Discount Family Travel: Ten Money-Saving Tips You Can Use Before Your Next Vacation

I'll admit it: the last time I went searching online to book travel arrangements, I was tempted to leave the kids with Grandma and escape somewhere really nice (with just my husband). 

But a family vacation is an unforgettable experience. And while you could definitely drop several thousands of dollars on a quick getaway with the entire family, you don't need to. 

If you know the secrets to budget travel, you can stay on budget and enjoy a memorable trip. 

Here are some tips:
 
Discounted Airfare
Airfare can get expensive, particularly when you are planning a trip for more than two people. Still, with work and school schedules, sometimes it's the only alternative that works in the amount of time you have available. Here’s what you need to know to save on your family airfare: 

Look for airlines that permit children under the age of 2 to fly free. Generally, this means that the child is not guaranteed of seat of her own, so expect to hold the child in your lap for the duration of the flight. Sometimes, the airline will try to seat you next to an empty seat, but that's not always possible, so be prepared. 
Use the Internet to find cheap flights. 

Use an online flight finder tool to make sure you are getting the best fares. 
Shop the Last Minute Deals. If you find yourself with a spontaneous urge to "get away" you can often get great deals on last minute fares. Priceline.com and Travelocity.com both have great last minute deals sections on their sites.(Current Travelocity coupons and last-minute-deals are here.) 

Site59.com is a website that specializes in last minute tickets. You can save up to 70% off retail because Site59.com locates unsold airline seats, hotel rooms, and rental cars and then packages them for sale. You can book through Site59.com up to 3 hours before departure. ( Momscape has compiled the latest Site59.com coupon codes and special offers here: 
http://www.momscape.com/discounts/budget-travel.htm

If you're traveling to Mexico or the Caribbean, check out our Mexico Travel Deals page before you book, to see if there's a current coupon or special offer you can use to save even more.  

Be flexible with your travel dates. You'll often pay more for Monday, Friday, and Sunday departure dates, so look into leaving on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday instead. There was a time when you were virtually guaranteed a better rate by staying over a Saturday, but that's not always true. With Internet travel sites, (such as Travelocity and Orbitz) you can experiment with any number of combinations in both arrival and departure dates before you book. 
Also check for different rates at different airports. You often have a choice as to which airport to both depart and arrive. See which combination saves you the most. Again, the major travel websites will allow you to play around with different combinations of cities and airports before you book. 


Food Savings While Traveling 
Take it with you. Depending on airline security regulations, it might be difficult to take food and drinks into the plane with you on your carry on bags. But you can pack some of your family's favorites in your checked luggage. Consider bringing bottled water, crackers, and cans of fruit, or tuna. (And remember to pack the can opener.) 
Westin Resorts
offers a special savings plan for families at select resorts, including free meals for children under 12, a free in-room movie each night and two days of complimentary admission to the Westin Kids Club. (Details are here. )
Pack a cooler full of food and beverages if you are driving to your destination. The money you save at every single gas station along the way will be more than worth the space it takes in your trunk. 

Saving on Lodging
Conduct an online search for "kids stay free hotel." Make sure to read the fine print so you find out what the kids are really getting for free. Also, if the hotel offers a continental breakfast, you may find you spend significantly less on dining. If my family eats a nice free breakfast, we can often get away with a quick sandwich for lunch and then treat ourselves to a great dinner out. 
Saving on Attractions at Your Destination
Purchase discounted dining certificates from Restaurant.com. Restaurant.com allows you to search a city's restaurants and then purchase dining certificates at a significant discount: you pay $10 for a $25 dining certificate, for example. You might even be able to use a coupon code (We compile Restaurant.com coupon codes here) to help you save even more. At some times of the year (depending on the coupons offered) you can purchase a $25 dining certificate for just $4!). Learn more here. 

Entertainment Books. If you'll be staying at least a few days, consider purchasing an Entertainment book for your destination. This is a book of coupons that offers significant savings for attractions, hotels, and restaurants including quite a few 50% off dining coupons, often at some of the best restaurants in the area. There are more than 160 local Entertainment editions, covering every major city throughout North America. The prices of these books vary depending on your destination (from $27 to about $47) but you can get discounts on the books themselves throughout the year. It doesn't take long for a book like this to pay for itself. Entertainment Book Coupons are here >

Go Visitor Cards. If you're traveling to Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Seattle, Orlando, Miami or Oahu (Honolulu), consider getting a Go Visitor Card. Each of these cards offers visitors (and locals) unlimited admission to the areas top activities, attractions, tours, and museums, for one price. For most cities, you can get the card in 1,2,3, 5, and 7 day increments. Get current Go Card Coupons here>

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