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Nine Tips for How You Can Afford to Travel as a Family

We have incorporated our children into our travels from the very beginning. When Raeca was not quite a year we started planning our trip to Uganda and never even though of not bringing her, it was just a given. And because we adopted Ephraim from South Africa he was on a plane not long after becoming our son.

While they have a long way to go before being world travelers they (especially Raeca) have traveled a decent amount, more than a lot of adults I know.


How to afford and budget for family travel

Watching the monkey grab food out of the bird feeder in South Africa.



There is something really special about traveling with your kids. Last month was actually our first getaway without the kids and while we had a good time it was definitely different traveling without them and we hope to go to Phoenix again in the near-ish future with them.

Traveling with kids can open up special opportunities (like the short line in airport security) and often makes locals more friendly – both great bonuses!

There is also something extraordinary about being able to see a city through the eyes of a child, they will often see things I would have otherwise missed.


How to afford and budget for family travel

Holding hands on a crazy public bus ride in Mexico.



I’ve learned something about myself over the last few years: I love visiting new places but I don’t actually enjoy the act of traveling to those places. Maybe I’m getting old but I’d rather sleep in my own bed than across four seats in an airport or in a plane with my mouth open and my head bobbing around.

This realization that I don’t enjoy the actual travel so much has made me realize that in the future I want us to be more intentional with slow travel. Fortunately/unfortunately, slow travel involves staying in one place for longer which can end up eating more budget than doing things quickly.

While our kids are good travelers, slow travel just makes even more sense when kids are involved. Oh, and if you factor in our food sensitivities, that’s another point in the slow travel column.


How to afford and budget for family travel - 9 tips for affording family travel


I am not the most well traveled person, and my bucket list is longer than the list of places I’ve been but I’ve learned a few things over the years, especially on the budget side of things so I thought I would share some of the things that have been working for us.

Because, the more money you can save 1) the longer you can go or 2) the more places you can go to!

One of my big dreams has always been to travel Europe, and while I would like to go to every country, that’s not possible right now, especially if we want to travel slowly, so, last year Jared and I both picked a country we wanted to visit and started the savings. These following tips are ones we are applying to this trip, it’s a combination of all we’ve learned over the years.


How to afford and budget for family travel

Meeting one of the boys we sponsored in Uganda.


We don’t actually create a separate account but we use a zero based budget (we have used YNAB for years and years), so we’ve set a “Europe” savings and have been funneling money into there as much as possible for the last nine-ish months and will continue to do so until we go.

Our zero based budget helps keep us (imagine this:) on budget. It also helps our savings to grow quite quickly because we know what our priorities are.



If you want to have the money to travel one way is to spend less money! Find something that you buy each month and stop buying that for awhile and put that money into your savings instead. See if you can find a few different things like this that can add up to $50-$100+ a month and you will be well on your way. (This is where that budget and designated savings come in play.)


How to afford and budget for family travel



I have friends who have taken on a second job to save for a trip, I’m thankful that I can use a fair amount of the money I make from blogging to help us with our travel savings. Earning extra money can help give your savings a significant boost.

(Curious about how to earn money from blogging? I just started a series on this topic and plan on continuing it over the next few weeks, so stay tuned! You can always sign up to the newsletter to be notified of the series as well.)

Another way to earn a little extra is through a site like Swagbucks, it is mostly an online rewards program but there are other ways to earn through there as well. You won’t get rich through Swagbucks but it will save you a little money (you can even earn money back from the trips that you book!).

Yet another way to make a bit of extra income is to sell stuff that you own that you aren’t using, there could be enough stuff in your house for a few nights extra at your destination.


How to afford and budget for family travel

Watching a man shuck oysters on the beach in Mexico.



If you want to save money on your flights, accommodation, etc, it’s best if you are flexible either with your dates or the location you are going to. I like to use Google Flights and am constantly looking for good deals (for us and others), I like to either choose dates and see what is cheap during that time or choose a location and see which dates are cheapest for travel.



Airlines are charging for every little thing these days and your bags are just one of the things. If you travel with just carry-ons you will save yourself money and it honestly makes traveling way easier – no more waiting in line at the baggage carousel! We’ve been burned in the past by luggage the airline lost and never found, ever since then we’ve flown with carry-ons only.


How to afford and budget for family travel

Chatting with the boys in Uganda.



You may think we are part hobbits when you see how much we like our snacks (second breakfast and elevenses are a must). Airplane and airport food is notoriously greasy and/or expensive. We always try to pack some of our own snacks (nuts, crackers, granola bars, etc). They keep you from getting too hangry while waiting around in the airport.

I definitely did not pack enough snacks on our last trip and paid $20 for a tiny pack of pistachios in the airport, they know they can get you when you are weak (literally).



This isn’t something we used to do but ever since food sensitivities became an issue, cooking our own meals almost became a necessity. We quickly realized how much better we felt cooking our meals and how much healthier we ate. While it doesn’t feel like a “vacation” when we are cooking it is still an experience. Plus, if you go to the local grocery store or market you can check out the different food options they have. As Canadians it can still be weird to go into an American grocery store, you think all the food would be the same but just walk down the chip aisle and you will see how different things are, never mind going into a store or market when on a different continent.


Downtown Phoenix - where to stay, where to eat and what to do

Our Stay Alfred in Phoenix (to the left was a full kitchen).



Not staying in a hotel goes hand-in-hand with cooking your own meals. Have you tried to cook a meal in a hotel before? Let’s just say, I wouldn’t recommend it. We’ve enjoyed Airbnb (if you use that link to book you’ll get a credit towards a stay!) and Stay Alfred and in the future I would love to try some house sitting.



Instead of doing all the touristy things in a location, live like a local! Touristy things like zip lines and tours eat up a budget really quickly but wandering around old neighborhoods and browsing used bookstores can actually teach you a lot more about a city and save you money (unless you have a used book buying addiction like I do, in that case you will need to remember #5: carry-on’s only, so you don’t break your back).


How to afford and budget for family travel

Exploring a residential neighborhood in California.


All this writing about travel has made me excited about our upcoming Europe trip (date still TBD), I better get busy finishing up the savings so it can happen!

If you have a minute I would love for you to leave a comment below and let me know your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to and/or what is on the top of your to-travel bucket list.

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  1. When traveling Europe you will save money by picking a destination to fly to and then book flights or drive. And you see a lot more if you drive. We went to Poland and the rental was very reasonable

    1. Yes, great idea, Colleen! We plan on flying into the cheapest airport in Europe and then taking trains to the cities we want to visit.

  2. We did Paris (which was probably my favourite) and a European cruise which I found to be very economical. We did spend more on shore excursions but got to see lots of places and things in a short time and cruises are pretty inexpensive when you consider its your lodging, food and transportation from one place to another. I’d love to go back and do more of the European countries.

    1. I was just looking up flights to Paris yesterday, it’s definitely on our list (and there are currently some really decent flight prices flying directly to Paris). I think a European cruise would be very interesting, it’s one way to hit a number of countries/cities in a fairly short amount of time.

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