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How To Save Money When Traveling With Kids

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Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

Remember when you were about to have a baby and everyone was warning you about how expensive kids are?  I have mixed feelings about this statement, but I do think travel with kids adds up quickly budget-wise!

Five kids for us means five more plane tickets (now that all are older than 2), bigger cars, more food, etc.  Traveling as a family of seven, of course, is a lot more expensive than traveling as a couple!

Savings can be found when traveling with kids through a few hacks.  After more than two years of traveling full-time with five kids, let me share some of those hacks with you.

Fly The Bad Flights

Searching for flight deals and contemplating that red-eye to Paris?  Can you really do it with little ones?

Yes, you can.

It might not be pretty, but you can do it.  Kids are extremely adaptable.  If you prep properly, you can save tons of money on the flights no one wants to fly.  

My tips? 

  • Have the kids take a good nap before the flight (we use Melatonin for the nap so it’s nice a loooong)
  • Prep them mentally for what’s happening that night (assuming they are old enough to reason with you) 
  • Bribe them!  We tell the kids they will sleep most of the flight, but when they wake up they can get their iPad/movie/tablet.  We hold strong and DO NOT let them have it before they sleep.  You’ll have a little bit of fighting, but then they know you are serious, they will go to sleep.  Their natural rhythm will eventually take over, but don’t be afraid of some Melatonin to get them off to dreamland.

If you have an infant, hopefully, you are breastfeeding.  I love sticking my babies on their “milk tap” and letting them snooze the flight away!  See more of my tips for flying with babies here.

Go Off-Season

Anytime we visit Breckenridge, CO we go in mud season.  This means April or October.  Why?  Because everything is so much cheaper!  Lodging, restaurants, and activities.  Some things do close altogether, but overall you can save a ton of money by going off-season.

Avoiding the peak seasons (which, unfortunately, are when your kids have a break from school) of summer, Christmas, and Spring Break will save you loads.  Bring your kid’s teachers some gifts and take the kids out of school instead.  

Take ‘Em Young

Flights aren’t the only thing that kids under two get for free.  Most things will be free with very young children.  Disney trips should be done before third birthdays, for example.  Traveling with kids before their 2nd or 3rd birthdays means they are basically free.

Lots of people ask me if it’s easier to wait until kids are older.  In some ways, yes,  but in other ways, no!  Young children just love to be with you and will go along with anything as long as you aren’t stressed.  I love traveling with our little ones!

Little ones cannot do all the activities, but the goal really is to be together.  If you want to do something fun as adults or couples, get a sitter!  Here are my tips for getting a travel babysitter.

Pack Smart

Unless you are traveling full-time, bring along as much as you might need on your trip (within the consideration of checked luggage costs).  Going to the beach? Pack the sunscreen, the shell collecting bag, and the goggles.  Heading to Disney?  Get some cute shirts on Etsy before you go.  They are much cheaper (and usually cuter) than buying in the park at high prices.

Disney World Florida

It is easier to travel light, but buying things on-site adds up FAST.  For example, sunscreen in Costa Rica is 4-10X as expensive as in the USA.

Free or Family Activities

Outside of transportation and lodging, activities take up a large part of the travel budget.  You can have an amazing trip doing only free activities.  The beach offers nature’s best playground.  Hiking allows you to absorb incredible beauty and costs only calories!

Alternatively, in some countries, you can find activities with “family prices”.  We saw this most often in New Zealand.  Our family saved a fortune with family deals.  Do some research online before you go so you know what to do and what to avoid.  It’s best not to show up to an activity, get the kids all pumped, and then have to skip it due to cost (or suck it up and spend more than you want to).

Check Memberships

Heading to somewhere with a kid’s museum?  Chances are you might have a membership at your current children’s museum and you could get in for free at other locations.  

