As we are all too familiar with, family travel can get expensive. Even that trip that sounds cheap at first, adds up when you consider you have to multiply it by four, five, six family members. Here are some of the best ways we have found to travel with kids in tow and stay on budget.

1. Travel in the off-season. Often times there is a reason on-season is “on”; however lots of times, it just happens to be when everybody traditionally goes to a destination, or for small distinctions of weather, or such. Shoulder seasons can greatly reduce airfare and hotel prices in destinations. Another ideal attraction of traveling in off-season is that there are less crowds. It greatly alters your travel experiences when you have to fight crowds and wait in long lines to visit attractions or hop on a bus or train. Just watch out for rainy seasons – you don’t want to spend your whole trip huddled in your hotel room waiting for the unending rain to pass.

seamus stonehenge big
Exploring Stonehenge and off-the-beaten path places beyond!

2. Get off the beaten path. Big cities and very touristy areas are the most popular places to travel, but they are also the most expensive. By traveling to lesser traveled destinations, you can save a lot of money and still have a wonderful trip. For example, a hotel in Bath or the Cotswolds, about 1 1/2 hours out of London, will cost about 1/3 of the price of London and you have amazing countryside, small town life and nearby attractions like Stonehenge. Plus, if you want to see the big sites of London, you can always take a day trip.

3. Use airline miles. Even if you don’t travel a lot, you can accrue airline miles through a point system on a credit card (just be sure you pay the balance at every month – even traveling is not worth going into credit card debt for). If you have no miles, don’t despair…most international airlines offer lower prices for kids ages 2 – 11 and under the age of 2, they can travel for as little as 10% of the fare or free depending on the country and route. Also check sites like for deals…we subscribe to their Top 20 weekly email and peruse it for prices. If you plan on visiting more than one country, you may look into a air consolidation firm like who offer great deals on multiple stop air routes.


4. Go local. Local accommodations, restaurant, transportation, etc are much cheaper than the prices you pay to stay at chain hotels, eat at chain restaurants, or take tours booked before you arrive in the country. Another benefit to going local is that you immerse much more in the culture of the place you are visiting. Think about it, if you stay at ABC Hotel from home because the bed is exactly like the one at home, and the set-up and amenities are just like at home, and the people are trained to greet you the same as at home, why leave home? Staying in local guesthouses, eating at local restaurants and riding rickshaws and buses like locals allows you the opportunity to meet and interact with people who live in the destination and really get a feel for life there.


5. Stay for free with home exchange program. has over 40,000 members in hundreds of countries who post their homes in offer to exchange homes with other members. We posted our house on there and instantly got offers to exchange homes with people in Paris, New York, Scotland and more. As with the point above, Home Exchange allows you to better immerse in the local life. By staying in a home, you are in a local neighborhood, and the nice thing is you can “meet” your exchange partners ahead of time through email, Skype, Facetime, etc. So, they will tell the neighbors about you, virtually introduce you, and tell you about the neighborhood, local spots to eat, attractions best suited to you, and insider tips on the destination. Plus, is great for families because you are in a home versus a hotel – that means plenty of room to spread out, and the option to eat some meals in (See below).


6. Eat in. Again, the multiplication factor of eating out with a family of four or five can make eating out expensive, especially in big cities in North America and Europe. So, eating a few meals in can help with the family budget. The best way to do this is through a Home Exchange (see above) or a vacation rental that has a kitchen or at least get a hotel room with a kitchenette and eat breakfast in. When you are eating out, ask your hotel staff or neighbors about local restaurants. They will cost less and give you the opportunity to taste local cuisine. We also make it a point to go to the local farmer’s market where we stock up on fruits, breads and cheeses for lunch or eat at stalls. Not only does it offer the chance to try locals foods, you get to meet and interact with lots of people from the area.

grace omalley castle - small

7. Schedule FREE time. Locals don’t pay exorbitant prices to visit every attraction known to man every day, and neither should you. Yes, you want to visit the tourist sites, after all that’s why you made the trip, but instead of packing your trip with day after day of hefty admission prices, pick a few must-sees and round it out with activities locals enjoy. It will be more relaxing for you and easier on the family travel budget. Think strolling through Italian piazzas, exploring real (no admission price) castles in Ireland, picnics next to sites like the Eiffel Tower, feeding pigeons in town squares and more. Often times, these are also the most memorable part of the trip!

However you cut corners, I do encourage you to plan that family vacation you’ve always dreamed about. Kids grow up in the blink of an eye and, to quote one of our family’s favorite movies “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

Packing can be a challenge with kids, especially with today’s baggage restrictions. But not to worry, over the years we have compiled a list of packing tips to help you along the way…

Check temperatures before you go.’s 10-day forecast allows plenty of time to pack.

