Planning a Family Vacation: 8 Ways to Save on Transportation

Transportation is probably the most expensive part of any vacation. Airfare, rental cars, taxis, ferry’s, these all cost money and when you have a family can become expensive quickly. There are plenty of ways to save money on the transportation piece of the vacation puzzle. Like Tiffany at Mommy And Me Travels says “saving money on transportation is like art; you must have patience and creativity.” Read these eight ways to save money on transportation that I have compiled from myself and several other experienced travelers from around the globe. Start saving so you can keep traveling!

Airfare

Plane tickets are so expensive, but plane tickets for a family can be outrageously expensive. But don’t worry because we have compiled some great ways to save on transportation, especially those plane tickets. There are really so many options available for trying to find deals on airfare that it might be a little overwhelming. Use the following ideas to get great deals for your next family vacation:

Airplan wing flying over clouds

Skyscanner

“Saving a few dollars on each plane ticket can add up to hundreds of dollars saved when traveling with a big family. With that in mind, the best trick I have discovered to find savings when booking is using Skyscanner’s ‘Whole Month’ function. This enables the user to compare and choose the cheapest day in the entire month to fly.” This advice is from Kris and Brian, they are totally fun-loving Australians on an international gap year with their 4 kids while world-schooling and documenting every step on their blog Gadsventure. “Skyscanner is a fantastic tool and I use it to research prices every time I look for international tickets. Another great tip when using Skyscanner is to search using an incognito window so your cookies are not being used and prices remain low. Hit Shift+command+n to go incognito on Apple, or shift+control+n on a PC.”

Google Flights

Deborah is a California-based environmental educator, polyglot and mother of two adventurous kids. Her family travel blog www.worldwisekid.com inspires educational discussions around the globe. She likes to use Google Flights and has some great advice on using this tool to save you money. “A favorite research tool is Google Flight to follow prices on different airlines and understand the options. Airline websites offer the low-price calendar and the route map to compare dates and locations. We save money by choosing the no frills, low-cost airlines, traveling with carry-on backpacks, and bringing our own food, water, and entertainment.” She also knows that “researching and choosing the lowest cost options takes energy and time, but results in a higher quality travel experience.”

Shannon at Grab My Passport says that “if we can’t drive, we try to use airline miles and tools like Skyscanner or Google Flights to find the best airfare deals. Then, we pack as light as possible to avoid luggage fees.” This is a great tip Shannon because we all know that those luggage fees can really come as a surprise. Even the kids can pack their own bags with things to keep them entertained on the flight. This can help them get excited about the adventure of traveling on an airplane.

Rewards Credit Cards

Regina Kay is a world-schooling mother of five, full-time global explorer, and travel writer at fulltimefieldtrip.com where she brings you real-world tips to make your life easier and your travels exceptional. She offers some great advice on ways to save on transportation by redeeming reward points. “I focus my money-saving energy on reducing the cost of plane tickets. The absolute best way to save here is to redeem reward points for FREE fares. That’s not always a possibility. My next best tip is. Drum-roll please. Break up your airfare into two separate reservations.”

Regina also says that “ticket pricing is often tiered by the number of seats reserved. So when you move from a party of two to a party of four, your price increases. To combat this, you can make two reservations rather than one and get a cheaper rate. It can be super tricky to make two reservations at the same time. We’ve made plenty of mistakes. You may need separate devices and separate credit cards to be successful. But as a family of seven, we save tons of money this way.”

Annette at Tips From A Typical Mom agrees that using rewards points can save you money on flights. She shares her insight, “let’s start with the flight. Did you know that flight prices are not going to fluctuate that much between the airlines and sites like Expedia, Priceline and Agoda because the airlines just don’t discount their airfare that often? And when they do, they have about the same rates as everyone else. So the best way to get good deals on flights is to get an airline credit card and earn free flights.” Annette is a wife and mom of 5 who writes the blog Tips From a Typical Mom where she shares family friendly recipes, parenting tips, family activities, and travel and product reviews.

Rental Cars

There are plenty of ways to get around once you reach your destination. Renting a car is just one option, but it is a popular one. Having your own transportation can be great, but it’s also expensive. Shannan at Captivating Compass says that “while it can be a complete sensory overload to drive in a foreign country, it is also one of the least expensive and most time efficient ways to get around most countries, especially if you want to get out of the city and explore sights off-the-beaten-path.” Read more from Shannan at Captivating Compass where she blogs about learning on location using the world as your textbook.

A vehicle parked near a mountain top.

