This Post Has 15 Comments
I love Hyatt properties! Great tips, thanks for sharing 🙂
Some good points here and great tips for those wanting to save some $$. It all adds up doesn’t it. The credit card process in the US is so much better than what we have in Australia. Having a few just costs heaps in fees and you don’t necessarily see the benefits. Always taking your own food is a good thing – you eat better and of course it does save money.
Nice list of tips there. I always carry a refillable bottle and usually only drink water. Buying local food helps support small business too. Never eat in the big junk food chains also they are expensive and very unhealthy.
Some great tips. I’m always checking out the best credit card deals. They seem to come and go, so pay attention. If you can sign up for plenty of free miles, I always do it.
Some great tips here. I agree on choosing wisely on the hotels. Sometimes we spend a little more but get club access or free meals which ends up costing us less in the end. Totally agree on cards and points too. We juggle a few and definitely saves us in the long run. Great read.
Yes – club access with free meals is a great money saver. I love it when I can get club access free from my hotel status too!
Great list overall, I particularly loved “Bring Your Own Snacks and Drinks” & the one about finding free things to do.
With Bringing snacks, I always bring a water bottle especially to the airport so I don’t have to pay some ridiculous amount of money for a water bottle and snacks at the airport, forget it. With one person you spend like $15 USD for a water and a candy bar.
With free things to do, always google “Free Walking Tours” in a city. Often you can take a free walking tour for an hour or two and they guides work on just tips.
The only one I don’t promote is the credit card. Its irresponsible and the majority of people are wreckless and get into bad debt with credit cards. The Points aren’t worth paying off that interest rate on the fast food you bought on your CC for the next 18 month.
I absolutely agree with you that points aren’t worth paying off a credit card bill with interest! Tt’s a terrible idea to use credit cards if you don’t do it wisely. As long as you pay off your bill every single month with no exceptions, it’s a great way to get benefits!
Great tips! I love checking out free things to do and exploring nature spots! My family and I also love flying with Southwest. They have such affordable prices, great point system, and their staff is often very friendly.
These are all really useful tips for the family travellers! We as a couple will even use a few of these. We also swear by finding free activities to do, as they can keep you busy all day without spending a penny!
These are all great tips! The kids are all grown now, so we don’t do much traveling, but when we did a hotel with a suite room and free breakfast was a must!
The more you save on your trip the more often you can travel! Yay!
So many good tips! And I love how you gave great examples of hotels and cards and airlines! We will definitely be putting this to good use in the future!
Such great tips here! We definitely love doing the city pass wherever we go
Lots of great advice here! Love the bring your own drinks and snacks for sure (buy at home with sales and coupons if you can to save more). And my kids know- we don’t do souvenirs. Occasionally we will do a shirt (bought a little big) but really the pictures and memories are the best memento!
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