10 Money-Saving Travel Tips From Momfluencers
Our travel habits are continuing to recover from the pandemic, with increased flights booked and hotels getting closer to their capacity levels. But while our vacation lust may be higher, so are prices — airfare increased an average of 25% between January 2022 and 2023, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hotel rates are up more than 50%, and rental cars in many markets will also cost you more, according to the travel site Hopper.
Deloitte’s 2023 travel industry outlook predicts demand for leisure travel this year will be “murky,” with finances being consumers’ top concern. “If 2022 was a year of welcomed pent-up demand, 2023 will be a year of coming to grips with some complicated realities facing travel,” the report said. Travelers are looking to get the best bang for their buck when they travel, and often choosing lower fares over convenience.
In the family household, it’s women who do the majority of both vacation planning and packing, as well as their families’ shopping and budgeting, according to a recent Civic Science poll. So to help navigate vacation planning on a tighter budget, GOBankingRates turned to the best planners and budgeters out there: moms.
Read on for expert money-saving travel tips from some of social media’s favorite traveling moms.
Can You Afford To Buy It Twice?
Chrissy Whalin is a single mom who trots the globe with her adolescent son, sharing their experiences through her Single Mom Budget Travel Instagram. “I think it was Jay- Z who said, ‘If you can’t buy it twice, you can’t afford it,’ and I live by that rule now,” Whalin said.
GOBankingRates couldn’t confirm the origin of this gem of financial wisdom, but we’ll still take it.
“It gives me a lot of perspective and helps me create travel opportunities based on what I truly can afford, versus getting myself in too deep trying to show off on Instagram,” Whalin said.
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She advises others as well to stop planning travel through a social media lens. “Who cares what people think about where you go or how you do it? Stop ‘travel-gramming’ and blowing your budget to impress people. You miss out on the real s**t, the good part of travel, which is being in the moment and discovering new things about places and yourself,” she said.
Whalin not only loves off-peak or “shoulder season” travel for the better prices, but many other perks as well. “There are fewer crowds, and autumn in most international cities has great weather and interesting local events and attractions,” she said.
Airfare and hotel rooms both tend to be lower during these times as the industry tries to compensate for lower demand. Traveling with kids means you’ll still need to negotiate around school schedules and winter/spring break periods. But the good news is that no matter what time of year it is, it’s always off-peak somewhere.
For Peak Travel, Though: 10 Tips for Saving Money on Airfare This Spring
Create a Budget and Stick To It
“Creating a budget can be fun,” Whalin said — especially when you’re exploring a new place.
“Find the fun in the challenge of only spending $20 (or even less) per person a day on food or activities,” she said. The paths you take to meet your spending challenge will usually take you to unexpected places. When you’re forced to venture outside of the tourist traps, she said, “It can lead to discovering more interesting places and getting a more local view of a city.”
Find the Freebies
Even the most expensive destination cities are packed full of free stuff to visit and experience, Whalin said. Whether you’re heading to Paris, London, New York, L.A. or elsewhere, doing a bit of advance research to find the free museum days and attractions can help shape an itinerary that’s both frugal and fabulous.
A few of Whalin’s favorite freebies:
- London: Hyde Park, the Tower of London, paying respects to Amy Winehouse in Camden, visiting a red telephone box, a visit to Harrods, seeing Buckingham Palace.
- New York: Walking the Brooklyn Bridge, seeing most of Manhattan, Central Park.
- Paris: The Sacre-Coeur Cathedral, seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle, posing at the Louvre Pyramids.
- Los Angeles: The Hollywood sign, window shopping in Beverly Hills, hiking up Runyon Canyon, walking around Echo Park Lake, Sunset Boulevard.
Use Public Transit
If you’re visiting a city where most of the locals use public transit to get around safely, it’s a great option for visitors too. “Americans who don’t live in cities with readily available public transit access tend to be nervous about public transit in foreign countries, but it’s probably smarter, safer and more budget-friendly to be on public transit in many places than relying on cabs and rideshare apps,” Whalin said.
The Tube in London, the Metro in Paris, the New York City Subway and other urban mass transit systems (don’t forget about buses and ferries) are all typically fast, efficient and affordable.
Whalin cautions that wherever you’re on public transit, it’s important to keep safety in mind and research before you go. “Be mindful of your possessions always. Pickpockets are a very real thing on public transit. Just pay attention and don’t talk loudly on public transit to attract attention to yourself as a tourist,” she said.
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Eat Like the Locals
When Whalin eats “like the locals,” she doesn’t just mean seeking out regional cuisines or places beyond the tourist draws. Of course, eating where the locals do is usually more affordable. But it’s also worth taking local cues on how to eat.
“Eating when and how they eat can be a money-saver,” Whalin said. “Only in America do people eat big breakfasts, big lunches and big dinners all in one day. In most other places breakfast is light and cheap — a coffee or tea and a light pastry. Lunch is usually an affordable delicious sandwich or soup, and dinner is when you can splurge a little. Americans can learn to embrace other cultural norms outside their own and it will often benefit their budget.”
Depending on the airline, your first checked bag could cost you anywhere from $25 up to $100 — with costs only increasing the more you bring. You may also get charged extra if your bag is over a certain weight.
If you can get by with just a carry-on bag, Whalin pointed out numerous reasons to do it. “It’s better for your wallet, the environment and probably your enjoyment,” she said. “Who wants to drag a giant suitcase, filled with stuff you really didn’t need, across cobblestone or unpaved roads anyway?”
Use Credit Card Points — Responsibly
Pam Lorg is one of three moms behind Travel Hacking Mom, a site focused on traveling as close to free as possible using credit card points.
“It goes without saying that our No. 1 tip is to use credit card points and miles to reduce your travel expenses. We spend pennies on the dollar for our family travel due to the responsible use of credit cards and welcome offers,” Lorg said. “We use our credit cards for normal, everyday spending and get rewarded with points/miles that substantially reduce family travel costs to ‘nearly-free.'”
Welcome offers and bonuses, especially from travel rewards cards or cards offered by hotels, can go a long way toward things like free plane tickets and hotel rooms. If you want to keep the welcome offers coming, it’s important to manage your cards well. That includes paying off your balance every month, being mindful of annual fees and keeping up your credit score. Tips and tools for navigating all of this can be found on the Travel Hacking Mom website.
Read: 10 All-Inclusive Resort Hacks That Can Help You Save Big
Stay at Family Hotels
Lorg usually seeks out family friendly hotels, which often have refrigerators, microwaves or kitchenettes so you can prepare your own meals instead of eating out all the time. “Even better, most include breakfast and that definitely saves us a lot of money,” Lorg said. You can further maximize that free breakfast by grabbing fruit or other snacks for later, or throwing together PB&Js for lunch.
Keep your eyes peeled as well for hotels that offer free airport shuttles, parking or laundry services for long trips that can help you pack light to avoid extra airline baggage fees.
It may well be worth it to load up a snack suitcase with all the kids’ favorite munchies. “This saves us a ton of money (and time) when we travel,” Lorg said. This can be especially cost-saving when visiting higher-priced destinations like Hawaii, expensive tourist traps or locations where you may not have easy access to a grocery store.
Lorg says this hack is most effectively deployed when you’re either driving or flying on an airline that doesn’t charge baggage fees (such as Southwest), or with a mileage plan that affords you free bags.
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