It might be as summer is approaching or it could be when everyone is afflicted with cabin fever in the middle of February. Either way, you know it’s time to plan a vacation. But traveling with children can get expensive. It means multiplying that plane ticket, those entrance fees, and that food budget. You also have to upgrade the hotel room and maybe even rent a car. Looking at family vacation packages can get discouraging when you find out how much they will cost.

Let’s face it, kids make almost everything more expensive. But, if you know how to plan right, you can have that affordable vacation that the whole family is craving. Yes, you really can go on a fun trip without breaking the bank. Here are are a few great ideas to help you plan your next family getaway:

Getting There

Typically, one of the biggest purchases when traveling with a family is airfare. Here are some ways to curb this expense and pare it down to a more reasonable amount.

  • Travel during the off-season. Figure out when your desired destination is flooded with tourists and when they all go home. If you head there during the off-season period, you’ll get far better prices on tickets and just about everything else.
  • Do your research on airfares and find the cheapest flight. Sometimes you can find a great deal if you keep looking. Don’t just purchase the first tickets you find. Balance out your flying needs with finding a great deal.
  • Don’t reserve accommodations too far ahead. Make sure you stay on top of deals and are flexible enough to book tickets when prices are low. Sometimes deals show up when you least expect it, so be ready to jump on it!
  • Choose your destination carefully since not all cities are affordable. Some of them host many tourist traps, and prices will reflect that. Choose a place where you can spend your money wisely and get more mileage out of it. If your dream is to head to France, by all means go to France. But if you look outside of the most common places to stay – Paris for example – you might find more reasonably-priced, family-friendly accommodations.
  • Use your airline miles. If you have a rewards card, you might have some miles points to use up. Don’t forget to check before purchasing your tickets!
  • Plan to travel overnight. This means one less night that you have to pay for a hotel. This might be harder with small children, but definitely worth considering if your children are good at sleeping while flying.
  • Be flexible. This is a desirable quality when taking children on vacation in general. But when it comes to finding great prices on airfare, you really do need to be flexible. Sometimes the best deals come around when you least expect them.
  • Check your child gear. Most airlines do not count a stroller or car seat towards the number of allowed bags per passenger. Also, if your child is under two years of age, you do not need to book them their own seat. They can sit on your lap for the duration of the flight.

Where to Stay

Hotel costs can add up quick. There are other options that will give you the same quality for significantly less.

  • If you plan to stay for more than just a few days, look into weekly rates. You can save a lot of money this way.
  • Choose to book a room with a local.Airbnb is a great option for this. You can search through the listings to find exactly what you’re looking for, wherever you want to go. You’ll see significant savings choosing to go this route.
  • For a perfect combination for families, choose to reserve an entire apartment or cottage through a site like Airbnb for a week or more. Then you can relax with your kids in the comfort of a truly homey space, with the peace of mind that comes with saving money.
  • If your ideal location is still expensive, expand your search to suburban areas or smaller towns/villages just outside the city. You might find a more authentic and relaxing adventure, not to mention you’llspend far less.

What to Do

Now that you’ve got your great-deal flight booked and your cozy rental reserved, you have to decide what to do when you get there. Theme parks and tourist attractions typically charge a premium. They also tend to be overcrowded, with long lines that aren’t very kid-friendly. Thankfully, there are plenty of options out there. Here are some ideas to get your creativity going.

  • Choose non-tourist activities. When you get to a new place, there are so many options. Do your homework ahead of time to figure out what kinds of opportunities there are. Kids love to do more unstructured activities. These also tend to be the things that don’t cost much. Go to the local park, visit a historic cemetery, or hike up a hill to get a great view of the city. You’ll skip the crowds andhave more time for fun.
  • Look for free activities. There are always free things to do, no matter where you go. Wander through a local green space, take the kids to a playground, or let them feed fish at a nearby pond. You’ll be less worried about cash and more willing to just enjoy being with your family.
  • Do what the locals do. When you’re at home, you don’t visit every attraction that has a hefty entrance fee. Figure out how the locals in your temporary new city have fun. Ask around, if you need tips. Sometimes, the most memorable experiences are the ones that allow you to see the world from a different cultural perspective.
  • Get souvenirs later, after you leave the site. Tourist traps are known for overcharging. If there’s a souvenir you’ve got to take home with you, shop around. You will probably find the same thing for much less somewhere else.
  • Go on vacation to bond. When we think of typical vacation-type activities, they include activities that add up quick. They also tend to be more passive and sedentary. Choose activities that get you interacting with each other, instead of being entertained at a price. Choose a bike ride, a fun splash around on the seashore, or a new sport you’ve never tried before. Your trip will be more memorable if you fill it with activities that bring you closer together as a family. Here are some ideas for family bonding fun.
  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Paddling
  • Geocaching
  • Horseback Riding
  • Visit local farms
  • Spend the day at the beach
  • Picnic

What to Eat

It can be frustrating to take your kids out to a nice restaurant, only to have them turn their noses up at an expensive dish. It’s no secret that some kids can be picky eaters. It can be hard to contain active children in a sit-down restaurant, as well. Luckily, there are some smart ways to navigate eating while traveling with kids.

  • Eat in your cozy accommodations. You can set the food out on the table and let the kids just be themselves. No worrying if they’re bothering the couple sitting at a nearby table. They can laugh, talk loudly, and express themselves. You can relax while you eat.
  • If you book an apartment or room with at least a kitchenette, you can save a lot of money by making dinner yourself. Cafes and restaurants get expensive. Buying food at the local market tends to be more affordable.
  • Always choose a room that has at least a fridge and a microwave. You can spend less by making or at least heating some of your food yourself.

You want to get away and show your kids the world. You don’t have to say goodbye to your wanderlust days, just because you’re a parent. With a few adjustments, you can find ways to make family travel affordable. When you save money, you can relax more and enjoy your time with your kids. By choosing to strategize and plan ahead, you can all come home again rejuvenated and more bonded. Travel can be fun and enlightening – for everyone!