Many people fear traveling with kids. So many people feel that traveling with kids is impossible because it is costly and overwhelming. If done correctly, the pros of traveling with kids outweighs the cons. As someone who has traveled to 8 countries with two little ones under 5, it is possible. While traveling as a family can be daunting, preplanning and managing expectations can go a long way to ensure an enjoyable trip. Here are a few tips about how to make traveling with kids affordable and more manageable with little ones.
Manage Your Expectations
Keeping a positive mindset and managing your expectations throughout the trip will create a positive outcome. Just know before you get started that anything that can happen will happen. If you travel by plane, know that when traveling with kids it will take longer to check in at the airport, go through security, and everything else will take longer. If you are driving by car, expect multiple bathroom and meal breaks. Knowing in advance that you will spend extra time getting to your destination will ease your mind. Also, remember that your kids will probably misbehave due to exhaustion and the change in their schedule. Remember to give them, and yourself, grace throughout the entire trip.
Make a List
Make a plan to bring everything you need and create the experience that you want to have. Making a list of everything you need to make your vacation successful will help reduce unnecessary stress. Creating a list for each person in the family will be helpful to ensure that you don’t forget anything. It also allows everyone to help prepare for the trip if they know what they need. Remember to list location-specific items, such as packing swimwear for beach trips and bug spray for camping trips. You can never go wrong with having a first aid kit, no matter where you go.
Packing as a Family
Speaking of packing, remember not to overpack. Packing as light as possible will decrease stress and save you money on checked baggage fees. If you travel with a large family, baggage fees ranging from $25 to $75, depending on the airline, can add up. A couple of tips to lighten your load is to pack mix-and-match outfits, roll your clothes instead of folding them, use shrink bags, find out what will be provided to you by your accommodation, and buy disposable items when you arrive at your destination. Find out what the lodging offers, and then pack what you need. Don’t forget to pack a fun bag. Create a fun bag for each child that contains toys and books that they only play with while you are traveling. Most items can come from the dollar store but include a big surprise toy. The fun bag works on a long car ride and plane to keep the kids busy.
Booking Your Flight
Use sites such as Going.com and Skiplagged.com that send flight price alerts. Other sites such as Kayak, Travelzoo, and Dealbase are helpful for booking low rates. Book your flight and fly mid-week, either Tuesday or Wednesday, which will give you a better deal. Always try to book at least two weeks in advance but the earlier, the better. If flying overseas, consider booking a flight at the children’s bedtime, allowing them (and you) to sleep through the entire flight and wake up refreshed.
Booking Your Stay
There are quite a few ways to avoid expensive lodging. The first would be to exchange houses with another family. Consider yourself Cameron Diaz in the movie The Holiday and prepare for a low-cost adventure. Websites such as homeexchange.com and Facebook groups allow you to connect with other families who want a similar experience. For larger families and longer trips, staying in a home is better than a hotel. Sites like VRBO.com and airbnb.com offer a great selection of choices. Another option is to take a camping trip to a low-cost campsite which gives you a chance to have many low-cost experiences. Visit reserveamerica.com to research the best option for you. Always watch for free activities near your destination to improve your experience.
Timeshare Presentations are a great way to experience a hot destination. Companies like Wyndham, Hilton, Marriott, and other smaller hotel chains offer multiple daily presentations. Timeshare presentations are an opportunity to explore vacation ownership and speak one-on-one with an industry representative. They require a bit of planning, but the benefits are worth it. For a significantly discounted flat rate, you will get a few nights at one of their resorts and a gift for attending a presentation. If you are not interested in buying a timeshare, just be prepared to reply with a strict no to the commission-earning sales representative.
Discounted travel packages purchased through sites like Groupon and Living Social are a great way to save money. These packages can provide considerable savings if you have flexible travel dates. A quick google search can also provide you with many options, including flight, hotel, and rental cars. Packaging a trip can sometimes lead to a better deal than booking individually.
No one likes to arrive at their destination after traveling all day hungry, and there is nothing to eat. If you are staying at a location with a kitchen, cook your meals to save off your meal bill. You can preschedule and order groceries before you leave for your trip to be delivered when you arrive using Amazon Fresh or Instacart. Groupon and Living Social offer deals at local restaurants. Just make sure you check if there are any blackout dates or other stipulations.
Plan a tentative trip itinerary. Many people do not like to have their vacations thoroughly planned, but having an idea of things to see in the area and places to eat will help alleviate stress during the trip. Do a bit of research on what is fun for kids in the area and what is free and low cost. Also, look into local events and festivals to explore the area and meet other families.
Find Extra Funds
You can find money to have fun with during your trip in a few ways. Planning your trip allows you to review unnecessary costs, and cutting back as much as possible is always wise. Canceling monthly subscriptions a year in advance can add up. You also want to cut out extras during your trip. Removing unnecessary extras means that you stay at places where kids visit for free, or they provide complimentary breakfast that can cut down expenses. Using an app like GasBuddy can help you save money by showing you where the cheapest gas is nearby.
Taking a dream trip can be a fantastic experience and a success with some planning and effort. Your kids get to have a new adventure, you have family bonding time, and you get a chance to make memories that last a lifetime. You can relax and get some alone time if you do it right. So start planning that unforgettable summer vacation to create the desired memories!