10 Ways to Save Money on Family Vacations

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Travelling with kids can be expensive! Airfare alone could easily cost you a few thousand dollars, so it’s no surprise that parents are always looking for ways to save. Sure, staycations can be fun, but let’s be realistic, many people would much prefer to travel outside of their hometown to take a holiday. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered, here are 10 ways to save money on family vacations.

10 Ways to Save Money on Family Vacations

Choose your location wisely

When you’re planning your trip, where you go can make a huge difference when it comes to costs. For example, staying in Anaheim could be a good alternative compared to Los Angeles since accommodations are much cheaper but L.A. is only a 45minute drive away. Despite the high cost of airfare, a trip to Thailand might cost you less than a visit to Orlando since you won’t need to pay for daily admission to the different theme parks. Even staying outside of the main tourist areas in cities can save you a decent amount since you won’t have to deal with downtown prices.

Look for free (or almost free) things to do

From checking out exploring parks to attractions without an admission charge, every destination has free things to do, you just need to find them. Start off by checking out the local tourism board website as the odds are they’ll have a detailed list of free and affordable things to do. While you’re doing your research, see if the city you’re visiting has a museum pass or CityPASS which gives you admission to multiple attractions for one discounted price.

Pick family-friendly accommodations

If you want to save money on family vacations, then you need to be smart about your accommodations. Renting an apartment via Airbnb or a vacation home is an excellent alternative to hotels since they offer more space compared to a hotel. Another obvious benefit is the kitchen that’s included that allows you to prepare some of your own meals. That being said, there are many budget-friendly hotels that target families such as the Residence Inn brand where rooms come with a kitchen, and you get access to free breakfast. Since the Residence Inn is owned by Marriott, you should book directly at Marriott.com since they guarantee the lowest rate.

Be smart about which credit cards you use

Which credit card you use can help you save on your expenses. For example, if you’re flying with WestJet, and you have the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard, you get $250 WestJet dollars as a sign-up bonus and your first checked bag free for the primary cardholder and up to 8 bags on the same reservation. You also get an annual companion voucher that starts at $99. A family of four heading to Orlando from Vancouver could end up saving $1,000+. Even if you don’t fly WestJet, many of the best travel credit cards in Canada also come with a huge signup bonus and comprehensive travel insurance which could save a family $400 a year.

Set up price alerts

If you plan to fly, airfare will likely be your most significant expense, but instead of wasting hours of your time searching for the lowest price possible, set up a price alert instead. KAYAK, the world’s leading travel search engine will send you an email whenever there’s a price change on the route that you’re monitoring. Once you see a price you’re happy with, you can book your flights right away.

Consider a road trip

There’s no doubt that flying can be expensive which is why families should consider taking a road trip. Obviously, you won’t be able to travel overseas, but you’ll be able to create different memories. With road trips, you get to set the pace and itinerary so you can stop wherever you want. Get the kids involved by having them pick some things that they want to see, so they always have something to look forward to.

Book a tour

Planning a trip can be quite intimidating for some people so it might make more sense to join a tour. Reputable tour companies such as Trafalgar, G Adventures, and Intrepid Travel have trips that are specifically aimed at families. What makes tours appealing is that there’s no planning on your end. You get an experienced guide, accommodations, transportation, and many meals included. Quite often, these guided excursions end up costing you less money compared to if you had booked everything on your own.

Visit the grocery store

Eating out every meal is a guaranteed way to blow your vacation budget which is why you need to make a trip to the grocery store as soon as you arrive. I’m not suggesting you need to cook every meal, but picking up snacks and drinks is an easy way to save money on food. Keep in mind that many grocery stores even sell prepared meals, so you can still have some nice lunches or dinners without going to a restaurant.

Use up your travel rewards

If you’ve been collecting points with one of the best travel rewards credit cards in Canada, then you might as well use some of your points to offset your travel expenses. Don’t worry if you don’t have enough points to redeem flights for your entire family, just claim what you can. If you happen to collect American Express Membership Rewards points, don’t forget that you can redeem your points towards any travel purchase which is convenient since you’re not restricted to a single airline or hotel chain.

Travel slow

Before we had kids, my wife and I would try to see 3-5 different cities in Europe during a two-week holiday, but now that we have a daughter, that’s a bit ambitious. When you have kids, it makes sense to travel at a slower pace. Although you won’t get to see as much, you really get a chance to immerse yourself in the local culture. You’ll even end up saving some money since you won’t be travelling as much.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi


  1. Laura on January 4, 2019 at 5:09 PM

    Great suggestion to visit a grocery store. I usually only eat out once a day when traveling. It saves a lot of time and money. For the cost of not eating out it easily covers a musum or transportation somewhere new.

    • Barry Choi on January 4, 2019 at 7:26 PM


      I do the exact same thing!

  2. anna on January 24, 2019 at 8:22 PM

    Visit a local market! It’s interesting, colourful with a cultural flavour. Fresh produce on a trip is a bonus.

    • Barry Choi on January 24, 2019 at 10:20 PM


      That’s a great card, thanks for sharing!

  3. Tamir on January 25, 2019 at 6:34 AM

    We are following almost all of your suggestions, except staying outside major areas.
    Going to LA with a kindergartener and infant this Spring, we opted to stay as close to my brother’s family as we could since LA traffic is terrible and we want the kids to spend more time with family. Sure it’s costing us more in money but saving time and stress.
    We love going to US grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and getting fun and different food for breakfasts at an Airbnb to save time, money, and the fact that the kids won’t sleep in despite the time zones.
    Other suggestions would. Be to pack light and plan on buying some things locally when traveling to the US, like diapers, since they are generally cheaper despite the exchange rate.

    • Barry Choi on January 25, 2019 at 6:39 AM


      Yes, location can make a huge difference when you have kids. Oddly enough, I’m also going to L.A. with my child this year, and I plan on paying a bit more for the location to avoid traffic.

      Trader Joe’s is also a MUST for me any time I’m in a U.S. city that has it.

      • Tamir on January 25, 2019 at 6:42 AM

        Could you consider updating this post and mention Kid & coe? They are just like airbnb, VRBO, and Home Away but for people like us looking for family friendly accommodations.

        I wish we were doing Disney this time but want both the kids older to remember and for the new Star Wars area to be open!

  4. Theresa FitzPatrick on January 25, 2019 at 7:07 AM

    Last weekend my husband and I traveled by train to Ottawa for a family wedding. We are boomers so have carried on the habit of taking our good food with us, packing a small suitcase full. We love Ottawa and love staying downtown. Last week’s horrible walking weather and few grocery stores downtown had us grateful for our own grub!

  5. […] 10 Ways to Save Money on Family Vacations […]

  6. SK on February 26, 2019 at 12:36 PM

    Great suggestions Barry! Travelling with children can be much more expensive. All of your recommendations are simple and easy to apply to ones travel plans. One thing you didn’t mention that has made a huge difference for our family is what time of year you travel to your destination. I know its not always easy to travel outside of peak season such as Christmas and spring break but those times of year usually have higher costs than other times of the year. We like to travel to Costa Rica in the winter and we found that the prices for dates after December 15th are almost double. That applies to hotels, other types of accommodations, restaurants and tourist activities. If you are flexible in your travel dates it is worth while to do some research as to the peak travel times for the destination you are travelling to, it could save you a substantial amount. Happy travels!

    • Barry Choi on February 26, 2019 at 12:52 PM


      Great point, I always travel during the off season but I know many parents refuse to pull their kids out of school so I didn’t include that tip.

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