Don’t stress: Forgot something? Buy it when you get there. Remember every country has babies and kids, which means every country has supplies for babies and kids. It may not be your exact brand, but sometimes you will discover something even better!

Involve your kids in packing their bags: They feel the anticipation for the trip. They take responsibility: You are not blamed for what’s brought along (and what’s left behind!).

Roll clothes: To save room, prevent wrinkles and keep us organized without having to think about it on the road, we roll each outfit together and wrap it with a piece of masking tape. We even put the date on it (but we’re filming so we have to be super organized). That way we can just hand the day’s bundle to each kid and be done!

Travel Cubes: We love travel cubes (we got them at Travel Smith)…not only do they keep us organized and save space (they can be compacted by zipping a second zipper closed), they make it easier with kids. How? Each person in our family is assigned a color and all of their clothes go in their colored cube. No fighting about whose shirt it is…if it’s in your color cube, you can wear it. Makes getting ready in the mornings much easier! And helps keeps clothes organized on the road!

Carry-On: A two day supply of necessities in case of delayed luggage including swimsuits if you are going somewhere tropical. You don’t want to miss a whole day of vacation waiting for your luggage, or have to purchase expensive clothes at the resort. It’s a good idea to buy travel insurance in case luggage does get lost or delayed, then the insurance company foots the bill for replacing the clothes, etc.

Contacts: List of email addresses (and physical addresses if you want to send postcards) so the kids can keep in touch with friends back home. Ask your child’s teacher about getting credit for sending the class pictures and travel journals from the road. It will lighten their make-up work and helps the class learn about a ne destination along with your child!

Packing Lists: Here are some sample packing lists for each child in some of the destinations we have visited. For special tips on packing for cold weather: see

Packing List: One Week: Tropics Packing List: One Week: Cold Weather Special Considerations: For Babies
– 3 – 4 pairs convertible shorts/pants
(with zip-on legs to convert to pants for jungle activities) OR combination of shorts/skorts and long linen/cotton pants (you want some long pants for mosquito protection)
– 6 t-shirts/tank tops
– 2 collared cotton/linen layering long-sleeve shirts
– 1 – 2 light cotton dresses for girls
– 1 light sweater/sweatshirt
– 1 light rain jacket
– 2 pairs pajamas
– 6 pairs underwear
– 3 pairs of socks
– 2 pairs of shoes:
– 1 sturdy hiking shoe/1 nice sandal/1 pair flip flops
– Large bag to store dirty clothes
– Sunscreen (AAP recommends SPF 30+)
– Bug repellent
– 2 bathing suits/swim shirts
– Wide brim sun hat
– Sunglasses
– 3 pair fleece/denim pants
– 1 pair rain/outer pants
– 3 t-shirts/undershirts
– 3 long sleeve t-shirts
– 1 rain/outer jacket
– 1 down jacket
– 2 fleece sweatshirts
– 2 pairs of warm pajamas
– 7 pairs of underwear
– 2 pairs of wicking long underwear
– 4 pairs of wicking socks
– 2 pairs wool socks
– 1 pair of boots/1 pair of tennis shoes
– A couple large bags for dirty clothes
– Sunscreen (AAP recommends SPF 30+)
– 1 bathing suit (you never know!)
– 2 warm hats
– Sunglasses
– Umbrella
– Scarf and gloves
– Diapers/pull-ups/swim diapers
– Baby: 8/day, Toddler: 6/day. Don’t forget swim diapers for the pool!
– Some pools do not allow babies with swim diapers. Check with your hotel!
– Baby Food
– Pack plastic jars in a large plastic bag in case they leak
– Rural areas can be limited in baby food choices, so make sure to pack enough to get your through a stock up in a big city.
– TIP: Many baby foods now come in bags with spout dispensers – great for travel! Try
– Formula
– Pack serving size in zip lock bags (2 scoops in a bag for 8 oz. bottle) for easy bottle prep on the road.
– TIP: Similac sells single serve packages on Internet.
– Bottles & Pacifiers
– 2 – 3 bottles, box of liners, and 5 nipples (Disposable liners lessen bottle washing/sterilizing,
which can be difficult on the road) For plane, prepare 2 bottles with liners & dry formula.
Ask  flight attendant for warm water to add to it.

A small first aid kit is always a good idea when traveling with kids. Here’s what we put in ours:

– Unbreakable kid’s thermometer
– Children’s Antihistamine and Regular Strength for older kids and adults
– Children’s Tylenol or Motrin and Regular Strength for older kids and adults
– 12 meduim bandaids
– 12 small bandaids
– 6 gauzes (3 large, 3 medium)
– Medical Tape
– Antiseptic Wipes
– Antibiotic Creme (like Neosporne)
– Anti-Itch Creme (like Cortisone) or spray (like Benadryl)
– Tweezers
– Second Skin (Blister Treatment)