Think you can’t afford to travel abroad with your kids? Well, think again! With some smart planning and money saving strategies, your trip abroad can become a reality. I travel internationally with my four children at least once a year (and every now and then alone with my husband), and we are just a regular, middle class family. I do it without going into debt because of the tricks I have learned along the way.
Create a travel budget
Your budget will determine what kind of trip you will take. A family of four can travel to many destinations with a budget of $6,000- $7,000. Don’t let that amount scare you! Of course, trip costs can vary depending on where you are going and how long you plan to stay, but it is possible to raise what you will need over the course of a year or two. My budget is typically 50% travel costs, 25% lodging, and 25% food and activities.
Divide saving for your trip into 3 parts
First, save for the airline tickets. Most international flights are advertised 11 months before departure and the cost remains fairly consistent until 2 months out. You can get a rough idea of what it costs to fly to a certain destination by looking up current flight costs and then start saving for that amount.
After the airline tickets are purchased, start saving for lodging. You should have a general idea of where you want to stay, ie. hotel or airbnb. Since there are typically so many options, I find there is no rush to make reservations more than 6 months out, unless you are looking for something specific.
Once the tickets and hotel have been paid for, you can save for the rest of the trip. As you have already created a budget (see first tip), you know how much this will be.
So, how can you save money?
Dedicate a certain amount to save each month
This is the most valuable tip I can offer. If you can swing it, saving between $100 and $500 a month can have a big impact. Even $20 to $50 can work, it will just take longer to reach your goals. It is important to set the money aside either in an envelope or a special savings account so it is not spent on anything else.
Use “found money”
It happens to all of us: a random rebate comes in the mail or we find $5 in a pair of pants or we get birthday money from grandma. This is “found money” and not allocated for anything. Once I started saving all extra money I came across, I realized just how quickly it added up. You can contribute hundreds of dollars to your travel budget with this simple trick.
Tax return or bonus
If you are someone who gets a tax return or bonus each year, setting aside a certain amount when the check comes in the mail can contribute substantially to your travel budget. Saving 10-20% can affect your bottom line and get you that much closer to your trip.
Save every penny
Every coin we find is put into glass jars. Once they are filled up, I take them to the bank and cash them in. I use this money to pay for travel related items we may need to prepare for the trip, like bathing suits or something for the plane. Usually, such things are not considered when creating the initial budget.
Some ways to make your trip happen sooner
So you have a budget in place and the drive to save. How can you make your trip as affordable as possible?
Plan your trip around cheaper airfare
If you are like me, there are multiple destinations or your bucket list. I usually look up flight costs for various countries to which I want to travel, for the time I want to travel (school break), and will choose the destination based on the most affordable flight.
Also see my previous post on how to find a flight deal.
Become a loyal customer
For every trip we take, at least one ticket is paid for with airline miles. We signed up for a credit card with the largest airline in our area. Many purchases, like gas and groceries, give us double miles. Once we have reached a certain amount of miles, we start planning our next trip. Often, those miles are reciprocal with other airlines. Here are a few of the American airlines who participate:
Also check out some of the credit cards offered by major hotel chains. Many offer a huge sign up bonus and a free night each year.
Find a good deal
Check out the deals offered by organizations you are a member of, like Costco or AAA. You can often find incredible savings on resorts and packages. We recently booked a trip to Costa Rica for a fraction of the cost advertised on the resort’s website.