Shannan also shares that “many major car rental companies in Europe have one-way rentals that are very affordably priced (ie: 2 GBP/day in the UK!), if you are willing to drive a specific vehicle back into a more popular city or airport. In the UK, returning a car from Scotland to London helps out the rental company, since more people fly into London than anywhere else in the UK. For helping the rental company out, they offer ridiculously cheap rental fees and then you just pay for your own petrol. It’s a genius way to save big on in-country transportation in Europe!”

Annette says that “unless I am staying in an all inclusive resort that we won’t be leaving, I always rent a car. My family loves to drive around and see everything there is to see in the area we are visiting and it’s just so much easier to have your own form of transportation.” This is so true. Having your own transportation makes getting around less stressful, plus you can control the schedule. She also shares “there are a lot of discount places you can rent cars through, like Costco, AAA, AARP, and wholesalefamilytravel.com. My friend saved about $650 over the Costco price on Wholesale Family Travel when renting a car for their trip to Hawaii, so that’s something to look into.”

Uber and Lyft Are Great Ways to Save on Transportation

Sometimes renting a car isn’t necessary. Maybe you just need a ride somewhere close by or only over to your hotel. This is when the wonderful, fairly new, convenient Uber or Lyft service comes in handy. It is available in most large cities and maybe even some smaller ones too. Kirsty at World For A Girl shares with us “Grab is Asia’s Uber,” so it’s something that is available even in other countries.

Kirsty is a British family travel blogger currently living in sunny Malaysia. She has traveled to over 100 countries, including 25 with her young children. Her family travel blog “World for a Girl” takes a unique look at traveling the world whilst uncovering women’s history and global feminist issues. She tells us that “at the moment, we’re based in Malaysia. If you’re coming out to this part of the world, my biggest family travel tip is to download the Grab app on your phone.” This is one of the ways to save on transportation because “fares are really cheap AND you can pay the driver cash.” She recommends to “think twice before using tuk-tuks and rickshaws. They’re mostly used by tourists now and drivers often demand exorbitant prices.”

Two kids and their mom in a tuk-tuk.

If you are looking for a way to save even more Annette at Tips From A Typical Mom shares her secret to getting great deals on Uber. “If you are planning on taking an Uber, you can get some pretty good discounts through Groupon if purchased ahead of time. The most important thing to think about though is that your whole family stays safe, so bring or rent a proper car seat for your littles. You won’t regret it!” She highly recommends that “for the little ones who still need a booster seat, use the MiFold. It’s a tiny little booster seat that can fit right in a diaper bag or large purse.”

Take the Train

Tiffany from Mommy And Me Travels is always excited to discover new ways to save money when traveling. On her blog, https://mommyandmetravels.com, she regularly shares inspirational ideas on transportation and how to make your dollar stretch further. She says that her family “likes to think outside the box (be creative) when finding ways to save money. Instead of flying, look at taking the train/Amtrak to your next adventure location. This will add to your children’s enjoyment on the trip. In many cases, you can buy a first class train ticket for a fraction of the cost of a plane ticket. This means, if you buy a regular class train ticket, you can save even more money and you’ll still have the enjoyment of relaxing and socializing while traveling.”

Family standing in front of a train.

“Of course, this only works if you are staying on the same continent. But if you are looking to save money, staying on the same continent will usually save you on the cost of a flight or allow you to consider taking the train.” The train is a unique way to travel Tiffany. For kids, the train seems like a great way for them to enjoy traveling to your vacation destination. Watching the scenery pass by while they stare out the window or being able to get up and move around are both benefits of taking the train. And of course, if it saves your family money it is definitely a win-win for everybody.

Kids sitting on a train.

Drive Yourself

“There are so many ways to save on transportation. Personally, we try to drive to as many places as we can, if time allows. Not only can you save time by driving, but you can cut the costs of needing a rental car or taxis, plus you can pack your own snacks and other items you may have had to buy if you flew to your destination.” This money saving tip comes from Shannon at Grab My Passport. She says that with the cost of flights these days they rarely fly anywhere. I can totally relate to this. We chose to travel in our RV because plane tickets for a family of five don’t leave much in the budget for fun and entertainment.

Shannon Elizabeth is the creator and voice behind Grab My Passport, a family-focused travel blog. She wants you to know that “road trips can be fun, even with little kids. Just be sure you are properly prepared and enjoy the ride!” Melissa Temple is a disability travel blogger who loves Disney. She says that “we normally drive to our destination because it does tend to be a less expensive choice for us. If you’re also driving, try gasbuddy.com to check gas prices. Normally we don’t fly, so we have our car. This means that we will not need to use a taxi service.” Which is always a great way to save on transportation Melissa.

Parking

If you are driving to your vacation destination you will most likely have to deal with parking. Finding deals on parking is not as easy as some of the other types of transportation. Most parking garages don’t list their prices online and parking meters never do. When we first started our full-time traveling adventure we were not accustomed to paying for parking. This is because we are from a small town where paid parking is non-existent.

