I received an email the other day asking a seemingly simple question: “How do you afford your travel? Do you pay full price, or are you thrifty with your travel ramblings?”
I’m pretty sure many people wonder that, so I thought I would share how we make travel more affordable for our family of four.
Even Local Travel is Travel
Many of our trips are very local, within a few hours drive. And, to not put too fine a point on it, things are much less expensive in the Midwest. But less expensive doesn’t mean not as interesting. In under 6 hours from my door I can take my family to explore the roots of the Wild West, world class museums and art, hiking in beautiful forests or boating in a mighty river. One of our most memorable vacations took place in Kansas. It had history, exploration and great food- all the things that make travel worthwhile for my clan.
Buy Your Trip in Pieces
I use this most often for overseas travel, but it can also work if you are doing a cross-continent flight. With so many low cost carriers and travel companies, it can often be less expensive to purchase your flights individually, with different airlines, than straight through with a single company. This can take some time to do, and you need to be sure to allow for mishaps, but if you’re main goal is saving money this is one option you shouldn’t overlook. Bonus: you may have hours- or even a day- in a city you wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to explore.
Be Flexible with Your Dates
Take the time to research your travel dates. Sometimes you can save money on a hotel simply by shifting the dates just a bit- especially if you stay in a “business” hotel. Added bonus: hotels that cater to business travelers often have complimentary breakfast and wi-fi.
The same holds true for flights, so make sure you check a couple days on either side of your preferred departure. It may take a few extra minutes, but it’s well worth it if you can save hundreds on a flight for your family.
Don’t Travel in the “High Season”
High season is June thru August- normally called summer vacation. We stay close to home during this time and travel in the off season. Our preferred months of travel are May and September, often called “shoulder season”. Costs are lower (it’s a matter of supply and demand), destinations aren’t so busy and seasonal sights are often still open for business. Yes, this involves taking our girls out of school- much to the chagrin of the principal- but we believe they learn just as much (if not more) from travel. We make sure to communicate with teachers before we leave and take any necessary work with us. (edited to note: we began homeschooling in 2012)
Contact the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau
Often called the CVB or the tourist center, this should be your first point of contact when you decide on your destination. Most have websites, Twitter and Facebook pages filled with information, free things to do and discounts. A little bit of research can go a long way toward keeping money in your pocket while you create memories to last a lifetime.
Do you have a hint for frugal travel? Share it in the comments!
Photo credit: By B4ulaf at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons