When my kids came along, my husband and I found ourselves with a mortgage, daycare fees and a dearth of cash for family travel. And yet, there were so many places I wanted my kids to see! So, I’ve made it my goal to get us where we want to travel on the cheap without sacrificing comfort. Read on for a few of my time-tested methods:
Set up a vacation fund
I have a high-interest savings account called “The England Fund” (for the first big trip we ever took with our kids). Whenever I get an unexpected cheque or save on a purchase, I squirrel away the extra cash. The bonus: I don’t feel guilty spending money that’s already been allocated for trips, but I don’t go crazy, either, because the fund becomes my budget.
Be faithful to your frequent flyer plan
Pick one and stick to it—otherwise you could have miles or points accumulating in small batches everywhere, but never enough to book a flight. Not sure which plan best suits your spending habits and goals? Check out the credit card selector in the bottom-right corner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s website. Just plug in the required information about which province you live in, whether you tend to carry a balance on your card, if you’re willing to pay an annual fee and what rewards and benefits appeal to you most. It spits out a range of options, along with data about points and how they accumulate.
The right points plan
Keep in mind that when it comes to points plans, flexibility counts. Often, you can use points or miles to pay for hotel rooms, car rentals and admittance to special events, as well as airline tickets. Compare the benefits of driving to your destination and cashing in your points for a free hotel room. Alternatively, if you get the best return for your buck with a cashback credit card, choose that option and then plow the savings into your vacation fund.
Live la vida local
Over the years, my family has rented an Ontario cottage, a Tuscan villa and an apartment in Croatia. Letting a house, condo or cottage for a week is considerably cheaper than paying for a hotel, and you get space, privacy and a kitchen where you can throw together a meal. For Canada, try homeaway.ca or cottagesincanada.com, and for rentals around the world, check out vacationrentals.com, airbnb.com or vrbo.com.
Don’t double up on travel insurance
Before you fork out the big bucks for insurance, find out if you’re already covered. Many premium credit cards provide trip cancellation and interruption insurance, rental-car insurance and out-of-country medical insurance as long as you use the card to book your flight, accommodation or rental car. Even if you have to pay a yearly fee in the range of $30 to $170 for the card, it could save you hundreds in insurance alone.
A version of this article appeared in our June 2014 issue with the headline "Sweet deals", p. 32.