Saving Money on Transportation

Trains, planes, automobiles, boats, tuktuks & walking!

This week we share 13 perspectives from seasoned travel moms contemplating how we save money on transportation. This is the second of our Family Travel Blog Series . If you missed last week’s post, check out Selecting Family Travel Destinations. I encourage you to follow the links to each of the contributor’s websites for other great travel tips and educational resources.

Our tips from World Wise Kid

Choosing transportation is a great way to involve the kids in planning, budgeting and decision-making. Researching and choosing the lowest cost options takes energy and time but results in a higher quality travel experience.

Getting there – We plan international travel far in advance when tickets are first available. A favorite research tool is Google flight tracking 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, bringing our own food, water, and entertainment.

Choosing discount airlines with low cost and no frills for Europe travel
Flying over the Alps

Moving town-to-town – Getting around is part of the educational experience – a chance to understand the culture. This means avoiding the tourist track of pricey packaged tours and living like the locals. Arriving somewhere may take longer, but the journey is just as important as the destination! A mix of trains, buses and boats enrich the adventure.

Exploring – Our travel routine includes discovering a place through walking. Whether hiking a trail, beachcombing or mapping out the streets of a city or town, foot-travel is free and allows you to stumble upon local wildlife and activities and create your own unique experience.

Regina at Fulltime Field Trip

Airfare is usually the most expensive type of transportation. Therefore, 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. Drumroll please. Break up your airfare into two separate reservations.

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, 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.

Kirsty at World for a Girl

Since we started travelling with our children, our transport budget has ballooned. Pre-kids, we walked everywhere, took long overnight bus journeys and never, ever hired cars. Now when we’re on the road with two young kids, money takes a back seat to convenience and safety. Although we always shop around for cheap flights, we do try to spend extra on getting the times and airports that suit us.

We tried a few very early morning flights when our eldest was a baby and let’s just say we pay extra for better flight times now! Especially in Europe, always check where your budget airline flies into. Sometimes, the airports used by lost-cost carriers are hours out of town. If you miss the last bus, you might end up paying the flight cost again in taxi fares.

As for getting around when we’re there, tired little legs and afternoon nap times have converted us to the joys of road-tripping. We throw everything in the boot, make our own itinerary and we’re still able to do the type of quirky multi-destination holidays that we crave. At the moment, we’re based in Malaysia. If you’re coming out to this part of the world, my biggest family travel tip to download the Grab app on your phone. Grab is Asia’s Uber. Fares are really cheap AND you can pay the driver cash.

tuktuk transporation to save money
Be mindful of your choices and safety with no seatbelts and car seats! Photo credit to World for a Girl.

My second tip would be to think twice before using tuk-tuks and rickshaws. They’re mostly used by tourists now and drivers often demand exorbitant prices. Make sure that you haggle hard, be aware of safety and remember that in a tuk-tuk you and the kids are down at exhaust pipe level!

Yamy at Go Fam Go

Coming by reliable transportation when in unfamiliar destinations can be a hassle. Airport taxis could be expensive or services like Uber might not be available.Most hotels offer complimentary airport transfers or have some form of shuttle service for a certain fee. Take advantage of this perk and make sure to check ahead for price comparisons with renting a car.

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.

Going to Walt Disney World, for example, is an expensive family vacation. 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.

Disney shuttle bus to save money on transportation
Use shuttle buses to avoid driving the car.

Kris at Gadsventure

Saving a few dollars on each plane ticket can add up to hundreds of dollars when travelling 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.

Being flexible is the most important factor in getting cheaper flights, as well as avoiding peak tourist periods, festivals and school holidays.

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.

airport travel with kids and carry on luggage
Awesome kid carry-ons with Gadsventures.

Shannan at Captivating Compass

Transportation is by-far the most expensive part of any family vacation. What about in-country travel, once you arrive at an international destination? Here’s my top tip for saving money on transportation once you have arrived at your international destination: Rent a car.

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. To save your sanity, plan an itinerary that incorporates alternative transportation (train, bus, short flight) to a less popular city. From there, rent a car and continue on your family travel adventure, simply returning your car at the end of your trip to a predetermined destination.

Many major car rental companies in Europe have one-way rentals 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 as more people fly into London that 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!

rental car through the mountains
A rental car can take you to amazing, remote places.
Photo credit Captivating Compass

Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders

We are always very keen to save money on getting to our vacations. Here in the UK train tickets are not terribly cheap but there are some ways in which you can save money.

