This post was written by Leslie Campos. She created Wellparents.com to offer help and resources to busy parents who want to stay healthy and active. She loves to practice yoga and CrossFit and to watch “The Great British Baking Show” when not working or running her children to various after-school activities.
Traveling with a young child is not for the faint of heart: it takes planning, dedication, and a willingness to be flexible on a moment’s notice. Of course, it also takes money — and lots of it. Taking a vacation is never cheap, and when you add another tiny human into the mix, your travel budget can begin to fill a bit snug. So, here are a few tips to keep your wallet full and your stress levels low when hitting the road with your preschool entourage.
Choose your flight carefully
When flying with babies and toddlers, there are two schools of thought: one is to fly early in the morning so they are well-rested and less likely to get cranky, and the other is to drag them out in the middle of the night for a red-eye flight. Make your choice based on their personality more than your budget. While it is always a gamble, if they are not rambunctious, a day flight might be your best bet. However, if they are not one to sit still during the day, they might sleep at least part of the way through an overnight flight. You will also need to consider whether you plan to buy them a seat or put them in your lap. If you’ll be in the air for less than two hours, you can save a ticket; if you’ll be traveling for any longer, then you are better off paying their way.
Decide what gear you need and how it will get there
Whether you are traveling by land or by air, you’ll have to pack lots of stuff. You can make things easier on everyone by ensuring that you have luggage that can hold all of your gear, including clothing, toys, and stuffed animals. If you’ve never traveled with children before, then it’s time to consider investing in hard-shell rolling suitcases. Not only are these easier for the little ones to maneuver on their own, but also, if you buy for everyone all at once, you can get a matching set to make spotting your bags easier. Before you start adding luggage to your shopping cart, check for deals online through sites like Rakuten to find a promo code to lessen this expense.
Skip the hotel
Hotels are perfectly fine for an overnight trip, but for something longer than a simple stopover, you may want to scour for a vacation rental instead. A private rental can be much less expensive, especially when you factor in having a space to prepare meals for picky travelers. More importantly, if you rent a cabin or condo, your children can have extra room to move around. Many properties also have an ample supply of books, movies, and toys so you aren’t scrambling for entertainment. A rental will likely also have plenty of space for you to set up your child’s travel bed, which you might want to pack so they will have a familiar place to rest their heads each night.
Beyond the theme parks
It is easy to get carried away with vacation planning. After all, as a parent, you want to share these precious memories with your youngsters. Unfortunately, when you are dealing with the five and below crowd, they are less likely to remember your itinerary by next year’s vacation. Instead of fulfilling your dreams, choose an affordable toddler-friendly destination. Disney or Universal might not fit into this category, particularly if your child doesn’t do well with crowds or is not willing to stand in line. Instead, consider other non-theme park destinations throughout the United States, such as national parks or even state parks.
Unfortunately, there is no getting around pulling out your wallet when it’s time to plan a trip. That said, you don’t have to overdo it, and you don’t have to pull your hair out en route. The above tips are just a few ways to save dollars, cents, and sanity while showing the next generation that there’s more to the world than their own backyard.