Our family of four has made travelling a priority in our life. Recently, we’ve been very fortunate to travel from just outside of Toronto, Ontario, Canada to amazing places like Italy, the Caribbean, New York, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Chicago, Park City, Utah, Banff National Park and Yellowstone National Park. We’ve also trekked back to my home-province of Manitoba many times.
In these journeys, we have discovered 15 tricks to significantly save money while we are away from home. These savings have increased our to ability to travel more!
1. Use rental-by-owner websites to book your accommodations.
We have had great success using sites like VRBO and Air BnB to book our accommodations. It is easy to look through reviews on the property, find a map of the site, and contact the owners for more information. Recently we used VRBO to find a beautiful villa on Tortola Island in the British Virgin Islands that could house my family, my sister’s family of four and our dad, too. Oh, that’s another savings: book your accommodation as a large group if possible.
I used Air BnB this summer to book our accommodations in Rome, Italy and was very pleased with our experience there.
2. Stay in areas that are a bit further away from tourist sites.
Accommodation prices are typically higher the closer you get to major tourist attractions. On our recent trip to Rome, we saved about half of the average night’s cost by being a ten-minute drive from the Vatican/ Spanish Steps and Colosseum. Find a place to stay close to local bus and/ or subway routes so you can travel in and out of the busy areas with ease.
3. Travel in the off-season (September is best).
As a former teacher, I will say that it is okay to take children from grade six and under out of school for a family-travel adventure. I know that some school districts actually fine their parents for taking kids out of school so please do check what your area’s policy is regarding this. I believe the learning that happens while traveling is incredibly valuable, and for younger children, it is okay if they miss a week or two to experience travelling. I would advise finding out ahead of time what your child will be missing in school and take the responsibility for making sure your child completes necessary work.
Our family went to Florida in the second week of September, which was absolutely amazing! We had NO lineups at any of the attractions we went to, including a visit to NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre. Our family of four flew to a four-star resort in Orlando for a five-day stay for a TOTAL cost of $1,016 CD (that price was for airfare from Detroit to Orlando and accommodation).
4. Use a cell phone roaming package.
Make sure you sign up for a roaming package from your cell phone provider before leaving home to avoid coming home to a huge bill! I like the Roam Like Home program from Rogers because you sign up for it once and it is automatically activated when you cross the border. The fees for this particular program are $5 a day in the US and $10 a day in Europe. The cost per day goes down if your trip is longer than ten days—you’re charged a maximum of $50 per billing cycle for travel to the US and $100 per billing cycle for travel to Europe.
5. Make lunch and breakfast food at the grocery store or market: save eating out for dinnertime.
Visit the local grocery store for your breakfast, lunch and snack staples like cereal, milk, fruit, and yogourt. Certainly get pastries if that is fresh in your area! You can save so much money by only going to a restaurant or café once a day than three times a day. I carried a paring knife, a couple of Ziploc bags, pieces of paper towel and a hard plastic container to carry our food for the day.
6. Get the local currency from your home banking branch before you go.
Picking up the local currency from your bank branch has a few benefits. First, you will get a better exchange rate there, and secondly, it will limit you to a pre-decided budget amount. You’ll have a better chance of staying in your travel budget if you plan ahead what that is going to be. Taking the actual cash with you will ensure you stick to the plan! There are excellent money belts and cool shirts with secret zip-pockets to keep that money safe when you’re on the move.
7. Communicate online.
Programs like Skype, FaceTime (if you have a roaming package), social media direct messaging and email reduce the need to use phones.
8. Visit local flea markets.
Local markets are a great place to find bargains! Look for things like travel souvenirs and clothing from local artisans and retailers.
9. Read travel blogs, crowd-source for suggestions and hit the library.
Travel blogs like Globetrotting Mama and Journeywoman are great places to get current information on the area you’d like to visit. I also find asking a question in Facebook is a great source of information! On of my FB friends alerted me to the existence of Air BnB.
10. Use public transit.
Some cities like Chicago do have reasonably priced taxis but I find the cheapest way to get around is to use local transit. My children love the excitement of taking a bus, train or subway trip!
11. Bring a container of liquid laundry soap.
I have found two major benefits to bringing a small container of liquid laundry soap: 1. You can pack much more lightly knowing you’ll hand wash your undies and socks at the end of the day, and 2. You can skip laundromats by spot-cleaning your travel clothes rather than needing to clean the whole garment.
12. Check to see if your credit card already comes with health insurance coverage.
Don’t make the mistake I made! I kept paying for separate travel health insurance only to discover we were actually covered by our Royal Bank Avion VISA card. Oops!
Oh, also check to see if your local car insurance or credit card covers your car rental insurance—they often do!
13. Try budget airlines.
Travel search engines like Expedia, Kayak, and Travelocity will usually list major and budget airlines. To make sure, do a search of the airlines that travel to the destination you need. We discovered that the cheapest fare to Europe at the time we booked was with Air Transat (and they didn’t charge us for our checked baggage). Another example is the discount airline called RyanAir for travel inside Europe.
14. Travel on the cheapest days of the week.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are the cheapest days of the week to travel. Also, it has been determined by FareCompare that the cheapest time to book air travel is on a Tuesday afternoon—3pm EST to be exact!
15. Use carry-ons for the kids, too.
If the airline you are travelling with charges for checked baggage, just take one of those and use a carry-on sized roller-case for each of the people travelling. We typically put all our kid’s clothes into one of the carry-ons, mine in another, my husband’s in the third and reserve the checked bag for the things that are replaceable (shoes, toiletries, books, large clothing items) in the event the bag is lost.