Firstly, the timing of when you book train tickets is important. Aim to book at around 12 weeks from the point of travel, this is when you will find the best prices. Too far in advance and too short notice mean very expensive tickets! Always check the price of return tickets as well as singles as sometimes one type is better value than the other.

Consider investing in a railcard. We recently bought a ‘Friends and Family’ railcard that gives 60% off for kids and 30% off for adults when travelling together. The card is valid for one year and can save you money right from the very first trip.

Lastly, do check both standard and first class fares. Sometimes first class fares are not much more expensive than standard and you could receive perks in first class (such as free food and drink) that makes the upgrade actually better value.

Annette at Tips from a Typical Mom

Flight. The best way to get good deals on flights is to get an airline credit card and earn free flights, or follow a person on Instagram who is always checking flight prices like CheapSLCFlights, Scotts Cheap Flights, or another person in your area that checks deals and posts them often. Just go to Instagram and search for “Cheap Flights (enter your city here)”. The site that I have a membership through saves me at least $5 per ticket over any other site. You also earn travel points through the site. You can learn more at WholesaleFamilyTravel.com.

Rental car. My family loves to drive around and see everything there is to see in the area we are visiting. For the little ones who still need a booster seat, we use the MiFold. It’s a tiny little booster seat that can fit right in the diaper bag or large purse. 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.

Melissa at Disabled Disney

Saving money on transportation is an integral part of any family vacation. We normally drive because it does tend to be a less expensive choice for us. If you are driving, we use gasbuddy.com to check gas prices. We don’t normally fly so we have our car and will not need to use a taxi. When it comes to hiring transportation, I look at which option is more cost effective for us. Apps like Uber and Lyft now give you an estimate on cost. If you want to use a taxi service you can call and get an estimate.

When we do fly I use cheapoair.com because when my daughter came home last Christmas, I checked prices on sites like Expedia or Travelocity and it was cheaper. I can also use the Shopkick App and get kicks by booking through them! There are a lot of transportation options out there. 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!

Tiffany at Mommy and Me Travels

Saving money on transportation is like art; you must have patience and creativity. Finding deals on flights can be a waiting game (hence the patience piece). You should sign up for all the email alerts, focus on one airline alliance (this will maximize your flight miles for future free flights), and be ready to click go when you are alerted about that rock bottom flight price. We also like to think outside the box (be creative) when finding ways to save money. Instead of flying, look at taking the train/Amtrak to your adventure location. This will add to your children’s trip enjoyment.

In many cases, you can buy a first class train ticket for the fraction of the cost of a plane ticket per person. That means you can save even more money if you buy a regular class train ticket and still have the enjoyment of relaxing and socializing while traveling. 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.

Sarah at State by State

When you travel to a big city, transportation can get expensive. Gas, parking, and vehicle maintenance all cost more. Taking time to plan for how you will get from place to place is important if you want to save money. Many large cities have great public transportation, but when you have a family of five, like we do, those tickets sure do add up quickly. We have found that by traveling on certain days of the week or times of day, you can save money because kids might ride for a discounted rate or even for free.

Another excellent money saving tip is to check the parking garages’ rates. Sometimes the prices between parking garages vary greatly. In Washington DC, we found a place we could park all day for only $10, while other places were charging $22 for four hours. We also like to take advantage of free trolley’s and shuttle buses too. These are great for saving money on gas and also let everyone enjoy looking around at the sites instead of having to focus on traffic in an unfamiliar city.

Exploring a big city
Park and walk to save money on transportation. Photo credit: State-by-state

Shannon at Grab My Passport

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, and you can pack your car with snacks and other items you may have had to spend money on if you flew to your destination. With airlines adding on so many fees for everything these days, we rarely fly. Road trips can be fun, even with little kids. Just be sure to properly prepare for your road trip and enjoy! Memberships like AAA (in the US) are cheap and a necessity if you’re planning a family road trip.

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. When we arrive at our destination, we almost always use Uber or Lyft, as taxi services are almost always twice the cost.

Sarah at Dandelion Seeds

Aside from checking airline prices across multiple airlines, using flexible dates, and cross-comparing rates on every travel website in the known universe, I opt for the biggest savings once I’m on the ground at my destination. Rather than spending money on car rental (and car insurance) or taxis, I walk absolutely everywhere that’s safe. 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 to save money on transportation
Walking is a fantastic way to get to know a place and find hidden gems. Photo credit: Dandelion seeds.

Although I don’t save time walking, I do save money on transportation (plus, it’s a great way to find local cafés and grocery stores, and save money on restaurant costs, too). Walking has given me my savings on transportation, much of my fun–and often, my best stories.

Next week’s family travel blog topic: Choosing accommodation.


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