Family Travel: 6 ways to Save $$ and Have Fun

Travelling with your Family on a Budget

This week is a little bit different, and I’ve got a guest post for you guys from my friend Miranda. Miranda Post is a writer, connector, traveller and mom based in Queen Charlotte, Haida Gwaii. Miranda is equally passionate about travelling and eating (we have that in common). When she’s not working in public relations, you can find her exploring British Columbia’s back roads and bays, in her kitchen attempting to perfect her wild berry hand pies or blogging at

As you know, I’m a big fan of travelling and always looking for a way to save a buck. Miranda is here to share a few tips on how to combine those two passions and get the most bang for your buck when you’re holidaying it up. I thought her tips about travelling with kids would be a great way to switch things up on the blog since I don’t delve into parenting matters. Even if you’re living the child-free life (like Moi), these are still great ways to cut travel costs.

So, without further delay, here’s Miranda…

A lot of my friends without kids often lament that they are afraid travel will stop once they start a family (editors note: this is so me). False. Travelling with kids is a super fun way to explore metropolis, see places differently and also test your budgeting skills.

Whereas kid-free trips can be fun girlfriend getaways full of champers, shared hotel rooms and late nights or romantic date nights and leisurely mornings, travelling with kids often means sticking to a schedule, eating three square meals a day (and snacks, so many snacks) and planning things out a little more. Don’t fret. That first big city trip you plan with your family doesn’t have to be expensive and can most definitely still be fun. Here are a few ways I’ve learned how to save dollars and still have a mental (or cell phone) full of travel memories to be thankful for.

Half your family travel budget: stay with friends or family

Paying for hotels and AirBnB’s can often account for 30-50% of your trip cost. If you have friends or family who have room, don’t be afraid to ask to stay for a night or two. Obviously, you need to know how kid-friendly their home is. Probably not a good idea if you have a tiny screamer of a baby or they do too. Often people are happy to host because it means more visiting with loved ones they don’t get to see very often.

Travelling with your Family on a Budget

Trade Patio Hangs for Picnics

Once you become a parent and your kid becomes mobile, long afternoons sipping wine or meeting up for a sunny happy hour just isn’t the same. It can be expensive and stressful. One of my favourite things to do while travelling is putting together a simple picnic. In the summer, stop at the local farmer’s market, grab fresh, local food (and maybe a bottle of wine or craft beer) and then head to a park or beach for a picnic. Don’t have a picnic blanket? Stop at a Value Village and grab an old tablecloth or flat sheet. I recently did this on a trip to Victoria, BC on the shores of my favourite, tiny lake with a friend from elementary school. While my little splashed in the shallows, we caught up over charcuterie, baguette and a glass of pinot gris.

Pack Snacks

I can’t stress this enough. Bring some from home or make a stop at the grocery store your arrival priority. If you have a well-stocked snack arsenal, you’ll be less likely to make those impulse orders when out for lunch. Save on the ‘tweener’ treats of grabbing a round of Starbucks for the fam by bringing your own snacks and packing your own coffee mug. Most coffee places give you a tiny discount for bringing a travel mug PLUS it’s good for the planet.

Research Activities

I feel like one of my profs from UVic when I say this, but do your homework! A little research goes a long way when it comes to saving a few bucks on tourist attractions. Love art? See if the city art gallery has a pay-what-you-can night. Want to take the littles to a movie or play? Matinees might be cheaper or scan local arts weeklies for mentions of specials or discounts. A bit of forward planning before you get to your destination goes a long way. Plus, it helps you be in the present with your family instead of madly googling the next stop while the rest of the crew plays.

Budget Challenge Yourself: Use Cash

Cash is king. Ever notice that you don’t spend as much when you use cash instead of plastic? Try setting a daily (cash) budget for stuff like meals, activities and incidentals. If you know you only have a finite amount per day to spend on meals, tickets, etc., it will make you think twice about ordering the most expensive thing on the menu. Maybe you could also set up a reward system, where if you don’t spend one day’s cash you can roll it over to the next day’s budget and grab that extra something the next day.

Buy a transit pass

As in #3, research public transit options. If it’s safe and easy, why not ditch your vehicle and see the city by bus, train or tram? Many cities have a pretty high ceiling for free riders (up to age 5 five or six), plus it’s an easy way to see the city without worrying about parking (or parking tickets). San Francisco has world famous buses and trollies that make a trip both memorable and wallet-friendly. Plus, what little kid doesn’t like taking the train?

What are some of your family travel hacks? I’d love to hear your thoughts – connect via Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest: @mirandasyndrome.

Travelling with your Family on a Budget

This post was proofread by Grammarly.

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  1. Nice, Miranda. I especially love the picnic idea. Mrs. G and I will definitely have to take advantage of that tip on our next vacation. Thanks again for this great post. It’s amazing what just a little thinking can do to dramatically reduce the cost of travel.

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