Traveling with kids is stressful enough without tacking on the worry of spending a fortune for fun in the sun (or on the slopes, or wherever you’d like to take your kids). If vacationing with your kids is something you’d like to do in the near future, here are seven things you can do to cut the price tag.
1. Travel as Much as Possible Before Your Kids Turn 2
I didn’t know this before I had a kid myself, but if your child is under the age of two and you’re willing to hold them in your lap for the duration of your flight (known as a “lap child”), they’ll fly for free within the U.S., Canada, Mexico and most of the Caribbean.
If you’ll be flying internationally, be sure to check the airline’s policy, although most allow lap infants to fly for free if they’re under two (one per adult). Be sure to show proof of your child’s age at check-in — their shot record or a copy of birth certificate will do — or you may have to pay for a seat.
2. Call the Airline to Ask About Discounts
If you’ll be flying internationally or your kid is over two — or even if they’re not, but you’d prefer to not hold them in your lap — it’s worth calling the airline to ask if they offer any discounts on kids’ tickets. For example, Southwest only offers Infant fares through a Southwest Customer Representative.
3. Research Ahead of Time
A little research can go a long way when you’re traveling with kids. If you purchase tickets for museum visits, theme parks or other attractions online, you can often do a quick online search to find promo and discount codes to use at checkout.
For example, purchasing a Disney World one-day ticket online will cost you $59, as opposed to $117 at the gate. That’s a big savings. Be sure to research what attractions will be free no matter what. For example, MoMA admission is free for kids 16 and under, and the Denver Art Museum is free to kids 18 and under every day. (Is Disney World your destination? Check out these suggestions on how you can visit Disney World for free — or close to free, anyway.)
4. Skip the Car Rental
Depending on your kids’ ages and how much you plan to bring, skipping the rental car might not always be feasible or helpful. But if you can take public transportation, you’re bound to save a ton of money. Besides, riding the New York City subway or the cable car in San Francisco will be an adventurous activity in and of itself.
5. See What You Can Borrow From the Hotel
Packing is another area where you can save some cash, especially if you’ll be flying. While some of your baby goods, like strollers and car seats, can be checked for free, if you need to pack multiple bags, you’ll likely pay dearly in baggage fees. Instead, call your hotel or apartment rental and find out if there’s a Pack and Play you can use and if there’s laundry on site. If there is and it’s not a fortune, it might be worth packing less.
6. Ask About Special Discounts
It’s always a good idea to look online or call your hotel to ask about discounts. For example, military personnel, teachers, seniors and large groups often get discount options.
7. Pack a Great Rewards Card
If your rewards card isn’t giving you tons of cash back or travel points, it might be time to find a new one. (Be sure to check your credit before you apply to see if you’ll qualify. You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)
My husband and I just signed up for a new travel rewards credit card that offers a sizable bonus after spending a given amount in the first few months and we know it will be easy to hit that, as we’re remodeling our basement. And the bonus is enough to pay for vacation flights, especially because our toddler flies free. California, here we come!