Let’s face it, the annual family trip is NOT cheap. No matter if it’s the annual summer vacation, a quick weekend away, or a big family trip of a lifetime to Hawaii, Mexico, or the Caribbean, there’s no getting around the fact that vacations are simply not free. Flights, hotels, food, activities, snacks, and souvenirs all add up fast. Not to mention a bottle of wine … or two or three, for mom and dad. Whether you’re looking to stretch out a longer vacation by reducing your daily spending. Or just hoping to book a low-cost mini-break away for the family. It is possible to do a family trip on a budget. Regardless of where you’re headed, you can still get there for less. And we’re here to help, with Latitude21Resorts’ top tips to taking that family trip on a budget!
Planning your trip the Latitude21Resorts way
- Check your passport
Before you’ve booked anything, make sure your passport is still up to date! Remember that if you are traveling nationally, for example to Hawaii, you don’t need a passport. However, if you are travelling internationally, to Mexico or the Caribbean, for example, you will need a passport. If your passport has expired and you leave it until the last minute, you will have to pay the far higher rate of a fast-track renewal in time for your trip. Renewing a passport generally takes several months, so plan ahead and save the faster processing fee for your margarita budget!
- Go incognito
When you repeatedly search for a certain flight, the prices will increase due to your browser cookies. Search for and book your flights in incognito or private browsing to always see the lowest prices. To go incognito in your browser, simply right click on your preferred browser icon. Then select “new incognito window” (alternatively named new private window, depending on your web browser of choice).
- Find the cheapest times to fly
Identify the cheapest times for you to book your vacation, and take advantage of them. For example, if you’re not going away with kids, pick dates outside of school vacations. If you are taking the kids, look at dates right at the end of the summer vacation period. These dates are often a little lower in price. Alternatively, consider a trip while school is in session. We have found most teachers to be understanding and will generally accommodate a family trip.
- Opt for all-inclusive or stay in a timeshare
Let’s face it, kids are hungry all the time. Save tons of cash by staying in an all-inclusive resort or a timeshare… Most all-inclusive hotels in the Cancun or Caribbean areas offer unlimited food, drink, and entertainment. This way you won’t get surprised by a big bill at checkout time. If you can, consider staying in a timeshare property. Timeshare resorts are great for traveling with a family because most properties feature a small kitchen in the unit. You can save thousands just by preparing meals in your room. For the cost of a one egg breakfast in the hotel restaurant, you could buy a dozen eggs and feed your family all week long. Not to mention the convenience of having snacks around to feed your hungry minions whenever the need arises.
- Subscribe for the best deals
Signing up to email updates from a few of your favorite flight or travel companies never hurts. Sometimes this can give you access to subscriber-only early bird discounts. Often before they become available to the general public. Most travel companies will offer their best deals through email blasts to their most loyal customers. Even if it is a little inconvenient to wade through all those emails, it oftentimes yields the biggest savings.
- Compare accommodation prices
Use comparison sites such as Kayak. Doing so allows you to measure the costs of different hotels at the same time. And don’t forget to sign up for price alerts and deals on particular hotels that you’re interested in!
- Consider staying in a timeshare rental
Have we already mentioned staying in a timeshare unit? Timeshare units are GREAT for family vacations. The typical timeshare unit has two bedrooms (hello? Can you say privacy please?!?!), two bathrooms and a kitchen and living room. Timeshare units do have restrictions on the number of people you can have in the unit. But it is always FAR more than what hotels allow. This means that you don’t face the typical per person charge that you do when booking a hotel room. I bet you didn’t even know that hotels increase the rates based on the number of people staying… even if it is the exact same room! In a timeshare unit, you get more space, more privacy, a kitchen, and a living room… AND they typically cost less than a hotel! So here’s our shameless plug: head over to Latitude21Resorts homepage https://latitude21resorts.com/en to check out our great deals on luxurious vacation and timeshare rentals. Ours are located exactly where you want to be: on the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean (thank you, shameless plug over).
- Skip the travel insurance
Here’s the deal: even if something comes up and you actually need to use the travel insurance, it is a super painful process to make the travel insurance company pay up… and in our experience they usually don’t. So we recommend picking a time that works for everyone in your family and just do it! Rain or shine, sleet or snow, the family trip most go on. So just make it happen, no matter what, and save on the travel insurance.
- Reuse last year’s vacation wardrobe
Going on a shopping spree can feel like a really exciting way to get ready for your vacation. But is it really vital to splash out on a new outfit for each night of the vacation? Come-on we all know that you don’t need a different pair of flip-flops for each vacation outfit. Go through the clothes you already own that would be appropriate for where you’re headed, and figure out if you actually need anything new.
Be strict with yourself. Only buy something new if it’s absolutely crucial. And if you really want to, treat yourself to just one or two new pieces if you can afford them. Remember, chances are that no one knows you in your vacation destination anyway. They’ve never seen your clothes! So who cares? Just enjoy yourself and use what you already have. The point is to build great vacation memories, not to dress like a Kardashian for 7 days.
- Set a spending budget
Sit down before your trip to decide on an overall budget for the trip… A good way to do this is to work out a daily spending budget. Then you can add on extra for bigger splurges, and then a little more as a safety net. Also remember, when converting money there are always bank charges to pay. Keep in mind that you don’t want to purchase too much foreign currency. Since every extra dollar converted will cost you a little!
