Erica Ehm Exposed!


5 Easy Ways to Save Money Before Your Next Family Vacation

Plan and Play Your Cards Well

by: Erica Ehm

I'm always shocked at how expensive it is to travel with my family. I've learned a few easy tips and tricks to save money when booking our family trips by being smart and playing my cards right (pun intended). I discovered that my focus on being cost-effective forced me to be more organized, which in turn saves me money.

Keep in mind that I don't have a lot of time to devote to trip planning, so my suggestions are super easy and time-effective.

1. Book Flights Strategically to Save

The big difference between family flights and business trips for me is that pleasure trips don't qualify as tax write offs, making family travel even more expensive. When searching for less expensive flights, I use tools like Expedia to check for deals, but I also search airlines' sites directly as many have sales with  comparable low rates.  

I tend to fly on airlines with whom I have rewards programs with so I can earn points, assuming the price is right. I've also signed both of my kids up for their own rewards accounts with the airlines we fly frequently.  Then, I pay for all flights with my American Express Gold Rewards Card to earn 2 points on every dollar I spend. This is where I double dip with two different reward programs. Once I've racked up all these points, I redeem the cost of my tickets, including the tax, through my  American Express Gold Rewards Card for up to a year after the trip.

What I'm saying is, I often end up paying very little for my flights when I play my cards right.

2. Getting Rewarded For Your Car Rental

The last thing you want to do is show up at the car rental joint without researching and reserving. I keep up with car rental companies associated with my various reward programs for sales and bonus rewards.  I'm all about the big double dip.  I pay for the car rental with my American Express Gold Rewards Card—once again scoring two points on every dollar I spend. Then I rack up extra rewards from Airmiles or Aeroplan. After the trip, if I have enough reward points in my Amex account I can use them to pay off the cost of the rental. Rental = Free.

Additionally, keep in mind that insurance is one of those car rental hidden costs. Make sure you find out in advance if the credit card you use to pay for the car rental includes any insurance coverage and what you are covered for.

3. Buy Necessities Before You Go

I don't believe in overpacking, and understand many places my family travels to have access to drugstores and other essential amenities, but there are some things I like to have packed and ready to go. I always bring a bunch of sunscreen of the brand I like, I stock up on travel-sized soaps and shampoos, I make sure my daughter's three Epipens are up to date and I bring lots of aspirin, cuz, travelling, right? The rationale behind this pre-travel stock-up is two-fold. I don't want to be driving around wasting my family's precious vacation time looking for last-minute supplies while I could have shopped at my local pharmacy and scored extra rewards points.

4. Get Your Documents In Order

One of the most stressful parts of travel for me is getting organized. There's a lot to think of before you go. Being organized can save you time, money, and heartache when you're on the road.

Make sure you check each of these off your list:

  • Cancel all regular deliveries like newspapers, grocery box drop-offs, or water delivery. 
  • Email photos of everyone's passports to your phone.
  • Call your bank and credit card companies to advise them you're travelling so they don't flag your purchases as irregular
  • Make sure your bank card and credit card PIN numbers are working
  • Send yourself an email with your Travel insurance number, Airline Reservation code for all your tickets, Hotel Reservation number and Car Rental reservation number.
  • Send yourself an email with your rewards card numbers so you don't miss out on surprise opportunities to earn rewards while travelling.

5. Get Ready to Roam

Although family travel is the time to turn off your tech and connect, the reality is that technology on the road is essential. I don't know where I'd be (literally) if I didn't have access to Google search or Google maps when I'm on unfamiliar territory. Because of this, getting my tech organized before I go is essential. Make sure you have chargers with you—no power is a recipe for stress. I take both a landline charger and a car adapter charger that plugs into what used to be my lighter. Yes, you can buy one on the road (see number 3 above), but why waste precious travel time when you could have just packed properly?

The other essential tech piece on your to-do is to book a long distance and roaming package with your mobile provider. If you head outside the border of Canada (or sometimes are too close to the US), roaming charges kick in and they are killer! Lock in a package in advance to protect your pocketbook. I recently heard of a service which I can't wait to try called Roam Mobility, a Canadian company that issues you a US number on a SIM card which you can use for voice, text, and data while in the States for plans starting at only $4. You need to have an unlocked phone to use their service. 

Hope this helps you save money when planning your next family vacation. If you play your cards right, you'll be surprised at the savings you'll rack up. Bon Voyage.

Learn how to be strategic when using your Rewards Cards so you can score free travel for you and your family.