Last month I jetted off to Amsterdam for a week to visit friends, this week we’re heading to Charleston as a family and early next year we’re traveling to Oahu with Corey’s family. But how are we taking all these trips when we’re on a pretty strict budget? I thought I’d share some of the ways we’re able to make these trips happen while not breaking the bank. Because we could all use a little more vacation in our lives, right?
Use an airline and/or hotel credit card: Some people are really scared of credit cards, but there’s no reason to be. We have two major credit cards we use to make every purchase we possibly can. Then, at the end of every month we pay off the cards. We never pay interest and we reap the benefits — free flights, hotels, etc! Here are the ones we use:
Hyatt Chase Visa: When you sign up for a Hyatt Visa you get 40,000 points to use at any Hyatt worldwide. At the time Corey I opened our cards back in 2013 they were offering two nights at any Hyatt property worldwide when you signed up. That’s how we stayed at the Hyatt in Kauai for four nights (for our babymoon) completely free! Then, each year you have your card you get one free night at a Category 4 hotel or lower. This is how we did our really fun Portland staycation this summer — totally free — and how we will be getting one room for one night in Charleston totally free. Using this card we’ve stayed at the Andaz Maui, Hyatt Carmel Hylands, Andaz Napa, Hyatt Paris Etoille, the Grand Hyatt Kaui and soon the Hyatt House Charleston completely and totally free — and we still have lots of points we can use for future vacations! The yearly fee is $75, so we’ve now gone down from each having one card to sharing one joint card.
Alaska Airlines Visa: We had only our Hyatt Visa up until earlier this year when Alaska Air was running a new promotion for their companion fare. Typically, you get one companion ticket a year for $100 + the cost of taxes and fees. But this year they waived the $100 fee, so if you bought one ticket somewhere you could add another ticket on just for the price of taxes and fees. This is how we are flying all four of us to Oahu next year for under $300 a person (!!!). We used our own companion fare + my mom has an Alaska card and wasn’t going to be using her companion fare this year, so we lucked out! We’re also flying out one way to Charleston on miles, so combining that with the great airfare we found we are flying there for next to nothing!
Find Cheap Airfare: There are a few sites and apps I use to find cheap airfare and even track prices and get alerts when prices drop:
Hopper App: In this app you can search for flights and the app will tell you if the price for the flight is so good that you should purchase now, or if it will likely go down so it’s best to wait. The vast majority of the time their predictions are spot on. My favorite functionality in this app is that you can “watch” flights — you put in dates and destinations and the Hopper App will send you an alert on your phone when the price is right! This is how I flew to Amsterdam for $500. I actually found even cheaper tickets (around $460), but the timing didn’t work out, but that is an insane deal! For deals that good you literally need to book within an hour or so, otherwise the price disappears.
Kayak.com: I’ve used Kayak for years — this site searches flight prices from many airlines and sites and consolidates all the options into one search query so you can make sure you are buying the cheapest flight possible. But what I really love about Kayak is their newish “Explore” feature. Let’s say you know you want to take a family vacation in the month of February, but you’re not dead set on a certain destination. You put in the airport you want to fly out of, when you’d like to travel (can be “Thanksgiving Weekend” or “February 2018” or “President’s Day Weekend”, etc etc.) and how long you’d like to travel for and then Kayak will show you where you can fly for how much. Such a nifty feature when you’re on a budget — it really helps you maximize where you can go without spending a lot of money.
Skyscanner: This site is nearly identical to Kayak, but for whatever reason I used it a lot more when we lived in Europe. Just another site that is worth checking out when you are booking travel — especially within Europe!
And here’s a tip when booking plane travel — sometimes it is more cost efficient to book two one ways on different airlines. Try to get sneaky with how you book things, you’d be surprised how much money you can save!
Find Cheap Lodging: Travel with a Group / Take advantage of Airbnb/Homeaway/Kid&Coe, etc:
I’ve discovered it’s actually not that hard to find cheap airfare places, but it’s almost always hard to find affordable, but great, lodging. I will admit I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to where we stay. If I feel like a place isn’t clean or in a sketchy part of town it totally kills my vibe. This is another reason I love our Hyatt card, we have been nothing but impressed with all the hotels we’ve stayed at. Another great option (especially with multiple kids) is renting through home rental sites like Airbnb, Homeaway and Kid&Coe (specifically geared toward families). This can make your trip a lot more affordable since you’ll most likely have a kitchen you can use to cook at least a few meals. Bonus if you can travel with additional people and can split the cost! You can really get affordable housing this way!
Some people feel uncomfortable with the idea of renting someone else’s house, but we have done it many times (in Paris, Madrid, Switzerland, Los Angeles and many more) with great success, so we are big fans! We’re using Homeaway to rent an awesome, big home with a pool in Oahu (which I’ll share after we stay, for security reasons). We have yet to book with Kid&Coe, but love that their homes are specifically geared toward families — so many/most come with cribs, toys, etc!
I am sure there are tons of other ways you can travel as a family on a budget, but these are the things that have worked for us! If you have any tried-and-true methods I am all years — comment below!