Do you have vacation envy? Everyone seems to be booking holidays to exotic destinations and planning winter escapes to sunny islands, and here you are, stuck trolling through their photos because you’re on a budget and cannot afford to spend full price for a getaway. Does that sound familiar?
There are numerous ways to enjoy a family vacation and stay within budget. Sure, you could just close your eyes and pretend to be on vacation, but that just isn’t the same as REALLY going on holiday, is it? Here are some ideas on how you can travel for less.
- Budget: Figure out your budget and sacrifice things during the year to save up. For my family, we cut out our theatre and clothing budget once we had kids. We now rarely attend any shows and aren’t dressed as nicely as we once were, but it means we still get to travel and experience new cultures and cuisines despite two becoming four.
- Mini Trips: If the budget is tight, think about smaller getaways versus week long vacations. Last year, in lieu of one trip to South Asia, we did 15 trips within North America spread out over the course of the year. Most were just a weekend getaway but there were many destinations that only require a few days to explore.
- Off-Season Travel: No matter the type of vacation you’re craving, there is always the opportunity to travel off-season. This means that flights and lodging are often much cheaper than usual. We recently returned from a weekend in Brussels and spent a quarter of the air fare compared to peak-season travel. While everyone hits up Mexico and Florida in February, we travel to places like Ann Arbor and NYC. Or visit Los Angeles in January. Come May, we visit Florida and Mexico. Sure, we miss out on summer fun in the winter but it’s cheaper!
- Alternate Accommodations: Look for apartment rentals and hotel suites with a kitchenette. Buying a few simple groceries for breakfast and snacks will reduce your dining out costs. Also ask for hotel upgrades at check-in. You’d be surprised by the amenities available on privilege floors (free breakfast or Wi-Fi anyone?).
- Fly on Miles: Ensure you use your travel miles (either through your credit card or loyalty card programs) before they expire. We have an RBC Avion card and each year we manage to book a flight from our everyday expenses. Same goes for Air Miles and Aeroplan programs. Use your miles to offset the cost of flights.
- Go off the Beaten Path: Explore smaller suburbs or towns half an hour away from your destination. These areas are often cheaper for food and lodging and you’re still only a few minutes away from the attractions you want to visit.
- Jump on Deals: With so many deal sites around, it can be a challenge to stay on top of things. If there’s a particular destination you have your heart set on, set up an email alert from Google to let you know of any flight sales. We constantly keep tabs on Google Flights, Kayak and Skyscanner – just be ready to purchase the tickets as soon as you see a too good to be true deal, as they don’t last long.
- Alternate Modes of Transportation: Before you hit buy on that plane ticket, look to see if you can drive, take a bus or ride the train to your destination. You might be surprised by how much can be saved by spending a couple of hours longer than planned. Flights to New York City are around the $300-$500 range per person and given check-in, security and customs, you’re looking at 6 hours easily from Toronto. Add two more hours and you can drive there for a fraction of the cost.
- Memberships: It’s easy to forget that certain memberships like your AAA, CAA and Student Cards will give you additional discounts at hotels, car rentals and even tourist attractions. Look at your wallet before you leave and ensure you carry the right cards with you.
- Free Days: Most museums and attractions have discounted or free admission days. Look into these and slot your visits around those days and times.
Travel isn’t cheap, neither is much in life. However if you love travel and wanderlust is your middle name, don’t let your budget be the reason you sit behind your computer trolling through your friends’ vacation pictures. Budget for your trips and look into the many cost-saving options to get your family exploring new places, cultures and traditions.
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