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Family Travel on a Budget: Tips for Finding Travel Deals

Costs add up quickly when you have a family, but that shouldn’t stop you from planning your dream vacation. We’ve mapped out how you can travel with the whole family on a budget.

We’re excited to share our tips! Keep reading to learn more.

Finding Good Travel Deals on the Internet

The internet is a modern-day travel agency. Plus, it’s essentially free, so take advantage of it! Do your research about where you’re going, so you can adjust your vacation budget as needed.

Google has some useful features when it comes to planning family travel on a budget. You can see flights, hotels, get an estimate on current rates in the market. and more — all from the search engine. When you do your research, make sure to do so in an incognito or private browser. That way, if you don’t book right away prices won’t go up just because you’ve searched a second time.

Lonely Planet is a great resource for discovering travel tips, getting expert advice, and learning about your destination. You can also type all your questions into Google such as “cheapest place to stay in XYZ” and scour travel blogs, budget accommodation sites, and read reviews to see what other people have done. It will take some time, but can save you money!

Rewards Programs & Perks: Are They Worth It?

Reward programs are how a company gives you an incentive for shopping with them. When you use a reward program, it can help you receive special benefits such as earning frequent flyer miles, finding the best flight deals, hotel and car rental discounts, and more.

The sooner you sign up for these benefits, the sooner you can reap the rewards (and save big on your next family vacation).

Airline Rewards Programs

If you find yourself flying on a regular basis, it’s smart to take advantage of frequent flyer programs. These are offered by most airlines and allow you to earn miles (or points) every time you fly. You can use these to book your next trip and even get upgrades. You can even earn points when you use an airline’s co-branded credit card.

Which Airline Has the Best Rewards Program?

With so many airline loyalty programs, we compiled a list of our favorites. Keep reading to decide which would work best for your lifestyle and needs.

  • American Airlines AAdvantage – You’ll earn miles every time you fly with American Airlines or any of their partners. Calculate the number of points you’ll earn on each flight by taking your fare and multiplying it by five (the computer will do this for you at checkout, but just so you understand the math).

These miles, or “points”, can be used towards future flights, upgrades, or to book a hotel or rental car. There is no membership fee to join.

  • Frontier – This is a discount airline that offers two loyalty programs, Discount Den and Frontier Miles.
    • Frontier Miles works by equating every mile you fly to earning one “mile” that can be used towards future flights. They allow family pooling, so you can use your points to help out a family member! It also costs $0 to sign up.
    • Discount Den is a subscription service where you pay to have access to Frontier’s lowest flight fares. It costs $60 a year to join.
  • Delta SkyMiles – Members earn a minimum of five miles for every $1 they spend on a Delta flight. You can also earn SkyMiles with a Delta co-branded airline credit card, such as Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express or Platinum American Express. Plus, they don’t blackout dates so you can use your miles for any available flight.
  • JetBlue True Blue – You’ll earn six points for every $1 you spend with JetBlue or their partners. However, you have to book on to earn this reward rate, otherwise you’ll only earn 3 points on every $1 spent. They do allow you to share points with your friends and family though!

Terms and conditions apply for individual airline rewards program.

Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Travel rewards credit cards earn you rewards for using your credit card while you travel. It’s a great option for those who fly a lot and/or often stay in hotels. Rewards can include points that can be redeemed for airline miles or hotel discounts on future trips. Some of our favorite travel credit cards include:

  • Capital One VentureOne Rewards for Good Credit – With this card, you’ll earn 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. You earn 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and you can use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – You’ll earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account. That’s $750 towards your travel when you redeem with Chase!
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card – You’ll enjoy benefits like free checked bags, no change fees and no blackout dates. Plus, these points don’t expire. Earn points by using your Southwest credit card on local transit and community (including rideshare). Plus, use your card to pay for internet, cable and phone services, and selected streaming platforms to get even more perks.

Terms and conditions apply for individual credit card rewards program.

What is the Best Hotel Rewards Program?

Major hotel chains have their own loyalty reward programs that you can join for free. Each comes with its own set of rules, earning rates, and point values, plus a host of other benefits.

Our advice? Base your decision off where you travel, which hotel is your favorite, and how much you’re comfortable spending each night. No matter which hotel you choose, it can save you money and make your stay all that more enjoyable.

With that said, here are some of the best and most popular hotel rewards programs that you should look into when looking for family travel on a budget:

  • Wyndham Rewards – The Wyndham Rewards program offers points that can be used for stays, airline tickets, activities, and vehicle rentals. They have more than 9,000 participating properties in the United States, Mexico, Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa. Their partnerships with Amtrak and certain air carriers like United Airlines and American Airlines allows you to get points and miles from their partners and use them towards your Wyndham stays.
  • Marriott Bonvoy – Marriott Bonvoy is great for both leisure and business travelers and have affiliate programs with 29 brands, including The Ritz-Carlton Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Courtyard by Marriott, Renaissance Hotels, and more.