This blog post offers this great advice: Check to see if your membership falls under the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC), the Association of Zoo and Aquariums (AZA), North American Reciprocal Museum Association (NARM), Association of Children’s Museums (ACM), Southeastern Reciprocal Membership Program (SERM), Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums (ROAM), or the American Horticulture Society (AHS).  

These can even work internationally!

Saving Money on Food

Feeding a family… our nemesis sometimes, right?  So much work goes into nourishing big and little bodies.  This endeavor can also take up a lot of cash!  I’ve found a few sneaky ways to save loads of money on feeding my family while traveling:

  • Have a kitchen or kitchenette.  Breakfast is super easy, even in just a hotel room.  Grab some milk at the gas station and either buy or bring cereal cups and spoons.  With a kitchenette, you can upgrade to oatmeal packets (another easy thing to pack), protein bars and fruit, scrambled eggs, pancakes, etc.  With a kitchen, which we almost always have in our Airbnb (read here for why we love Airbnb), and have many dinners at home.  In fact, we only eat out with the kids 2-3 times in a week.  Don’t know what to cook?  Read my tips here on what to buy in an Airbnb!
  • Eating Out.  Ok, I know you are on vacation and the last thing you went on vacation to do was to cook!  When picking restaurants, check out the kid’s menu and the prices there.  Try to catch restaurants that offer deals for kid’s meals or have the kids share an adult meal.  Sometimes one regular plate of nachos can feed four of my kids.
  • Snacks for dinner.  Honestly, we are on the go so much that sometimes the process of finding dinner and sitting for 1-3 hours (depending on the country) is just too much.  Or the restaurants are all closed.  I always try to carry enough snacks that they can substitute as a meal.  Think beef jerky, nuts, fruit, crackers, cheese, etc.  This also saves us a lot of money!

Move Smart

Transportation can be tricky to figure out.  If you are flying to a new destination within your trip, costs can add up!  Try to do one-way tickets.  It’s not unusual for us to book three different flights on three separate airlines.  

  • However, with Covid right now, flights are constantly changing and we’ve paid loads in change fees.  A fellow travel influencer told me to book on Kiwi.com because they will have to figure out your flight changes and get you there even if your flights get changed.

Taking public transportation may seem difficult, but in Asia, it’s the best (and cheapest) way to go.  Google maps take all the thinking out of it and will give you step-by-step instructions on what public transportation to take to your destination.  It will also lead you to the station from your starting point and out of the station at your destination.

Taxi in Tokyo

Here is an example of one of our actual routes from our condo in Bangkok to our favorite mall.

Stay Longer

Did you know you can get significant discounts on an Airbnb if you stay longer?  Most have weekly or monthly discounts that can be upwards of 30-50%.  Play around with your dates and see if you can stay longer to get more discounts.  Worried about booking an Airbnb?  See my tips here.

Put The Kids on a Budget

Another money pit on vacation comes from souvenirs.  Kids want, want, want and you want to retain the memories.  It’s a good idea to set a budget beforehand, either for allowance, chores, or your own money, on how much will be spent on souvenirs.  

We pay our kids a monthly allowance that is quite generous and tied to their chores.  We make them pay tithing to our church, 20% to savings, and learn how to budget the rest.  It takes all the hassle out of souvenir shopping.  They either have the money or they don’t.

Plan your next international trip and get fare deals from Booking.com, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, or Expedia

Find a family-friendly hotel wherever you are from Booking.com, Expedia, or Vrbo, (we also love Tripadvisor and Hotels.com)

Discover more of the world through exciting activities from GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator

Need to rent a car? Visit Rentalcars.com.

Get insured while traveling with World Nomads.

Want to have a photo shoot while traveling? Check out flytographer!

Capture your best travel memories as we do with a GoPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

Check out your travel necessities from a comprehensive list of all the 7Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves. Click Here!

Additional Reading

How to Avoid Scams Traveling in Asia

Bathrooms Around the World: My Dirty Low-Down

Working Remote: 28 Tips for Success For Singles and Parents


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