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We love to save money on family travel. Less money spent equals more trips to take! After nearly 350 trips with our four kids, we’ve had our share of stress and overwhelm while traveling.  We travel on a budget so we only spend money on absolute necessities.  Saving money and our sanity on trips is essential. 

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Using these 5 items help us save money on family travel and are well worth the cost.  They also help our travels go smoother and with greater ease.

We bring these 5 things on every trip to save money on family travel. Each of these tips is inexpensive and have a huge return on investment, both financially and emotionally for the kids and parents.

1. Car Seat Strap

Click to purchase from Amazon

Traveling with a car seat can be a great hassle. But renting one once you get there is pricey! We save our sanity and lots of money by taking our car seats with us.

We get a seat on the plane for our toddler, so we like to strap them in. This gives us a free hand on the plane and might even win us a nap time! 

However, to get the car seat through the airport, on and off the plane and into our rental car it can be cumbersome and downright frustrating.  For $12, we found a solution that combines the car seat with the carryon AND holds the toddler at the same time!  This is a win-win-win item.

With one hand, I pull the carryon, car seat and child.  When I put a smaller bag or backpack on top of the carry-on I can pull even more!  This gives me an extra hand to hold on to another child or luggage.

Toddler in a car seat attached to a carry-on

We’ve saved hundreds of dollars in carseat rental costs. Plus, our babies are safer on the plane. Not having to chase our toddlers through the airport is a sanity-saver!

Find other essential travel gear here.

2. Air Mattress 

Click to purchase from Amazon

We travel with 6 people. In a regular hotel room, there are beds for 4 and an extra baby crib. We usually have an extra kid, but don’t want to pay for a second room. Solution: we bring an air mattress!  At our hotel room, we blow it up for our extra child. 

Travel Hack: Use a hairdryer available in most hotel rooms to blow up the air mattress… or if you to blow off steam from a stresful travel day, blow it up yourself!

It would double the cost of our trip to get 2 hotels rooms. Not to mention our kids are not old enough to be in their own hotel room!  So to save money on family travel and our sanity, at bedtime we bring another bed!

Flying standby, we typically book last minute, so getting adjoining rooms would be impossible.  However, with a bit of luggage space and a few minutes pumping it up, we have enough beds for every kid.

And bonus, no one is fighting over who is touching who.  Sanity and money saved!

Young Girl sleeping in a hotel room with a towel for a blanket
Before traveling with an air mattress: When my daughter chose to sleep on the bed end table with a towel blanket instead of sharing a bed.

3. Pre-packed Family Toiletries

I pack a toiletry bag of essentials and always keep it packed.  Get a free packing list of essential toiletries for family travel here.

Click on photo to buy

I make sure to have the medication we typically need. Plus, I keep an extra set of all things we may use in the bathroom. Everyone has their own toothbrush, separate from the one they use at home.  This eases packing and getting back home.

When I pack for the trip, I just grab this bag and go.  I don’t have to think too much about what my family needs from the bathroom. 

Having this bag means we don’t have to spend extra money at expensive places (like the airport or the hotel) on bathroom essentials. The bag cost under $10 {on clearance!} and I use it on every trip.

Travel Toiletry bag

I make sure to add anything we used up or are missing when I return.  This way I can pack in a jiffy.

Find my detailed list of toiletry and medicine essentials in this post. Free packing list included.

4. Packing Cubes (pack by event)

Click to Buy

Packing cubes allow you to organize and squeeze so much more in a suitcase than I ever thought possible.  They can be affordable and extremely useful. 

We spent $20 on 4 cubes (and a laundry bag).  Use them to minimize packing space and stay organized.

Have a travel cube for each family member or pack by day, like I do – more info here {coming soon}.

Packing cubes allow our family of 6 to travel only using carry-ons, eliminating baggage fees.  And for standby travel, carrying all our bags allows us to change flights last minute if necessary.

In addition, packing tighter it easier to transition from car to shuttle to airport to hotel room and back again. Fewer bags = less stress!

5. Bring Food from Home

This is my favorite bag for traveling with food. Cheap, easy access and big enough to throw lots in! Click to buy.

While this isn’t one item, this is a money and sanity saver that is essential to save money on family travel.  When we travel, we typically go out to eat once a day.  We bring enough food to eat for the other meals and snacks. 

Spending money on snack-food that kids may or may not eat in places you are traveling is expensive!  I once spent $2 on a banana in an airport, that after 1 bite my kids decided they didn’t want!

Plus, having food accessible without having to wait for it when kids need an energy boost is essential to any traveling parent’s sanity. 

Watch this video for ideas of what to bring and how to pack it efficiently.

Wondering how to Make breakfast in a hotel room?

For more ideas of food to bring on trips, read what my picky kids will eat on the plane. 

Pin for your next vacation to save money on family travel

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