Traveling with Kids: 4 Ways to Save Money on Family Vacations

Today wraps up the third and final post in my mini blog series on Traveling with Kids! This last post focuses on ways to save for your family vacations and not have to go into debt either. Some of these may seem obvious but hopefully you find and learn some new tricks.

Here is the round up of all the posts in this series:

And now we'll jump into the good stuff! :)

1. Accommodations

I know this is a given but you will save so much money by crashing with friends or family if they have the space. I say "if" because if you're all cramming into one bedroom that may not be so enjoyable... just be realistic about it. The nice thing about saving money on lodging by crashing with friends/family is that you can also enjoy a few fun things on your trip and, of course, not go into debt! We always offer to treat our hosts to dinner one evening as a thank you for their hospitality.

If you are heading to a destination where you don't know anyone then check out many hotel and deal websites for the best lodging at your destination. Here are some of my favorites:
Another option is to rent a house at your destination. You can find condos and apartments for rent too. Some have a seven day minimum and you have to pay attention to cleaning fees but this can be a great option for more space. Even better is to recruit another family to go and rent a house with you! It would save money and you can make memories together. Here are some great sites to check for house rental deals:
Lastly, when purchasing anything online check out Ebates first. Many times they offer cash back on a purchase you were already planning on making! Last year I received over $150 cash back on purchases I was already planning to make and I simply used the Ebates referral link to the site I was buying from. You can sign-up now and receive a $10 gift card to a retailer of your choice (they give options like Kohls, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target) when you make your first purchase through Ebates. Super easy way to save on not just trips but ALL online shopping.

2. Travel To/From

If you have a couple kids then driving is the cheapest option, even with gas prices. You can drive to Florida from Missouri (that's where I am) on 2-3 tanks of gas which means you are looking at less than $300 roundtrip. Use a gas price app like Gas Buddy to find low prices near your stops to help save a couple more bucks each tank.

If you have little ones that can sit on your lap (under 2) then that is a way to make flying more affordable. You should know that there are safety risks with a lap infant during flight but we have had lap infants for more than eight flights with zero issues. Check out many airline websites to find the best price including independent deal websites and airline specific websites. Here are some deal websites I have used in the past:
And definitely use Ebates for these purchases too!
3. Food

Go to the store and pick up breakfast and even dinner items (like sandwiches) which will save a ton. I suggest dinner because dinner out is much more expensive then lunch plus you will likely already be out and about during the lunch hour so you will be more likely to eat out then. If you rented a house then eating is very easy because you can cook or grill... just make sure they also have a dishwasher so you don't have to spend time cleaning up! :)

Another option to save on food are local deal websites. You can look up deals in advance and some even offer instant deals. Just pay attention to the fine print (how, when, where you can use it) and make sure it doesn't expire before your trip! Here are some deal websites I recommend (which you can also receive cash back through Ebates with as well):
If you are wondering what places you should try when you're there then I suggest searching top food places on TripAdvisor. I always find good food and good attractions there!

4. Activities

This is where you make your memories so I understand wanting to spare no expense but consider how you may be able to save money doing the most amazing things and ones that are already on your bucket list. Most activities have deals, you just have to take a little time to find them. :)

When I am preparing for a trip I ask around, people you have traveled there and/or live there are great resources for attractions that are "must see". They also might have connections to local discounts! Additionally, they can likely make recommendations on what NOT to do... things/places that are not worth the time and money.

I also check TripAdvisor for the top attractions for that destination. Once I have a list of things we want to do with the price we narrow them down to the top attractions that we can reasonably fit in during our trip. It's amazing how putting it on a list with price can help clarify and direct you.

You can search in advance for deals for the places you want to visit while there. Google can be overwhelming but it is also really helpful. If you want to go to the San Diego Zoo just type in a quick search "San Diego Zoo discounted tickets" or something similar. In less than 15 seconds I was able to find $6 off each ticket up to 6 tickets. If you are a family of four that would save you $24 (I've always been good at math ;))! That's a quick lunch out to eat. And any money saved is helpful.

Another option for zoos, science centers, museums, etc is that if you are a member at your local attractions you may qualify for reciprocal benefits at many others across the country! Awesome! So here is how our St Louis Zoo membership reciprocal benefits work- based on the list at this link you can receive free or 50% off admission tickets. Additionally, if a zoo is free to the public sometimes they offer discounts on food and/or merchandise at those locations. There is a pretty extensive list! Our St Louis Science Center offers the same benefit as do many of our museums. It is worth checking into before your next vacation if you are interested in visiting one at your destination. A word to the wise though- if you are used to St Louis' amazing (free) zoo and (free) science center than you may be disappointed when you go to a different one! It's happened. Ours are pretty fantastic! :)

As well as these tips here are some deal websites you can check out to purchase attraction tickets in advance:
Soooo who's ready for vacation?! Now that I have completed this series I am definitely ready to start planning our next one!

Do you have any other tips to share? I would love to hear them!



  1. Thanks for the great tips! I am soon traveling to England with my son and this is great! we will be staying with family.

  2. I've been in the travel industry for 18 years now. With the world becoming smaller and smaller, it is great you get out and travel with your kids.