This is a guest post by Debbie who blogs about traveling with kids at Delicious Baby. She is the expert when it comes to travel, so I highly recommend visiting her for tips for your travels.
Family travel can be expensive, and it seems like the expenses start to add up from the moment you begin to plan your trip. Here are some tips for finding freebies that will help you lower the cost of your trip
- Hotel Freebies Considering two hotels that cost about the same amount of money? Call the hotels directly and see whether the reservations agent is willing to include services that you would otherwise pay for. It’s not uncommon to find marked differences in charges for parking, WiFi, and breakfast, and one hotel just might be willing to give you these services for free in order to win your business.
- Airfare Freebies Many airlines offer free (or cheap) companion tickets to their credit card holders. Though the cards usually carry an annual fee, if you fly the same route or the same airline each year, the companion fares can save you hundreds of dollars each year even after accounting for the credit card fee.
- Make Your Own Travel Toys Search Amazon for “Travel Toys” and you’ll find over 1,700 options, but you don’t need a brand new DVD player or an assortment new, individually wrapped toys to keep your kids busy on an airplane. Instead, check out my suggestions for ten great travel toys you already have at home or look for free printable activities like these paper doll printables or Sanrio train templates
- Bring Your Museum Membership Cards Your local science or art museum just might have a reciprocal agreement with the one in the city you are visiting, and many children’s museums offer discounts to members of a museum in another city. You can check your local museum’s website in advance for information, or ask at the ticket desk at your destination. On our family trip to Chicago, our Seattle Science Center membership got us in for free at the Adler Planetarium, the Chicago Children’s Museum and the Field Museum of Natural History.
- Free Entry Days Many major museums have one day per month when a sponsor picks up the tab for free admission. For example, at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, adult admission is normally $20, but on Friday nights from 4pm – 8pm, the Target Free Friday Nights program means that everyone gets in for free. Check the website of the museum you want to visit for details.
- Read the Local Paper Local newspapers and GoCityKids both list local kids events (many of which are free), and these events can be a memorable part of any vacation. The Pig’s parade in Pike’s Market, the Italian Saint Anthony’s Feast festival in Boston or free “Wiggleworms” concerts at Chicago’s Millennium Park are all great ways to make your vacation more memorable without spending a dime.
- Check With the Local Tourist Bureau Most tourist bureau offices are online now, and many feature coupons to local attractions. For example, Seattle’s tourist office features a wide variety of coupons, including a free youth admission to the popular Boeing Museum of Flight. Sometimes local attractions join together to offer coupon books too, and you can find them by searching google for your destination name + the words “tourist coupons” (e.g. Seattle tourist coupons)
- Get Online for Free Even if your hotel charges for WiFi, there are some great options for getting online for free when you travel. Many hotels offer free WiFi in the lobby and conference room areas even when they charge in the hotel rooms. When that doesn’t work, try the local library or an independent coffee shop.
- Community Resources Community centers, parks, playgrounds and libraries, even in resort towns, can be a great place to entertain the kids for free (or almost free). For example, just outside the exclusive (and expensive) Whistler resort, the Meadow Park Sports Centre offers a heated indoor pool, skate arena, and 4,500 square foot fitness center. The cost is a very reasonable $14 for the entire family. In town, the public library offers regular story times that sometimes include a free craft.
- Freebies to Skip Most articles about family budget travel recommend looking for restaurants where kids eat breakfast for free, but this is one freebie I recommend you skip. Because parents still have to pay, dining out rarely saves money compared with buying a box of cereal, some fruit, and a carton of milk to keep in your hotel room (or finding a hotel that includes breakfast). Even better, you’ll get a quicker start on your day by eating in the room.
Debbie Dubrow is a mother of two (ages 3 1/2 and 2) living in Seattle, WA. Her blog, www.deliciousbaby.com is about traveling with babies, toddlers and kids, and is filled with personal travel stories, family-friendly city guides, and lots of tips and advice for traveling with kids. Her blog post Advantage Rent A Car’s Frightening Car Seats spawned two under-cover news investigations and a sweeping change in corporate policy at a major rental car agency.
Please a comment and tell us what your favorite frugal tip is for traveling with kids. We discovered that our new favorite travel toys are straws – yep, the kind you can get for free at any fast-food chain. They provided a lot of entertainment for our toddlers on the last trip we took.
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