How to reduce costs when traveling as a family

Many families would love to take off for an extended tour around the world, but can’t figure out a way to manage it financially. In reality, with a bit of creative thinking you most likely can manage a long trip with your family. Here are some tips to make it happen.

The three most expensive parts of any travel are housing, food, and getting from point A to point B. If you can figure out how to minimize those costs, your daily budget suddenly starts looking much more realistic.


Traveling in a bus

Traveling in bus may the cheapest way to get from Point A to Point B, but it still adds up

Minimizing the amount of transporting you do will save you lots of money. Slow travel is the key to do this.

Rather than attempting to see and do everything in the world, focus on one small region. If you stay in Central America or SE Asia for six months or more, you won’t be paying much for planes or long bus trips. Instead, delve into the culture and history of that small area.


Rather than staying in hotels, arrange a homestay or rent an apartment for a month or three. It’s much cheaper than hotels and will generally get you off the beaten track and into a regular neighborhood – and you’ll meet more locals to boot.

Remember that there are many levels of hotels available in the world. You don’t need to stay at 5-star spas. Staying at local Ma & Pa hotels is frequently a much more rewarding experience than going the luxury route.


Meal time

Eating in restaurants may be cheaper than cooking your own food. Be sure to check it out.

Depending on where you are, it may be cheaper to prepare your own meals. You can carry a small campstove to set up in your hotel room if there isn’t one available.

Be aware that, in some parts of the world, you will be able to eat out at local restaurants (avoid the big tourist restaurants) for significantly less than you can cook. Before you dismiss restaurants as too expensive, be sure to check them out.

I asked other family travelers for their best tips for keeping costs down. Here’s what they have to say.

Susan Whitehead – live as much like the locals as possible
Amy Hagstrom Whitley – Our favorite (easy) way to save money daily is to bring our own water bottles everywhere we go. Drink prices add up!
Jennifer Douma Close – If we aren’t in a hotel that includes breakfast, we always bring breakfast with us when we travel (fruit, cereal boxes, oatmeal that can be microwaved, or something just as easy to travel with). It limits the number of meals we have to eat at restaurants.
Dana Hoffman Ellis – We never take a taxi, always walk or bus.
Jessica Bowers – We take food with us when we travel to avoid restaurant costs-precooked meals when we car travel and prepackaged stuff for overseas travel.
Sarah Vernetti – We try to combine trips. For instance, if we go to visit family, we use that destination as a jumping off point to explore others.
Corinne McDermott – We manage to avoid renting a car most places by staying near to where we’ll be spending the most time – the beach. While beachfront accommodations may cost more initially, we save on car rentals, taxis or transit + the time saved by not lugging everything to and from is invaluable.

Travel simply and it will encourage you to get to know more local people – and isn’t that why you’re traveling in the first place?

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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3 Responses to How to reduce costs when traveling as a family

  1. wellness coach December 29, 2011 at 2:05 am #

    These are great suggestions!! We never did a homestay ourselves, but hosted Japanese exchange students for a long while. It was an incredibly rewarding experience for us all, and I recommend anyone interested in staying in Japan arrange a homestay ( or anywhere else!) to absorb more of the culture and mores.

  2. veronica lee December 29, 2011 at 2:31 am #

    Hi! Stopping by from MBC. Great blog!
    Have a nice day!


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