Advertiser Disclosure

8 Pro Tips for Smart and Cheap Family Travel

Sept. 9, 2018
Reward Optimization, Travel, Vacations & Trip Planning
NerdWallet adheres to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Some of the products we feature are from partners. Here’s how we make money.
We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Traveling as a family can be a great way to explore new cultures and become closer to one another. But how does a family stay on budget and out of debt while traveling?

We’ve rounded up expert advice from 10 family travel bloggers on optimizing family trips for finances and functionality. From traveling with infants to pre-teens, these tips can help families with kids of all ages make smart financial decisions on the fly. Or the drive. Or the hike.

1. Open frequent flyer accounts for your kids

If you fly as a family, open up frequent flyer accounts for your kids as soon as you are able, suggests La Jolla Mom. While many airlines do allow this, Flying With a Baby warns that certain airlines may have restrictions or age minimums. For example, Emirates requires children to be 2 years old to have an account.

2. Always spend in local currency

When you’re about to pay with a credit card in a store or restaurant abroad, you might be asked if you want the charge to go through in U.S. dollars or in the local currency. Travel Babbo suggests to always choose the local currency because choosing U.S. dollars opens you up to the exchange rate, over which you have no control.

3. Splurge only if it’s important

Alyson Long of World Travel Family and her family will splurge on certain experiences. They spent five expensive days in Dubai but said that experience was better than staying “a few extra weeks sitting, doing not-much” elsewhere.

4. Make money to offset travel costs

Let’s be real; traveling with kids is expensive. From additional tickets to more food being eaten, traveling with a family can add up. The blog Suitcases and Sippy Cups reminds us that “saving money” is only one half of the financial equation. The other half is making money. Find an income stream that can be dedicated solely to travel funds.

5. Choose the right travel credit card

Travel Babbo reminds readers that the right travel card can make a major difference on costs. Find a card with no foreign transactions fees or one that earns you rewards. For ideas, check out our best travel credit cards of 2018.

6. Get outside to cut costs

Consider doing something outside with your family to help keep everyone entertained and the costs down. No Man Before gives us serious hiking inspo, and is a great reminder that hiking with babies is doable. Madison of Our Vie Adventures hiked and road-tripped throughout her pregnancy as well. If you’re near the ocean, visiting the beach is also a great option.

7. Travel off-season

If you have little ones, this tip is easier before those children are in school. It’s a Lovely Life says that traveling off-season not only means lower costs, but fewer lines and less waiting.

8. Bring the grandparents

Some families opt to bring the grandparents along as an extra set of eyes and hands. Travels With Baby says that this can be a great way to help with costs, but to be upfront about expectations. Make sure things like date nights (for both couples!) are talked about in advance so everyone has a good time.

Ultimately, traveling with family is about spending time together. These words by Space In Your Case are a great reminder: “Rather than trying to pack in lots of sights and destinations, take time to settle in one place and really explore all it has to offer…. Not feeling pressure to do everything can be incredibly relaxing and leave you more time to just be together.”

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2018, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
5 family vacation planning tips I learned on the fly
15 free activities for kids and families
Our family vacation: 10 states, 12 nights and $3K in an RV

About the author