10 Ways to Travel Cheap With the Kids

Start planning your next trip and be sure to bring the rugrats, because we’ve found 10 easy ways for you to save big while travelling with the kids.

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Family travel doesn't have to break the bank. In fact, many money-saving travel tricks do double-duty as sanity-saving parenting tips, too. (Think: easing transportation headaches, improving the hominess of accommodations, entertaining kids, etc.) Read on for our top 10 cost-cutting travel tips from family-travel experts.

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Think Sharecation

Reduce costs by travelling with another family, advises Karen Hoxmeier, founder of Mybargainbuddy.com, an online clearance site.

"Plan a vacation with a group of people and rent a home or villa. When you divide the cost among several families, it could be less expensive than a hotel, and you'll have the added benefit of kitchen and laundry," says Hoxmeier.

In most cases, your families will also have more space to spread out, and parents can swap childcare duties so each couple ends up with (free) babysitting so they can spend some time alone.

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Give Kids Their Own Money to Spend

It's counterintuitive, but financial coach Sharon L Nash, author of the Free To Spend financial literacy guide, says when each child or teen gets a daily allotment of cash for food and incidentals, they'll be frugal so as to keep their change.

"A student aged 7 to 23 will spend your money faster than you can give it to them. But as soon as the money becomes theirs, the think-twice-before-spending lightbulb gets switched on," says Nash.

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Think Apps, Not Guide Books

A city guide is only as useful as it is up to date - and as we know, a lot can change in one year. So don't waste $25 on a new guidebook, or even worse, $10 on a used one.

"Families with kids should
 take advantage of free or low-cost travel apps. Many are localized by city and offer insider tips about entertainment, attractions, food and much more," says Jhanell Biggs, the blogger behind teentravelnyc.com.

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Meet the Locals

It's usually cheaper to opt for a European or breakfast-only plan, rather than the full all-inclusive meal plan at many resorts. Then you're free to head off-resort to eat like a local. Tourists are often steered to a destination's higher end establishments (particularly in the developing world), but for an authentic and affordable dining experience, eat at least a couple modest meals where the locals do, be that a night market, noodle shack, taco stand, or family restaurant. Just follow standard hygiene protocols (i.e. Does the cooking area look clean? Is meat kept either chilled or hot, as opposed to room temp?). And always choose the busy place, not the quiet one.

Remember: Price isn't always an indicator of quality.

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Eat Breakfast at Home

Trade restaurant brekkie for eating in at your temporary home, and you'll save big. (And probably have fewer toddler tantrums, too.) Look for an apartment or house rental, or book a hotel room with kitchenette.

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Take Public Transit

"Kids love public transit, and for some cities you won't find a cheaper or more convenient way to get around. Not to mention, it's green as well!" says Corinne McDermott, blogger of havebabywilltravel.com.

In many cities, the public transportation is an attraction in and of itself: Toronto's streetcars, San Francisco's cable cars, Hong Kong's MTR, to name a few.

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Consider Bringing Comfort Foods From Home

If your kid is addicted to specific foods, tuck a few core non-perishables into your luggage before a far-flung trip where they may be expensive, if available at all.

One friend of mine regularly spends extended vacation time on the teensy Caribbean island of Montserrat (population: 5,900), packing her fave Canadian cereal and chips. Why? There are only a few small supermarkets on the island, and packaged foods are shipped in, irregularly, from the US or Britain - and priced through the roof. Her $5 cereal boxes cost a fraction of what she'd pay on the island.

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Pack Your Own Refreshments for the Road

Load a cooler or ice chest so you can avoid marked-up snack bar beverages. "We travel with a collapsible cooler, so we can bring cold drinks and snacks with us to the beach or while sightseeing for the day," says Stacey Corbett, founder of Onetinysuitcase.ca, a Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg-based baby-equipment rental company.

Packing your own snacks is eco-friendly and healthy too, since you can pack reusable water bottles and healthy fresh fruit, rather than buying bottled water or convenience snacks.

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Depart From a U.S. City

As many Canadians living close to the US border have long known, flying out of a US gateway can cut hundreds of dollars from your family's total airfare. This is even more the case, with now-ubiquitous checked-baggage fees. Today, a pre-airport, cross-border road trip may save you an additional couple hundred in avoided baggage fees, if you've booked flights on SouthWest Airlines or JetBlue. Southwest offers two free checked bags, while JetBlue offers one. If possible, fly either carrier out of Seattle, Buffalo or Detroit, and you'll save hundreds on a family vacation.

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Don't Over-Pack

Save baggage fees by packing carry-on bags only. Your back will thank you if you limit yourself to just what's essential. Most family travellers require just one or two interchangeable "fancy" wardrobe pieces for stylish nights out. Use a laundry service (or the hotel sink), to clean your vacation wardrobe as needed.

For most soft-adventure family trips, "technical" gear is unnecessary. Usually lightweight trail running shoes work just as well as hiking boots, and activities like Ziplining and trail hiking can be done in sport sandals. Snorkel gear can be rented on even remote beaches.