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 save money with the whole family and see the world at the same time. Keep reading to learn more!
Finding good travel deals on the internet
The internet is the modern-day travel agency. Plus, it’s essentially free, so take advantage! Do your research about where you’re going so you can adjust your budget as needed.
Google has some useful features when planning and budgeting travel destinations. You can see flights, hotels, and more all from the search engine and get an estimate on current rates in the market. When you do your searching, 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 will save you tons!
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 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 JetBlue.com 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!
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:
- World of Hyatt Business Credit Card – With this card, you’ll earn bonus points every time you stay at a Hyatt or participating hotel or spend in the following categories: dining, shipping, airline tickets (when purchased directly with an airline), local transit and commuting, car rental agencies, and gas stations. Benefits include discounts on standard room rates at all Hyatt hotels, offering a savings of over $350 per year.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – You’ll immediately earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 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.
What is the best hotel rewards program?
All 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 of 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:
- Wyndham Rewards – The Wyndham Rewards program offers points that can be used for stays, airline tickets, activities, and vehicle rentals. They have over 9,000 participating properties in the US, 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 Visa’s (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 US, 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 over 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.
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 U.S. 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
It’s a good idea to make sure everyone in the family 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!