Top Tips for Budget Family Travel

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Jun 03, 2018 / 0 comments

It’s important to take your kids when you travel – not only are you exposing them to the world, but you’re teaching collaboration, patience, great food, different cultures, languages, history, and more. But it can be expensive to take everyone, while you’re traveling. And, as many parents know, budgeting for big things is difficult – and even harder when you’re there on the ground, and family members want this and that.

Here are our top tips for budget family travel, so you can save money and get the most bang for your traveling buck.

Top Tips for Budget Family Travel


Research everything – from airlines to rental cars, from public transportation (which can be much cheaper than renting a car) to attractions. You’ll get a better sense of what you can afford, when you know what the options are. Budget travel is much easier once you are an informed traveler.


If you’re flying, look at sites like farecompare, that lets you know when is the best time to fly, so you’ll get a better price. If you’re driving, choose to gas up with a credit card that gives cash rewards – and then pay that card off when the bill comes due. It might be fun to take the train somewhere – if you can find a deal, that makes it a budget-friendly choice.


Timing is everything. Travel during the shoulder season, and you’ll be able to enjoy great weather (usually) and far fewer crowds. An extra bonus – prices for accommodations and activities are much less than in high season.


Try to visit smaller cities - it will be less expensive, and less crowded. Want to head to the UK? Visit Edinburgh instead of London. Love the west coast of the US? Try Portland or Seattle – usually less expensive than San Francisco.


Make sure that everyone brings just the bare minimum, so you save on airline fees, or space (and weight) in the car. No need to bring a ton of toys, either – bring something that is free and available anywhere – your imagination!


Rent a home or apartment, or part of one. If you are only going to be somewhere for a few days, try airbnb for inexpensive, family-friendly accommodations. If you’ll be somewhere for a week or more, definitely rent an apartment or home. Click here for great deals on vacation rentals. You’ll not only get a better deal for the week, but you may also get a yard – and the kitchen is a definite plus. Which leads me to…

Our front yard in Ireland, at Pier Cove on the Ring of Kerry

Our front yard in Ireland, at Pier Cove on the Ring of Kerry

Grocery stores

Shop locally, at grocery stores or markets. You’ll pay far less than eating at restaurants three times a day. You’ll also learn what’s tasty in different parts of the world – moon pies and boiled peanuts in the south, lefse in Minnesota, black currant jam in Scotland. You’ll also save a great deal of money by cooking your own meals, at your rental home – and get to try new ingredients!

Olives, Kenmare Market, Ireland

Olives, Kenmare Market, Ireland

Look for Free

Many museums have free days. Many towns have free concerts every day – the best place to look is at your library, or ask locals. In Europe, there are free concerts in churches all over the place. In the summer, look for outdoor festivals that are free, or outdoor movies shown in parks. Often, there will be free walks with different organizations – just do your research (tip #1!) and see what’s out there!

Look for Deals

Groupon is everywhere. So are many other deal sites, that offer a deal each day. Subscribe to the deal sites as soon as you know you’re going somewhere, and collect the deals! Note: You should make sure you want to do this – check urbanspoon for restaurant reviews, or other review sites for attractions or hotels. It isn’t saving money if you spend it and don’t use it.

Create your own souvenirs

Can't find inexpensive souvenirs? Instead of paying for each person to have a tshirt or something junky that will get relegated to the closet, think of how you can create your own souvenirs. Maybe collect all your ticket stubs and make a scrapbook. Take plenty of photos and create collages. Some places – like artscow – can put images on just about anything – and offer great prices. You can make calendars for gifts inexpensively, or order coin purses, watches, playing cards – all with pictures YOUR family took. Great mementos of a place, made from the heart.


What are your favorite budget family travel tips?


Top 10 tips for Budget Family Travel



Note: this article was originally published in 2012 and updated in 2018