A little girl standing in front of a car parked by a parking meter.

So then, how do we find ways to save on parking? First, we read lots of Google reviews. If you read enough of them you can find the ones where people mention the price. Parking garages can be run by the city, county, or privately owned. This makes it so that the prices can vary between them quite a bit. Check all of them in the area to find the best deal.

Second, we ask the locals. They usually know the best parking garages or even where you can park for free. If you are willing to walk, you can sometimes find free parking. It is often found a few blocks from downtown or major attractions in the city. In Washington DC we found a great place to park by asking a local policeman, it was half the cost of many of the other choices in town.

Walking

Kids Walking

Sarah at Dandelion Seeds says that “rather than spending money on a car rental (and car insurance) or taxis, I walk absolutely everywhere that’s safe.” Sarah is a published writer, positive parenting educator, wellness advocate, and world traveler, she shares her passions on her blog, www.dandelion-seeds.com. She knows that “although I don’t save time walking, I do save money on transportation.”

Walking can be a little tricky when you have small children, but Sarah has some great advice to assist with that problem. “When my kiddo was smaller, I’d put her in a good carrier with a 45-pound weight limit to keep my walking easy. It lasted for years.” Walking is also a great way to “find local cafés and grocery stores, and save money on restaurant costs, too,” says Sarah. Walking is definitely a great way to really experience a new place.

Complimentary Shuttle

Anytime something is “complimentary” or free, I try to take advantage of it if at all possible. Yamy at Gofamgo agrees and reminds us that “most hotels offer complimentary airport transfers or have some form of shuttle service for a small fee.” She knows that family travel can be stressful. “A complimentary shuttle service from your hotel gives you one less thing to worry about, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the locality. Ensure that you communicate your needs to the hotel prior to arrival. Let them know how many are in your traveling party and when to expect you.” This is great advice Yamy. By planning ahead you can make sure your vacation is the best it can possibly be.

Using a shuttle bus is another ways to save on transportation


We all know that going to Disneyland can be expensive. There are ways to save on transportation though and Yamy shares her insight. “One way to save money while in Disney is to make use of their Disney Magical Express, a free shuttle service from Orlando International Airport to their resorts. They also have other forms of transportation like the ferry, the monorail and the bus within the campus.” This is great to know Yamy for those of us that have been putting off a trip to Disney because of the expense.

8 Ways to Save on Transportation

Whether you are traveling abroad or staying here in the US, these are some great money saving tips. No matter how you end up at your next vacation destination, Melissa reminds us “don’t think of the transportation as getting to or home from your trip. Use that time as part of your trip and making memories with your family!” Because making memories is really what the adventure is all about.


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11 thoughts on “Planning a Family Vacation: 8 Ways to Save on Transportation”

  1. Nice list! I, myself, always use Google Flights and Skyscanner. But I do not always book through them. I use them to compare prices and more often than not, it is cheaper to book on airlines’ websites. I am also a fan of Uber – convenience! Walking, yes, but depends on the weather and the location as i always travel alone.

  2. These are such good tips for saving on transportation not just for families but anyone who loves to travel. I too use Skyscanner and Google flights before booking my flights. I do hire a lot of car rental companies but I have never tried Costco or wholesalefamilytravel.com.

  3. A great set of tips on transportation. I would like to add that in many cities of India you can get AutoRickshaws via Uber, too. That is safer and the driver cant charge more than what it shows on the app.

  4. Transportation is often one of the biggest parts of a travel budget and these are some great tips. I’m a google flights fan myself and the tip for using the complimentary shuttles is good and super simple!

  5. The flight algorithms are tough to figure out sometimes. And I am sure that booking for families make it much worse. We often search for ages until we hit “buy”. Good to read that one way rentals in Europe are affordable. In North America it seems to vary on start and end point. I did not know that I could get Over coupons on Groupon. Will need to check that out! I agree that parking in big cities is hard to find at a reasonable price. And I am always worried that my car will not be safe. I sometimes balance cost for safety. Some good tips for people travelling with or without kids.

  6. I’m all about the travel rewards credit cards! I’ve been using miles and points to travel the world for free for the past 25 years. Although I disagree with Annette’s tip about getting an airline credit card. You’re better off getting a card that earns transferrable points so you can use it for many airlines and hotels vs just one.

  7. Great post! I love that you include lots of ideas from several different travelers. I knew about great auto rental prices from Costco, but had never heard of wholesalefamilytravel.com. I’ll have to go check it out. Our family takes a lot of road trips, because that ends up being the cheapest form of transportation for us!

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