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Family Travel Guide - Tips for families on the move
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While summer is winding down, many still have vacation on their minds. While it’s tough to vacation on a budget with sky-high airfares and fast-rising gas prices, there are a lot of easy ways to save money on your next vacation. You just need to have a few tips and tricks up your sleeve. Take a look at five of my favorite ways to save money without sacrificing any of the fun of a much-deserved vacation.

 

Set Up Airfare Alerts

Go online to set up airfare alerts so you’re among the first to know about price drops to your destination. Two of my favorite sites for airfare alerts are Kayak and Airfarewatchdog, which can alert you once a day about current airfare prices. I also like Airfarewatchdog’s Anywhere That’s Cheap Alert for a list of the best round-trip fares departing from your home airport. This is fantastic when you’re still considering where to go for your vacation. Also, try FareCompare’s Where-to-Go Getaway Map for the best fares to global destinations that have been found in the last four hours. Since airfare can be such a big chunk of any vacation budget, it’s smart to stay on top of prices.

 

Book a Vacation Rental

I’m still new to using vacation rentals, but have now used HomeAway three times to book houses and apartments for my family. What I love is that homeaway_france.jpegvacation rentals can often provide twice the space for half the price of a hotel. Most recently, my daughters and I stayed in a beautiful apartment in Prague within easy walking distance of both Prague Castle and Old Town Square. The apartment was quiet, safe and even more affordable and spacious than a hotel room.

 

There was a kitchen, a washing machine and web access – everything we needed. Plus, it was great to have a door to close between my bedroom and where the girls were sleeping. I love my girls, but after a long day, it’s nice to have a little space of your own, and that’s not always possible in a hotel. HomeAway has more than 775,000 property listings for every budget in 170+ countries, so it’s worth a look as you plan your next family getaway.

 

 

Bring Your Own Food

One of the easiest places to trim your vacation budget is through the food and groceries line item. Don’t spend $6 on a cup of coffee and a bagel every morning. Instead, pack a suitcase full of food, like cereals, granola bars, juice boxes and snacks (especially snacks if you have little ones). Also, pack paper plates and plastic utensils if you’ll be staying in a hotel. Even if you end up paying a baggage fee, you’ll still end up better off, especially if you seek out grocery deals and use coupons.

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If you’re staying in a vacation rental, it’s still a good idea to bring food with you, especially if you’ll be arriving late and may not have time to get to a grocery store your first night in town. Before you shop, take stock of what you have and make a list so you can avoid making multiple trips to the supermarket.

 

Get Hip to Discount Programs

It’s not hard to find discounts on just about every attraction you may plan to visit. The annual Entertainment Book is a great resource for city-specific discounts on local dining, attractions, and even movie passes, which are nice for rainy days. Another worth checking out is the Go City Card program for nine top cities, including San Diego and Chicago. Pay one fee and save on dozens of local attractions. Since you receive so many discounts, these are generally best for multiple-day vacations.activities_hiking_binoculars_kid.jpg

 

It’s easy to find free coupons as well if you head online to a site like Coupons for Fun, which compiles printable coupons for attractions across the country. Or, check in with your local tourism bureau for offerings like the free Monster Coupon Book, which has discounts for Myrtle Beach attractions. And, of course, don’t forget about AAA if you are a member since they offer loads of deals on theme parks, museums, water parks and more.

 

Seek Out Free Local Activities

Many zoos, museums, art galleries and aquariums offer free days either once a week or once a month, offering a significant cost savings for a

 

family of four, for example. It’s also wise do a web search for “free things to do” in the city you plan to visit. You’ll be amazed by how many fun free events and attractions are pulled up for your city. When you arrive at your destination, be sure to also scour the local newspapers for free events you may not have known about otherwise.


Do you have any favorite tips or tricks for saving money on your vacation? Let us know in the comments section below.

