These money-saving tricks can help make that family trip a reality.
There's a saying that once you have kids, you no longer go on vacations, you take trips.
Be that as it may, vacations, or trips, or, heck, experiences are the stuff that makes for happy families—even if it doesn't feel like it when you're breaking up the millionth sibling dispute of the day.
“Vacations not only provide much-needed relaxation for parents, but also children, as they have busy schedules, too, with practices, studies and social life,” said Michelle Tucker-Bradford, AAA Ohio product specialist. “This time away … allows families to reconnect on a personal level and make those lasting memories.”
But many U.S. workers aren't taking that time. Expedia.com's 2017 Vacation Deprivation report found that about half of U.S. workers felt somewhat or very vacation-deprived, and 43 percent of respondents cited budget as a primary reason for not traveling.
With that in mind, here are some money-saving tips to help make your family trip a reality.
Timing Is Everything
Florida during spring break or a summertime trip out West might sound like a good idea, but vacationing in the off-season or shoulder season (that period between peak and off-peak) can save you money and help avoid crowds. The time of day and day of the week when you travel also matter: Midweek, late-night or early-morning flights tend to be less desirable and therefore cheaper.
Tap into Tech
The sites that help you save at home also work on the road. Think Groupon and LivingSocial for deals on activities, GasBuddy for fuel purchases and Kayak to aggregate deals from multiple travel sites.
Don't forget about retailer Amazon, which can ship bulky but necessary goods such as diapers right to your destination.
Feeling especially frugal? Before booking anything, head to the grocery store to buy a travel gift card (Giant Eagle, for example, has 11 vacation-related choices), which can earn you points toward gas or grocery discounts.
Give Yourself Credit
Travel rewards credit cards earn account holders airline miles, money toward airfare and hotels and more. The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture cards are highly rated by U.S. News & World Report, NerdWallet and WalletHub. If you fly mostly on one carrier, airline-branded cards provide perks such as free checked bags and priority boarding. Be warned: Many rewards cards have an annual fee.
For long car trips—especially ones that involve a toll road—pack sandwiches and travel-friendly bulk snacks such as granola or dried fruit to keep your family satiated and skirt the temptation of overpriced truck-stop snacks. Depending on the season, try stopping at roadside markets for snacks and fresh produce.
Speaking of Toll Roads
Consider purchasing an E-ZPass, which allows drivers to zip through toll booths without scrounging for change. Travelers can save up to 50 percent on Ohio Turnpike fees with the device, which also works as far west as Illinois, as far south as North Carolina and as far north as Maine.
Go House Hunting
Skip the hotel in favor of Airbnb or VRBO, where homeowners and apartment-dwellers offer short-term rentals. Rates are often cheaper than chain lodging and include amenities such as free parking and Wi-Fi, plus a kitchen. Pro tip: Ask your host to borrow their grocery store loyalty card. You'll save money and they'll earn fuel points.
Membership Has Its Privileges
AAA isn't just for roadside assistance. It also can provide discounts on travel and tourism, such as $60 for adult admission to Cedar Point (normally $72). Costco Travel offers car rentals, vacation packages and more. Employer programs also yield savings: For example, state of Ohio employees can save 28 percent on Rock & Roll Hall of Fame admission.
Remember, your membership to local cultural institutions might provide reciprocal discounts elsewhere. For instance, COSI members receive free or discounted admission to a number of science and children's museums across the country, and Columbus Zoo and Aquarium members receive a similar deal for zoos across North America.
How 'Bout a Staycation?
Finally, if you're feeling a bit road-weary, remember: There's no place like home. Treat the city as a tourist destination. Explore unfamiliar parts of town, take in a Columbus Clippers game, head to the Ohio State Fair and visit websites such as columbusparent.com and experiencecolumbus.com to find out what's happening around Central Ohio.
Jennifer Wray is a freelance writer and new mother.