This is the million dollar question isn’t it?
I mean, cheap travel in general is a skill.
But then you throw in a family, and picky kids, and more beds and seats and meals everywhere.
It’s a lot.
But it doesn’t have to be too much.
Here are some strategies to help make travel with your kids cheap(er) and still awesome:
I’m not sure I’m very good at this.
Every trip, it takes me a couple iterations of planning to get it right.
I do a lot of research into travel destinations, but I still get caught up in having ‘the best’.
The best location, the best swimming pool, the best tour, every tour, the cutest Airbnb, the list goes on and on…
You can have anything, but you can’t have everything.
That’s really it.
So you need to figure out what is most important to you, and be okay with the rest being just…okay.
You’ll still have a wicked time.
In fact, you’ll likely feel lighter, and your experience better because you maximized for what was important.
(and didn’t waste your hard earned (and saved) money spending on what wasn’t).
Ugh. I know.
Being spontaneous is so sexy and carefree and wanderlusty.
I get it.
It also has the potential to be expensive.
And, struggling to find a place to sleep and ending up sleeping on the beach, is much worse when you are with your cranky, hot, tired, kids, than it was when you were 20.
But, by plan, I don’t mean overplan.
I more mean…approximate.
I wrote an entire post about the simple way to do this, here.
Do a little research and figure out approximately where you want to go, and for how long.
I typically have a rough idea of all we want to accomplish from one ‘base’, then I add some in for chillin’, and then book travel and accommodation in advance.
By booking in advance there are more options available at more price ranges.
Which will help you stay within your travel budget.
You do have a travel budget right?!
If you can find some good deals, for god’s sake, book them!
If you think things are going to go up in price, or not be available for long, book them.
Figure out where is expensive when, and don’t do that.
Figure out where is just plain expensive, and shorten your trip, or forgo some luxuries to fit your budget.
Or hostels, or sometimes guest houses.
Anything you can do to save money on accommodations will add up big time.
I may be biased because I’ve only ever had really good experiences with Airbnb.
But here are some things we love about staying in homes:
a. saving money
b. having our own kitchen so that we can cook our own food (saving more money)
c. have the space to live like a real family does, and
d. be local (as opposed to in the tourist quarters), or anywhere in the city/town that we like
Airbnb is pretty established now.
There are usually quite a few reviews so that you can get a good idea of what you are getting into.
Here’s a secret:
Eat like you would at home.
If I ate like I was on ‘vacation’ when I travelled:
We try to buy groceries for almost all meals.
At the very least, as soon as we hit a place, we make it a priority to buy breakfast supplies for the next day.
For god’s sake, do not pay for a sit down breakfast.
That being said, eating out is a big part of culture and a major reason for travel.
Eat meals in local restaurants, and markets, and street vendors.
It would be tragic to miss the culinary side of your destination.
Just don’t spend money when it’s not worth it.
So, travel doesn’t have to be about spending a bunch of money on sites, and restaurants, and excursions.
It’s okay to let yourself ignore the pressure to see every single attraction in a city.
We try to limit ourselves to 2-3 historical sites/museums etc. per trip, and definitely not more than one a day (even in Greece!)
The point is, it can be an experience to just be.
Soak in the culture, people watch, linger over lunch, find a good coffee shop or fruit stand and go there every morning.
It will make your experience of a city deeper, and fuller.
And with young kids, you just can’t keep up a frantic pace anyway.
They aren’t built for it.
People always say, “I travelled halfway around the world, I can’t waste it sitting around a pool, or having a super long coffee, or just lounging in a park, or playing Lego on a balcony with my kids, or reading a book in a hammock“.
But you totally can.
You don’t need to see all the things (honestly).
Just see the ones that are important to you, and focus on the experience.
Give in, save some cash, keep your sanity, and enjoy your downtime.
How do you make things cheaper when travelling with kids?