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Saving Money on Family Travels

Picture this—you and your two preschoolers have had a great week testing the surf and hunting for shells on Sanibel Island in Florida. You board the plane for the flight back to Toronto and try to get comfy with your four-year-old daughter beside you and your almost two-year-old sitting on your lap. At least that’s what you told the airline. If you had told them the truth—that this kid had blown out his second birthday candles some months ago— you would have had to buy him his own airline ticket. Besides, he’s small for his age, he would probably sit on your knee anyway. and who’s going to check?

But before the airplane doors have swung shut, someone comes and asks for the baby’s papers. When they see that your angel is actually a “terrible two” and that there isn’t a spare seat on the plane for you to purchase, they usher the three of you out the door. There you are back on the tarmac, no airplane seats at all, no hotel room booked and no money to buy the necessary tickets home. This happened some years ago to a neighbor and I could certainly sympathize with her motives if not her methods. Hauling kids around continents is expensive and making those vacation dollars stretch is a challenge.

Luckily, this situation of emptying the bank accounts to fly south is improving. Examining the glossy new winter books filling the travel agency shelves, it’s apparent that the tour companies are working hard to get the most for your family vacation dollar. You’ll see lots of “Kids stay free, kids eat free, kids club” symbols. Most companies offer Early Bird specials; at Beaches, the new family friendly resorts from Sandals, you can get up to $1000 off the package price at both of their properties (Negril and Turks & Caicos) if you book a seven-night stay. During October, the third adult age 16 or older stays free on stays of three nights or longer. Regent and Signature Vacations will match a lower price found in any of the competitors books. At Signature, if you book early and then lose your job before the family holiday, they’ll cheefully refund your money. It pays to do your homework, calculator in hand and a Bahama Mama ready to help ease the pain.

BEST BETS: The flights to Cuba and Dominican Republic are packed with families and there’s a reason—good value for money. The Delta CRUISING DEALS: Ships such as the Bolero and Fiesta are offering free third and fourth berths for kids accompanying their parents. An air only fare gives cruisers under x bunks, entertainment and all the food they can eat. Sunquest, in honor of their 25 years in the travel industry, is letting kids fly free for the first time as well as stay and eat free. Alba tours is doing the same. And the resorts they’re offering are top-notch such as Almond Beach Village resort, a five-star property on the west coast of Barbados. There, families have their own separate area with playrooms for the kids, a hair braiding station, swimming pool, buffet hot dogs and hamburgers cooked to order at seemingly all hours of the day, and even a teen hang-out Some restrictions do apply. For instance, you have to have two paying adults along to take advantage of the fly free scenario. Signature Vacations is also promoting affordable kid travel. starts their tour books with an easy-to-read chart that shows at a glance where families can get the best. At some resorts in Mexico, a kid fare applies to anyone under seventeen.

You can also save money on cruises by booking your own shore excursions ahead of time - either through your travel agency or by phone or fax. Sometimes, you don’t even need to book ahead. On a port stop in Nassau, we simply hopped on a local bus to ride out to the new Coral World Aquarium. The bus cost fifty cents each and the aquarium admission about $8. The cruise line was charging about $25 for the same trip.

There are other ways of course to take a king’s winter holiday on a pauper’s income.Your family could swap homes with another family in a warm climate through a home exchange organization. They take over your house while you live in theirs. When we joined World Vacation Exchange (formerly ) a few years ago, we were surprised at the number of families from other parts of the world who wanted to winter in Canada. We even heard from a family who wanted to trade their house on a beautiful Australian beach north of Sydney for Toronto.





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