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New York City is a place like no other. It was during a family vacation here when I was 11 that I knew deep in my heart I was destined to live here one day (isn’t it amazing how vacations can affect your life?) I’ve lived here now for 8 years and I love it more and more each day.

 

Once I had kids though, I felt like I was learning how to live in the city all over again.  Trying to navigate through subway stations  and in/out of taxicabs can be somewhat intimidating when you’re not used to it, so I understand why parents might be a little nervous about taking their kids on vacation to the Big Apple. 

 

HeathersCab.jpgIt’s true everything in New York moves at a fast pace, but it’s important to remember that you and your Little(s) CAN keep up and have a wonderful time here, as long as you do a little research ahead of time and travel with a game plan. 

 

First things first - Getting around NYC is a snap. You can find a subway station or flag a taxicab within a couple blocks of wherever you find yourself in the city.  At MTA.info you can easily find subway maps, bus stops and subway stations with elevators. Also, despite the myth, New Yorkers are generally always happy to answer questions or give directions.

 

Yellow cabs are great! For parents with car seat-aged kids, it is not legally required to use one if you are traveling within NYC in a taxicab; so, if you are comfortable with that, no car seat needed.  Also, get the receipt. This way, you'll have the number of the exact cab you were in, so should you leave behind a favorite toy, you can try to get it back.

 

Now that you know how to get around, let’s talk about where to go…

 

There are SO many activities for kids in New York City.  The Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) is set up to educate and entertain the entire family, housing five floors of interactive exhibits for kids aged infant-12+. A couple things to keep in mind though - strollers must be left at coat check and there’s no food allowed, but you can get a pass for re-entry if you need to leave for lunch.

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Central Park is a must, but it is LARGE, so don't expect to see the entire thing in one trip. http://www.centralparknyc.org/ is a great resource for information and a detailed map, which I recommend studying before and during your experience. With young kids, it’s best to start at the Boat Basin – which is just about level with 75th Street – and head south from there. Great kid-friendly options along that route include Victorian Gardens Amusement Park and the Central Park Zoo. If you exit on 59th Street, you’ll land right in the heart of the city.

 

I also recommend taking a boat tour.  You'll see more of the city in one swoop than with many other  tours. The Circle Line, which leaves from Manhattan's west side at 42nd Street and is walking distance from Times Square, has a kids cruise option. Or you can try the tall ship called The Clipper City, which leaves from the South Street Seaport and offers a fun, modern-day pirate experience.

 

As any parent knows, kids are always hungry. While New York has no shortage of restaurants many of which offer amazing, totally mind-blowing cuisine, not all of them are kid-friendly. Using a New York website for locals, like NYMag.com, can help you find the most kid-friendly places to eat.  Some of my girls’ personal favorites include P.J. Clarke’s, The BackYard at 160, Pier i Café and Rosa Mexicano.  Don’t be afraid to call restaurants directly. Even some swankier places can be family friendly if you hit them at off peak hours. Plan restaurants at strategic spots along your day’s intended itinerary to keep everyone fed on time.

 

Last, but certainly not least, my guide to New York with kids would not be complete without a little potty talk.

 

You need to know two main things about bathrooms and kids in NYC: Bathrooms are NOT easy to come by and, for parents with diaper-wearing kids, MOST bathrooms in NYC will NOT have changing tables. Know this in advance and be ready. Learn how to change a diaper like a New Yorker on the go, here!

 

To find bathrooms in NYC: Check Starbucks, some hotel lobbies, major department stores or use an app dedicated to finding one nearby like iKidsNY (dedicated to changing tables), SitorSquat by Charmin and Have2P.

 

I get lots of calls from friends wanting vacation advice when their family heads this way. Hopefully, this will help when the time comes for your family to hit the Big Apple.

 

 

Diana Heather writes at ParentingsATrip.com. She is also the Chief Mom, both at home to her two girls and at Totsy.com. You can follow Diana on Twitter @ParentingsATrip.