Monday, March 7, 2011

Travel with Kids - How To Make Ends Meet!

The weekend. Spring Break. Summer Vacation. All that time when the kids will be home saying, "Mom, I'm bored!" What to do!? Whether it's a day trip, weekender, or full-blown family vacation, you can travel with kids successfully, frugally, and happily. Here's how:
  1. Always use rewards card programs when shopping with credit cards - personally, we use two: One that gives us some extra spending cash back, and one that gives us free hotel nights, and other gift cards to use as we travel.
  2. Determine a budget in advance so you'll know a good deal when you see one - say, $10 per kid per day or something. Or a hotel stay for under $100. Then keep an eye out for deals that match your budget. This way you won't have to spend a lot of time comparing deals to be sure you aren't getting ripped off. You'll already know a steal/deal when you see one!
  3. Sign up for "daily deals" travel websites like SniqueAway or other programs. Since you've already set a budget, you'll be better prepared to snag a great half-price ski vacation or beach rental!
  4. Travel "Shoulder Season" for good deals and a good time. Who wants to be at the beach in the middle of winter? Or a ski lodge in September? But by edging a little closer to the "peak" season you can sometimes catch great "shoulder season" rates but still reap the benefits of the "on-season" activities.
  5. Eat-in - book a stay at a place that has a kitchenette, or at least a sink, fridge, and microwave. Perhaps bring a mini grill. Then plan to eat breakfasts and lunches at your lodgings to save money. Your kids can run around and enjoy the hotel pool while you cook, and you'll save a bundle to be able to enjoy some nice local restaurants for dinners.
  6. Or - eat out for lunch - dining at lunch often costs less than dining out for dinner. Plan to eat mid-afternoon, and then have a light dinner back at the hotel, like sandwiches and chips.
  7. Pack a snack - fill a tote with fruit leathers, juice boxes, waters, peanut butter/cracker packs. Costs rise when you have to constantly stop to give the kids something to eat between meals. By having an assortment of snacks ready to go, not only will you save time in your travels but also avoid the costly pit stops.
  8. Drink water - eat dessert! By having the family drink water at meals, you can probably save enough to have dessert after dinner, especially if some kids split a dessert!
  9. Rough it - if you really want to save a bundle on lodging, find a local KOA (Kampground of America) and camp! Even if you don't own camping equipment, you can rent small cabins that are sparsely furnished and just bring your own bedding (which personally, I prefer to sleep on my own sheets anyway!). You will still have access to all the local attractions, but won't have spent a fortune on a place you aren't spending a lot of time in anyway!
  10. Web it - use the web to find local attractions that are free. Or contact local libraries to see if they have free passes to museums and other fun places. You may also be able to take advantage of deals if you shop online and plan your itinerary beforehand. Always have a backup plan in case of rain or illness.
If you aren't too particular about your dining and lodging, and are down with bringing some of your own food and gear, you can save a lot of money traveling with kids. Then you'll be able to get down to the business of what you're really there for - to enjoy the local flavor!

Last Tip: The Alamo membership club, Alamo Insiders, offers its members numerous perks including exclusive, member-only deals, quick and simple reservations, and frequent traveler miles with each rental.
Disclaimer: I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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