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Planning Cheap Family Vacations | H&R Block

August 2, 2016 : Jeannette Kaplun – Guest Contributor

Planning a family vacation can be an exciting, yet daunting task, especially if you’re trying to save as much money as you can. Travel expenses can quickly add up, but the good news is that with a bit of planning, you can go on a family vacation that won’t break the bank. Here are five tips to consider when planning cheap family vacations :

1 – Make the most of award travel.

If you have frequent flier miles, credit card rewards points or hotel loyalty points, make sure to use them! Everything adds up. Also, keep in mind many loyalty programs allow you to transfer points from hotels to airlines and vice versa, which comes in handy when you’re missing just a few to qualify for that free night or flight. Some hotel loyalty programs even allow you to use your points to pay for your incidentals.

2 – Plan ahead.

It really pays off to plan weeks and months in advance. Usually you’ll find the lowest airfare price 21 days prior to your travel dates. There are great tools to monitor air tickets; just sign up for alerts on airfare price-monitoring sites like Kayak, AirfareWatchdog or FareCompare. Keep in mind that if you plan on using frequent flier miles, there can be limited availability for award travel, so book as far in advance as possible (up to 11 months in many cases) to get the dates you want. However, traveling on an airplane isn’t always the best option. If you have a large family, it might make more sense to plan a road trip instead of spending money on airfare.

3 – Think about breakfast.

When you’re choosing a hotel for your family, a complimentary breakfast is a huge bonus. Several resorts and hotel chains offer free breakfast, but not all, so do not assume meals are included. Always ask or check hotel amenities when booking! Also, many hotel loyalty programs will provide complimentary breakfast for elite-level guests. Another option is to make your own breakfast in your room, but you will need to get food from a local store. If your hotel does not offer small fridges, buy single serve milk boxes that are shelf-stable.

4- Take advantage of free local events and activities.

It’s important to plan fun activities for the kids, but it can really put a dent in your budget. Thankfully there are plenty of things to do that are free! Museums, art festivals and parks are great options. If you have a student ID, take it with you, because you may get reduced or complimentary passes.

5- Don’t forget to make a budget for meals.

When feeding a family, we all know how quickly it adds up. As soon as you arrive at your destination, stop at a local store to purchase snacks, cereal, water and other essentials that can keep “hanger” at bay. You can also make your own sandwiches for your day trips, or take fresh fruit. If breakfast is not included in your hotel, buy cereal, disposable plates and milk to feed your kids before you head out. (Pro Tip: Usually stores inside the hotels are overpriced. Also, steer clear of minibars and any snacks in your room; not only are the prices ridiculous, but you also will be paying extra fees that are hidden in fine print.)

A family vacation is worth every penny. You will create priceless memories with your little ones, while also providing the opportunity to explore different cities, cultures and customs.

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