By Leslie Campos
Pretty much everything in life changes after you have kids, including those times when you’re hitting the road as a family. Gone are the days when you can pack a single suitcase and jump in the car or hop on a plane at the last minute. Don’t get us wrong, family travel is amazing. These trips just require extra planning to keep costs in check and lower everyone’s stress.
There’s a reason why planning is the first of your family travel to-dos, and that’s because it’s the number one way to reduce costs and headaches. Take, for example, those necessities you have to buy specifically for your trip, like extra diapers, clothes, and handled electronics to keep the kids occupied. Find everything you need at the best price by searching deals and looking for promos and discounts, plus you can even get free shipping. But if you wait to get these travel necessities at the last minute, you’re more likely to pay full price.
It’s also good to know which items are worth splurging on and where you can spend less. For example, if you’re an adventurous family, it’s worth your dollar in the long run to buy good quality gear like backpacks and walking shoes (but still look for deals!). However, you can probably get away with spending less on things like everyday outfits and travel activities for keeping kids entertained.
Another major benefit of planning ahead is that you usually get better rates on everything from airfares to hotel rooms when you book far enough in advance. You will probably also get the best rates when you fly and stay midweek. For this reason, Parents magazine recommends scheduling your trip around school breaks and even letting kids miss a few days, so you don’t have to travel over the weekend.
When packing for a family trip, the goal is to be prepared without going overboard. Practical tips include planning ahead for the weather, making a list, and packing suitcases efficiently. One specific tip we love is to put socks inside shoes, then cover shoes with plastic grocery bags. Doing this saves space and money, because there’s no need to buy travel bags made especially for covering shoes.
The key to making your journey less stressful and less expensive is, you guessed it, planning ahead! Before you go, make a list of everything you and your kids need access to either in the car or on the plane. If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, this includes the necessities like diapers, wipes, extra clothes, formula, and bottles, plus the extras like pacifiers, a toy, and a blanket.
For bigger kids, the change of clothes is still essential, plus pack snacks, a water bottle, and activities. No matter your child’s age, you also want to have a first aid kit complete with over-the-counter medications. The key to making the journey easier is to have all the comfort items you need. As an added benefit, you will save money on these necessities by stocking up before you go.
Last but not least, the ultimate goal is to make the most of your experience without busting your budget. One of our favorite low-cost ideas is to let your kids take their own pictures. Then you can find deals on photo printing when you get home and help your kids make a scrapbook of their memories. Another great way to save money while sightseeing is to live like a local. Local experiences are less expensive than tourist attractions, and the adventure will be more memorable.
All this planning may make you feel overwhelmed, but don’t let that get the best of you! Planning ahead actually makes everything easier on you in the end. You will save much more money, and the whole family will appreciate the results of your efforts.
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