Additionally, Marriott offers multiple American Express credit cards (Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant or Marriott Bonvoy Business) and a few Chase Visas (Marriott Bonvoy Bold or Marriott Bonvoy Boundless). With your points, you can book a stay, upgrade rooms, and even redeem points for cruises and rental cars, and select flights with participating airline rewards programs.

  • Choice Privileges – The Choice Privileges program has over 7,000 hotels in their network, and specifically caters to global travelers on a budget. They have properties in the United States, Europe, Australia, Asia, Central and South America, Canada, and the Caribbean. Points can be used at their brand properties like Cambria Hotels, Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites and Econo Lodge, and more.

Points can even be used at more than 20 Penn National Gaming-affiliated casino resorts, participating AMResorts, and select Preferred Hotels & Resorts locations.

  • Radisson Rewards Americas – This program has more than 12,000 hotels and properties included to take advantage of. If you frequently travel to North America, Central America, South America, or the Caribbean, the Radisson Rewards Americas program may be a good fit for you.

You can earn points towards rewards with each stay and by charging items to your room, or you can use their Visa credit card to earn points on everyday expenses.

Terms and conditions apply for individual hotel rewards program.

Tips for Finding the Best Family Travel Deals and Saving Money

Tip 1 – Be Smart About Where You Travel

The first step in planning a family vacation is choosing the right destination. Where you travel will have a huge impact on the costs. It’s especially easy to assume staying in the United States is the cheapest (and simplest) place to go.

However, it’s not always the case that staying on your home turf will be the most economically feasible. A lot of countries in the Americas, Asia, and even parts of Europe are attainable on a family budget. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Exchange Rate – Research the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar in the place you want to visit. It could save you more than you think!
  • Visa Fees – If traveling internationally, pick a country that has a low visa cost or free entry.
  • Look Up “Cheap” Destinations – Cheap isn’t a bad word here. Lots of countries around the world will allow a family to travel for less than €100 a day. Australia and New Zealand are historically expensive, but “cheap” countries include Vietnam, Mexico, Hungry, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Croatia, just to name a few.
  • Form of Travel – Cruising is often an inexpensive way to travel outside the US. Plus, an all-inclusive cruise simplifies your budget. 

Tip 2 – Travel at the Right Time

So, you’ve picked your dream (affordable) family vacation spot. The next step in the planning process is deciding when to go!

You’ll save money if you travel during off-peak times, say when a country doesn’t have the most ideal weather. We’re not suggesting downpours or freezing cold/unbearable hot temperatures, but you will pay more if you visit a country during its most popular weather season.

Another factor is traveling during a season when a country has multiple festivals or holidays. Accommodations can easily double during these times and attractions may sell out. If your schedule is flexible, aim to travel during the off-season.

Tip 3 – Prepare Your Family to Budget

If you’re looking for family travel on a budget, it’s a good idea to make sure everyone is on the same page about the trip budget before you go. Make a budget with everyone to make sure the whole family’s priorities are considered (i.e., the kind of hotel you stay in versus spending money at restaurants every night).

Plus, don’t spend big before you leave for your trip. Save money ahead of time so you can use it while you’re away. You may think you need to buy a bunch of new clothing and equipment for your trip, but traveling light is the way to go. Plus, no one at your destination has seen you wear that shirt a million times. Consider sharing items between family members when you can and consolidate your luggage as well.

Tip 4 – Change How You Travel

Slow yourself down – after all, this is supposed to be a vacation, right? Oftentimes, the faster you travel, the faster you’ll spend. Stay in one location longer instead of trying to see everything in one country.

It’s also more enjoyable to keep the pace slower when you’re with your kids. Plus, see what you can discover off the beaten path. Less popular attractions will cost you less and may be more interesting or rewarding. Talk to locals for advice and stay open to the adventure!

Tip 5 – Set up Your Bank Before You Leave

Call your bank ahead of time to let them know you’ll be traveling so you can avoid any charges or freezes on your account. You should also compare foreign withdrawal fees at different banks. Some can vary significantly, and it might be smart to open a new account specifically for travel.

Pro tip: avoid exchanging money at the airport when you arrive – they tend to have higher fees than a local bank or ATM machine!

Bottom Line: Family Travel on a Budget

Traveling with your family on a budget is possible and rewarding. Utilize the internet for good travel deals, sign up for rewards programs, and use travel rewards credit cards. Don’t forget to choose affordable destinations, travel during off-peak times, prepare your family to budget, and change your travel approach. With careful planning, you can create memorable family vacations without overspending.

If you want to start your family travel budget, check out Credit & Debt where you can find the resources you need to prepare for the vacation of your dreams!

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Abigail Masterson

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