- Design your itinerary
You don’t have to suss out a strict day-by-day schedule. But it may be wise to consider what activities or excursions you want to partake in. Or what sights you want to see ahead of time. Explore free alternatives or versions of these online. Most vacation destinations feature lots of free or low-cost activities. Here are some suggestions that we found on our friends at TripAdvisor.
For vacationing in Cancun, here is a list of free/lost cost activities to choose from:
Here’s a list of free/low-cost activities to choose from in Honolulu, Hawaii: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g60982-Activities-zft11309-Honolulu_Oahu_Hawaii.html
Here’s a list of free/low-cost activities to choose from in Freeport, Bahamas: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g147420-Activities-zft11309-Freeport_Grand_Bahama_Island_Bahamas.html
- Notify Your Cell Phone Carrier:
I can’t tell you how many times our family has gotten home and been stung by crazy roaming charges on our cell phone bills. Speak to your cell phone carrier ahead of time and see if they have any plans for the location that you are traveling to. If not, turn that roaming off when you land!
While on your vacation
13. Live like a local
Ask a local for advice on the best things to do in the area, or where to shop and eat. It’s likely they can provide you with something you won’t find straight away online or in a guidebook, which also means it’s likely to be cheaper or even free! If you’re feeling shy about approaching a local, ask your hotel desk – they may be able to tell you about some local hidden gems too.
14. Get off the beaten track
If you’re looking for something to eat for lunch or dinner, avoid the areas directly surrounding main attractions and landmarks – the prices can be hugely inflated here. Instead, try walking just a few minutes away for more authentic cuisine and lower restaurant prices. Experience some local delicacies at a street vendor or market to indulge your palette without breaking the bank. Again, ask the locals where they suggest, they will be able to direct you to the cheaper local options that they themselves consider good eating!
15. Take advantage of “free days”
No matter where you are headed on vacation, free attractions shouldn’t be too hard to find. However, if you’re set on visiting a particular museum that charges an entry fee, browse their website in advance to see if they have ‘free days’ – one day a week where they waive their admission fee. If they don’t offer free days, see if it’s cheaper to book in advance online, or if they offer any kind of family or group discounts. Also, if you booked your vacation through a travel agency, consider contacting them to see if they offer any discounts on your museum of choice. Another alternative is your hotel, some hotels offer concierge/butler services, these services may be able to get you a cheaper rate as well!
16. Make a picnic
If you’re out and about sightseeing, or perhaps spending the day at the beach, it could be ideal to pack your own lunch to take with you. Visit a local supermarket where you can stock up on food for a picnic, allowing flexibility, and costing far less than a restaurant lunch for the whole family!
17. Find out the WiFi password
If your hotel charges daily fees for WiFi and you’d prefer not to go off-grid for your whole vacation, try searching travel forums or review sites for your hotel’s WiFi password. It seems like a long shot, but some helpful people who have stayed there before may have posted the password. It happens more often than you’d think and could save you from racking up a daily WiFi bill.
18. Arrange your own outings
Avoid paying for a guided tour by creating your own. See if your hotel offers free maps or guidebooks, and search the best routes to take between the things you want to see and do. Also consider local transportation, paying for a taxi directly from your hotel will always be more expensive than taking the local buses or even finding a taxi on the street. Naturally, always be aware of your surroundings and stay safe!
19. Dodge the minibar
It might be tempting to pop that bottle of bubbly in your room as soon as you arrive – you are on vacation after all! However, the minibar is often highly overpriced, and that champagne and little spirit bottles all add up! Hit a nearby supermarket instead to pick up your celebratory drinks for the week.
20. Spend your change
It can seem a lot easier to just use a fresh note every time we pay for something in cash abroad, but that mound of coins piling up in your wallet is worth more than it looks! Use your change to pay for smaller costs like public transport or your evening cocktails to stop it from going to waste – after all, when you get back, you can easily change leftover notes back to your local currency, but not many places will accept the coins.
21. Discover a local market
If you’re looking to do some shopping, or perhaps collect some souvenirs from your trip, avoid the tourist-filled areas, regularly full of overpriced and often tacky gift shops. Alternatively, find a more low-key market that sells locally handcrafted goods. The prices will be far lower, and you’ll be grateful to find some truly unique keepsakes from your vacation to take home with you!
BONUS. Bring an HDMI Cable
Yup, that’s what we said. Bring an HDMI Cable. Our family usually just takes the one that we use in our home entertainment system. Here’s the thing: traveling is hard work and if you are like our family, you’re going to want to unwind at the end of the day with a glass of wine and your favorite sitcom. When you’re traveling to foreign places, the TV options can be pretty limited. Some resorts have smart TV’s, but not all of them. We like to bring a small laptop which we connect the hotel’s free wifi, we turn on our own Netflix account, plug the HDMI cord into the resort’s TV, and voila a little slice of home away from home…and it’s free.
Listen, going on the family trip is never going to be free, but it is worth it. Childhood is over before you know it. Taking the time to take the family on a trip will build memories that you will remember for a lifetime. So don’t let your budget hold you back, apply these budget-friendly tips for your family trip and enjoy!