Before you had kids, you probably thought of trips as relaxing get-aways. Many parents give up travel entirely when their babies arrive, traumatized by stressful flights, jet-lagged kids, too much baggage, and bills that rival the GDP of small nations. If the thought of another family “vacation” has you frazzled, here are some tips to save you time and money.
First, be flexible. If you can visit grandma in October instead of over Thanksgiving, or see Mickey in August rather than April, you’ll save a bundle and have a lot more elbow room on the plane and in the park. On the other hand, be realistic. There’s a reason those are busy travel times. If you long for an extended family get-together or can’t stand the heat, it may be worth spending more to get exactly the ticket you want.
Think about what you really want out of your trip. If you’re hankering to see snow, maybe you can skip the high-priced ski resort and go sledding in a less glamorous, but no less snowy destination. If the point is to spend time with family or friends, maybe you’d be just as happy going camping as traveling to an expensive resort. And if you’re ready to introduce your kids to culture, maybe there’s a reasonably priced alternative to your first choice – Buenos Aires instead of Paris, Prague instead of London.
The internet is a bargain shopper’s best friend. Use sites like www.sidestep.com to find the absolute lowest price on plane tickets and hotel rooms. Most resorts offer seasonal discounts and you can compare prices and read reviews online. Consider an all-inclusive resort for a beach get-away, or rent a house. Sites like www.vrbo.com allow you to rent houses directly from the owner, saving a bundle over comparably sized hotel rooms and allowing you to cook your own meals, do laundry, and play in a backyard.
If you’re facing a long plane flight or car ride, stock backpacks with lots of snacks, books and art supplies. Invest in a few small gifts to be doled out along the way for good behavior. Many airports now rent portable DVD players for kids who crave screen time.
No, these tips probably won’t make your family vacation quite as relaxing as your pre-parenthood excursions – but hey, that’s what retirement is for.