When you have to travel with a family of 5, and each of them wanting a different kind of hotel, activity, and souvenirs, you need to plan the budget way ahead of the trip. I remember earlier, when Nathan was younger, we wouldn’t strictly plan our budget and still would be able to save a decent amount. But now that my babies are all grown up and have their own lists of things they want to spend on, budgeting is necessary.
Many of you might like everything to be top-rated while travelling, but the delight you feel when you can save extra bucks to spend on another night at the hotel is incomparable. I have come across some effective tips on keeping yourself on the budget, so here’s the cheapest way to travel across the country.
I believe that vacations are about exploring nature, capturing the beauty and having fun. And all of this can very well be done without spending on a luxury suite, expensive food, and first-class travelling. This is one of the few things where my husband and I are one of a kind.
So without further ado let’s dive into the best money saving tips, that I know work from experience.
MODES OF TRAVELING
The very first thing that you need to do to stick to a budget is to compare the cost of travelling. For this, consider which of the travelling options is effective; bus, train, or plane. Think of the fuel and tickets, match your budget and see which one of the three would be the best to travel across America.
Choosing to travel by plane very much depends upon how far are you flying. It also depends on how far in advance are you booking your flight, at what day and time. You might end up shocked at how cheap and quick this option can be, making it the cheapest way to travel across the country.
Some of the budget airline deals sound too good to be true, such that your flight can be thousands of miles away at an eyebrow-raising cost of less than $50. However, at the same time, the ticket prices of these flights can spike up by thousands of dollars depending upon the seasonality, which is a big downside.
Tips to remember 1. Book your flight 6 months in advance, 2. Book your flight in the earlier days of the week rather than the later ones, 3. Look for deals to opt for
A bus would be the next cheapest mode of transportation would be to travel by bus. It is obviously not as time-efficient as the fight when it comes to lengthy stopovers but pretty competitive when it comes to prices. It also gives you way more options of departure and destination location, which gives you an amazing opportunity for sightseeing.
Another thing that I like about riding a bus is the brief breaks for rest layovers every couple of hours. When travelling with kids, allowing them to relax, run around, and stretch a little, counts as a huge blessing amid a journey. Of course, it’s less comfy and probably not as glamorous, but it can save you a great deal of cash in your pocket.
Tip to remember: 1. Don’t forget to count in the food and drink expenses, 2. Keep extra shopping bags in case your child is prone to car sickness, 3. Pack a neck pillow to get a comfortable sleep
The best thing to find the cheapest way to travel across the country through train is to get a rail pass to obtain the flexibility to choose a route. There are a massive number of 500 destinations to opt for and go for a 15, 30, or 45-day trip. However, travelling by train is a little pricier, so I don’t usually prefer this option when I am on a budget.
My children prefer to train as it’s more comfortable, and they love to roleplay harry potter in the cabin. Sightseeing is another bonus that you achieve.
Tip to remember: 1. Factor in the cost of food and drinks while budgeting, 2. If you book a no-frill train, then that would mean your train seat would be the one where you’d sleep, and it might not include a shower so try to make the train travel just a portion of your journey, especially if it’s days long.
Comparing road trip
Most of us want to take our own car for the trip. I mean, firstly, you are familiar with the level of comfort you’ll have, there will be no one else other than your own family, and you can spend your time through the trip however you want without caring about the person snoring right behind you.
These are all big plus points to consider, but it is not the best option to opt for when it comes to saving money. The cost of gas, food, drink, and lodgings need to be factored in completely, and when that’s done, it does not result out to be the ideal selection for the cheapest way to travel across the country. However, if you still want to opt for a road trip, my article on how to plan a road trip can be super helpful.
BUDGETING THE BOOKING OF BEDS
Spending a fortune on hotel rooms for 5 people when you aren’t even going to spend most of the day in the room is insane; at least that’s what I believe. It should be clean, hygienic, and pleasant looking, but luxury isn’t something I’d want to go for. And here’s what we do to keep our stay budgeted:
Book in advance
As a travel mom, I am always on my toes to plan things in advance and ensure that everything goes smooth. And when that’s happening, you can’t leave behind the pre-booking of hotel rooms as they can cover a large portion of your budget if you get late.
My husband and I always keep a sharp eye on special deals or discount deals to avail. I know families who like to be improvisational with their trips and don’t usually agree with our idea of advance booking, but if you have to save money, you have to compromise on living whimsically.
Bonus tip: Always pre-book airport parking and look for special deals on valet parking.
Or book last minute
If you do not or cannot book in advance, you can go the other way around and book last minute. You might get lucky enough to secure a discount if the hotel manager isn’t able to sell the room to another party. If the hotel doesn’t lower the price, you can always ask for a room upgrade. If you have always been a last-minute person, seeking accommodation sites can be a good idea.
Bonus tip: If you decide to book ahead, keep an eye on when the cancellation fee applies. Also, keep an eye on the prices a day before in case you can get your hands on a better deal.
This one is a no-brainer that the prices of hotels are always less in the off season. We usually try to plan our trips in the offseason to avoid the crowd. You are always better able to relish the sites, capture moments, and bond together when you travel with a family offseason.
Bonus tip: If you are travelling in summer, our tip would be to stay in a ski resort; here are the best ski resorts to stay in with family. You’ll be able to avail huge discounts or super low prices. On the contrary, visit a beach resort in winters and get your hands on a five-star hotel at affordable rates.
Several budget hotel chains can be one of the cheapest ways to travel across the country, offering great deals for the stay of a large family. You can also sign up for online hostels as they can offer humungous discounts.
Airbnb is also a great option which has been really good to us. We stayed in a few houses guided by local itineraries, allowing us to spend more on food and transportation.
Bonus tip: You can also house sit or swap to save money. This might not be ideal as all families are not totally hospitable, but if you’re strict on budget, this might work.
BUDGETING ON EATING
The third thing that digs your pocket is food and drink, especially when you have three kids who always want something to eat. And if you have two boys, keeping them away from eating can be a big hassle when on budget. So, here are some tips that can keep your kids’ minds off of food:
If you want to look for the cheapest way to travel across the country, the best way to save money is connecting with nature and sleeping in tents. Yes, that’s camping. Build your own fire, cook some fish or roast marshmallows for dinner. Keep a little stove with you to cook your own food in the fresh air. This is going to bring your costs down hugely.
Take your own food
When travelling with kids, they are going to ask for snacks almost all the time. It’s difficult to make younger kids understand the concept of budget, and once they start weeping, it’s you who quits and get them what they want. But if you carry it in your bag, you just have to fish them out and hand them over. This way, you’ll have control over their demands and keep yourself from spending extra.
Eat street food
Trying local delicacies doesn’t always refer to booking a table in an exquisite restaurant and end paying far more than the value of food. It’s just frustrating and doesn’t make any sense to me. Every state has its own special street food that meets the standards on quality and quantity without digging a hole in your pocket.
Try getting them on the go to your next destination, and you’ll end up saving extra for an extra plate at dinner. It is also super fun to try new things at a lower cost. In fact, my family is always competing to keep an eye on delicious food at a low cost wherever we go.
Finding the cheapest way to travel across the country might not seem easy to plan, but it’s not that difficult as well. All you need to do is have a talk with family and plan your vacation beforehand. Then, keep an eye on all the discounts and deals that you can grab to cut off expenses, and you’ll end up having an extraordinary trip. Just make sure not to stress about the money; be the specialist you are on outdoor gear and go with the flow.