> Bless Their Hearts Mom: Guest Post: Family Travel on a Budget by Jennifer Coburn
Thursday, April 10, 2014

Guest Post: Family Travel on a Budget by Jennifer Coburn

Later today we'll have a review of this new book, but now a Guest Post from the Author!


Traveling with kids is incredibly rewarding. You get to learn about a new place together, and see each other in a whole new environment. Perhaps most importantly, you’re away from the hustle and bustle of daily life: the homework, the soccer practice, dance recitals, not to mention the endless ping announcing a new text message.As much as we parents may enjoy getting away with the kids, it can also be a real cash drain. But it doesn’t have to be. After taking four trips to Europe with my daughter, I’ve discovered a few ways to make family travel more affordable.

paris arisdisments map

Fly for free – Airline frequent flyer programs are a pain to navigate, but worth the hassle. Katie and I have flown to Europe for free in the height of travel season, but I had to learn a few tricks in order to collect and redeem miles. First, earn miles by signing up with a credit card that awards points for charges. If you have the discipline to pay off the card in full every month then charge everything! If I bought a banana, it went on my American Express card, which awards 1.2 miles for every dollar I spend.

Join a dining club – or other groups – that award miles. I earn five miles every time I charge a meal at many restaurants, including hamburger joints. I’ve been able to fund four round-trip tickets to Europe in the Summer this way.

woman on the phone

Don’t have the patience to read the fine print? Neither did I, so I called the airline in the middle of the night so I could talk to a call center operator who wasn’t rushed. She advised that if I wanted to fly during peak travel season, I should call on the exact day “non-revenue” seats opened up, which was 331 days prior to flight date for American Airlines. She suggested I call at midnight (in her time zone) to ensure another savvy traveler didn’t snatch up the extremely limited frequent flyer seats. The operator also offered this valuable caveat: Be sure you are 100% certain of your travel dates because any changes will cost you.

house for let

Put your home to work – I have a friend who lets her home earn money while she’s traveling by renting her vacant home on Air BnB. I have never tried this because my husband stays home, but I’ve saved money by emailing everyone I know to ask who has friends who will rent their home or rooms. Katie and I spent 10 days in a lovely home near London. A friend’s aunt charged us $20 per night. Friends in southern Italy let us stay with them for free. You might also house swap through one of many reputable home exchange services.

Enjoy family discounts and “City Passes” – Many cities offer discounts at tourist attractions for children under 16. I bought a $32 Barcelona arts pass that gave me access to every museum we visited. Katie got in for free almost everywhere we went.

Make a game of budgeting – At the start of our visit to Italy, I explained to Katie that I could afford to travel for a month on a budget, or a week on a shopping bender. Thankfully, she agreed that time was more important than stuff, and we made a game of staying on our daily budget. For meals, we loaded up on free breakfast, carried snack bars (from Costco back home), and ate at wonderful little delis. It was Italy, though, so every few nights we splurged on great meals.


Travel is a luxury because it gives us the time to explore new parts of the world with the people we love most. But that doesn’t mean it has to break the bank. With some advance planning and cost cutting, the trip of a lifetime doesn’t have to put you in debt for the rest of your life.

About the Author:
Jennifer Coburn is a USA Today bestselling author of six novels and contributor to four literary anthologies. Over the past two decades, Coburn has received numerous awards from the Press Club and Society for Professional Journalists for articles that appeared inMothering, Big Apple Baby, The Miami Herald, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and dozens of national and regional publications. She has also written for Salon.com, Creators News Syndicate, and The Huffington Post. Coburn lives in San Diego with her husband, William, and their daughter, Katie. We’ll Always Have Paris is her first memoir.
Visit her online at JenniferCoburn.com or on Facebook.

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