How to Make Family Vacations More Affordable

Nine simple ways you can cut down on costs when taking the whole family on a trip.

Photo by Shelly Strazis

This article originally appeared on

Many travel pitfalls are amplified when you have kids, but you don’t have to make mistakes to learn from them next time. These simple tips will keep the cost of your family vacation low and the fun level high. With just a little preparation, you can save yourself a lot of cash, and a lot of headaches.

1. Remember—Some Kids Fly Free

When you’re trying to decide whether you’ll drive or fly somewhere, remember most airlines allow kids under two to fly for free (be sure to check your carrier’s specific policy before booking). This most likely means you’ll have a kid on your lap for the duration of the flight, but how often do children younger than two stay in their own seats, anyway? Also look for flights scheduled during off-peak hours–those airfares are generally less expensive, and you’re more likely to have an open seat next to you.

2. Check Those Booster/Car Seats

The cost of checking your luggage with an airline has skyrocketed, but many carriers will allow car seats and strollers to be stowed free of charge–just double-check before you leave the house. (Tip: You’re going to want that stroller in the airport, especially if you have a tight connection, but you can check it at the gate for free.) Also, parents traveling with young children (think infants and toddlers) are allowed one extra carry-on in addition to the standard allowance of two. So, you can bring your laptop bag, your purse, and your diaper bag.

3. Fend Off the Snack Attack

There’s something about airports that make kids extra hungry. Maybe it’s trekking from one gate to another, or maybe it’s the novelty of seeing all those snacks for sale. If you don’t want to fork over a fortune for some fish-shaped cheese crackers, stock up on goodies before you leave the house. Parcel them out into small sandwich bags, and you’ll be thanking yourself when your wallet is still fat and happy when you arrive at your destination. Bonus: This also acts as a great way to distract fidgety kids on the plane, and works equally well if you’re driving. Gas station and rest stop snacks are pricey, too.