My best family travel tips

You’d be surprised how much kids love playing with paper maps and old school cameras.

Do you have any family trips coming up? For me, having a fun vacay to look forward to is de rigueur, especially at this time of year. I don’t know about you and where you live, but here in Calgary it’s been such a loooong winter. I’m literally counting down the days until our spring break. But successful vacations involve more than an enticing destination. Here are my best tips for making family travel a breeze, no matter where you’re headed to.

Family travel tips

Budget plenty of time so you’re not rushing to catch your flight.

Planning family travel

Research where and when you want travel as far in advance as you can. Ask your friends where their favourite spots are. Put it out there on social media. Bloggers are obsessive about reading their comments, so don’t feel shy about asking any of us for more details on a post you’ve read.

You’ll save money and face less crowds by travelling off season. But if you’re travelling for a dose of sun, find out if there’s a rainy season and what that actually entails. Rainy season in Southeast Asia means a 45-minute shower once a day. For me, that was do-able, and I saved major moolah on accommodation by visiting Vietnam and Cambodia in summer.

family travel tips
One of my favourite off-season spots is Victoria, British Columbia. The weather’s often better and there’s tons of kids activities – like feeding the seals at Oak Bay Marina.

Winter is when many Canadians go to Hawaii, but I found the weather on Maui to be overcast in January (as it was in Cancun). For our second trip to Hawaii, we booked it in March. Yes, it was marginally more expensive, but way sunnier and therefore worth the few extra hundred dollars. And fortunately you can find resort deals in pretty much every desirable hot weather destination. 

Money saving tips for family travel

If you have the right kind of credit card, it’s easy to rack up points for air travel. I only pay for flights when there are extreme deals. If you don’t have enough air miles accrued, perhaps you know someone who does. They might cut you a deal and let you fly on their points. Wink.

Attractions can also be pricy. See if you can use loyalty points to score free passes. Check out the tourism page for where you’re visiting. Most have a section listing free sites and activities. Don’t forget, many attractions offer discounts certain days of the week or the last few hours each day.

mom and kid on log ride
Check out my post on Calgary Attractions to learn how you can save major $$ at Calgary’s most popular family attractions.

Eating out all the time isn’t easy on the wallet. Search out hotels that offer complimentary breakfasts or ones that have a mini fridge in guest rooms. Lunches are always cheaper than dinner, so make that your big dining spurge. And don’t forget about happy hours, which usually run from 3 p.m. till 6 p.m., when most kids are hungry anyway. Delightful discounts on alcohol is the icing on the cake for caregivers. (Yes, I’m that parent.)

Prepare for the unexpected

Nothing kills that holiday vibe faster than your husband getting a third degree sunburn. Or your child picking up a nasty stomach virus. You can’t predict what ailments might come your way, but you can make the recovery process easier. When you’re travelling, you want the same level of comfort you experience at home. That means feeling confident in the medical care you receive, and accessing vetted, qualified health care providers to help you manage a medical emergency on your trip.

The Canadian government recommends all Canadians purchase the best travel insurance they can afford. Canadian provincial health insurance won’t cover your medical fees if you’re ill or injured outside Canada. And make sure all your immunizations are up to date. Your doctor or injection-certified pharmacists at many Canadian drug stores can walk you through what protection you need.

Spring break travel tips

Making family travel a reality

Travel is about making choices. Yes, it’s about who will get your hard earned dollars, but it’s also about how you live at home. Money spent on office lunches, granite kitchen countertops and massive Costco runs means less money for creating shared experiences with your family.

I remember watching Oprah a decade ago and this Danish man was on, explaining why his family lived in a super small apartment. “Less stuff equals more life,” was how he framed it. That stuck with me. I want to live a life rich in experiences, not things. I’d way rather spend money on a family trip versus a piece of art. A guess that’s why so many walls in our house are bare!

When I’m an old lady I think I will look back on these years with a smile on my face. I probably won’t remember that we didn’t have cable. Hopefully I won’t feel grumpy my husband doesn’t shower me with jewelry or that we never bothered to fix the dents in our second-hand vehicles. We have a life rich in experiences. We’ve prioritized travel, and those memories (finger’s crossed), are what will remain fresh in my mind.

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What’s your best family travel tip?

Disclaimer, I’m a brand ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance (Canada) and receive financial compensation for these posts. As always, all information shared is my own opinion.

About The Author

13 thoughts on “My best family travel tips”

  1. Some great tips here! I certainly agree that “rainy season” has a completely different definition depending on the region. A quick shower once a day is usually not a bother, as you mentioned. Travel is definitely possible with a family if you prioritise it over other things. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Stevo Joslin

    Thanks for the travel tips! We love traveling in the shoulder seasons to save money and avoid the crowds. It’s hard to get a good picture of the beautiful scenery when you’re fighting with a thousand other tourists with cameras! Travel insurance is a must! We never travel without it! And no judgment here, they’re called “happy hours” for a reason :). Thanks for sharing!

  3. Your family travel tips are great. We also use credit cards for air travel and try to live a little simply to save up for more experiences.

  4. “Less stuff equals more life” such wise words and oh so true! I have started packing a bottle of Nyquil when I travel long distances. I tend to always get a cold and can’t find medicine that actually works when I’m overseas

  5. Katja Gaskell

    I think being prepared for the unexpected is one of the best possible pieces of advice! You’re so right that you can never know exactly what will come your way when travelling but having insurance definitely makes things easier!!

  6. Excellent travel tips. I always look for more travel tips. They are so helpful and we learn a lot about how to travel safely, lightly etc. Totally agree on “Less stuff more life”. 🙂

  7. Jenn and Ed Coleman

    I think off season travel is great for kids. Sure, you save money left and right but what really helped my kids was fewer people. We didn’t wait in lines for attractions or meals which made for happier campers. Also, there was simply less going on. I didn’t have to spot my kids in a crowd all the time or deal with the hustle and bustle of crowds. We all were happier at the end of the trip which is what vacations are all about.

  8. Great tips. I think everyone should get travel insurance because you never know what will happen. Prepare for the unexpected for sure.

  9. Having traveled as a family of four I was using some of these tips extensively in Europe. Hotels with complimentary Breakfast was must.
    Agree with you it is better to live a life rich in experiences, not things

  10. Great tips! I am all about not traveling during peak season but also making sure to check out which of the shoulder season months is the best bang for your buck. Sometimes the cheapest is not always the best for sure and as you said, a few extra dollars can make all the difference.

  11. Christopher Rudder

    Family travel is the best for me! This is the time that bonding with our loved ones by blood, by law and by choice becomes extra special.
    It is so hard to gather all of my siblings in one place and in the same time so I couldn’t agree more of what you said here.

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