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Published June 22, 2023
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Travelling with Kids? Clever Ways to Save Money, Score Freebies

Travelling as a family doesn’t have to break the bank. Have fun for less by seeking out free food and events, and opting for vacation rentals over hotels.

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Family trips require more planning, and those plans often cost more. While travelling with your kids may be different than how you would travel solo or as a couple, it doesn’t have to break the bank.

With the right strategies, travelling as a family can be a fun experience that isn’t too hard on your wallet.

1. Opt for vacation rentals

Hotel costs can add up quickly, especially when booking more than one room to accommodate your family. Instead, consider vacation rentals or apartment hotels, which can be more cost-effective and offer more space for your money. 

Short-term house or apartment rentals often come with facilities that can help you save money when travelling with kids, like:

  • A full kitchen so you can buy groceries and enjoy cheaper meals together. 
  • A washer and dryer so you can avoid costly laundry services and pack a little lighter, potentially reducing checked baggage fees. 
  • A yard, pool or hot tub where kids can play at no extra charge. 

2. Cook your meals and carry snacks

Food is one of the most expensive aspects of family travel, and we all know that kids love their snacks. But instead of popping into a restaurant every time someone’s hungry, visit the local grocery stores and pick up snacks like granola bars, nuts and fruit. Keeping a few essentials in your backpack or car can help you be ready when hunger pangs strike during a busy travel day.

Another strategy is to commit to eating foraging your own breakfast. This could mean keeping convenient breakfast foods on hand, buying groceries so you can cook breakfast, or taking advantage of the free continental breakfast offered by your hotel. Eliminating just one restaurant meal a day can add up to big savings.

3. Seek out special events

Many museums in Canada offer free entry on certain days. For example, in Ottawa, admission to permanent exhibitions at the Canadian Museum of Nature is free from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Thursday. It’s also free anytime for First Nations, Inuit and Métis visitors. 

Local events like festivals and fairs are often free to visit, and can provide hours of entertainment. For example, Calgary’s Inglewood Night Market is free and happens monthly through the summer. The Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival takes place just north of Vancouver in August and features a parade and competitions in logging-related activities like axe throwing and chainsaw carving — and many events are free to watch.

As for meals, some restaurants in Canada serve kids for free when parents order a meal. For example, up to two kids eat free at Denny’s when you buy one adult entree, on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. These deals vary based on location and some are only offered on certain days of the week, but it’s worth researching restaurants near your destination to see if you can include any free meals in your travel plans. 

4. Use points and loyalty programs

If you collect credit card points or rewards, you might mostly think about using them for hotels and flights. While you can certainly use your points to cover travel costs, you can also take advantage of certain rewards programs to score cheaper entertainment during your trip as well. 

For example, Scene+ points can help you build an affordable family movie night into your travel itinerary. Points can be used towards discounted movie tickets and theatre snacks. A movie could be a great way to enjoy air conditioning on a hot summer afternoon or stay dry if a storm interrupts your outdoor plans. 

5. Enjoy the outdoors

Walks through the forest, hiking local trails, and days at the beach are all good options to incorporate into your travel itinerary, and they’re often free (though you may need to pay for parking). As you plan your trip, look up kid-friendly outdoor activities near your destination to see what’s available.

If you’re taking a road trip and have the room, consider bringing your bikes so you can cruise the trails in your area — exercise and free transportation!


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