Updated: Jun 11, 2021
Thanks for joining me.
I love to travel. It is a part of me that I cannot shake. I consider anything from an overnight trip to the mountains to an extended vacation of several weeks and even months across the oceans, to everything in between as travel. However, the actual trip is only part of the experience for me. The planning, researching, booking tickets, and telling friends and family of our “Where to Next?” is all part of the story. There is nothing like doing the research and stumbling upon a great deal. I have found in our experience, when we say it out loud that we would like to go to a certain destination in a certain month, magically within a couple of weeks a great airplane fare will appear.
Honestly, this has happened to us many times.
Being a family of 5 is not the most ideal number for traveling. A family of 4 can easily rent a regular hotel room with two double beds at a cheap rate. However, life had a different plan for us, and we found ourselves blessed with 3 girls. I feel like the Universe wanted to test me. “I know you love to travel Rikki, but we need to see how you can do it on a tight budget with a family of 5. Go!” So, I came to accept that I needed to look outside of the box.
The following is a list of some of the ways I have saved on travel in the past: A Savings Account specifically for holidays, Credit Cards that offer travel dollars, Airline Loyalty Programs, VRBO/Airbnb Stays, Food, Car Rentals, Flexibility, Word of Mouth Recommendations, and the Little Things are the points I wanted to touch on. There are more, but then this blog would turn into a novel.
Any companies I name, I am not affiliated with. I just wanted to share what we have used over the years.
Travel Savings Account- For years we have had a separate bank account for traveling. I had set it up through ING (now Tangerine) because it took some effort to access the money and I would have to think twice if I really wanted to take it out for something else other than the purpose of travel. I have renamed the account over the years from Switzerland, Warm Holidays, New Zealand, and now Next Holiday on a Plane. We have our bank account automatically set up so that a small amount each week is deposited from our checking into our holiday savings as well as an additional amount on payday. When the money is automatically moved over, you do not notice it missing. I look at it as another bill payment…but this one is going to our family. It does not take long for the account to grow. I remember the last time my husband and I went to Maui I had found a great airfare deal online. I realized, if I used some of my travel credit points, I would only need about $600 to pay the rest of the fare. We had just over $600 saved as we had dried the account up 8 months before. I could justify using that money because it was designated for travel. So, I went and booked the tickets. When you have an account that is for the soul purpose of travel, be kind to yourself and use it just for that.
Credit Card that pays you Travel Points- We have been using our Avion Credit Card forever. It is a little scary sometimes when I see how many points we have accrued and realized to get them we had spent A LOT of money on our credit card. We do pay our regular bills like cellphone, internet/cable, and gas/electric on our credit card to build up our points, which quickly adds up. However, it does feel good to be rewarded in some little way and we can spend the points on a flight, a night in a hotel, a car rental, or even an experience. Anything that can help save a few dollars on your holiday is always a bonus. A few years back I had enough points for us to stay in a nice hotel in Vancouver. We stayed near the top floor, and we qualified to have access to the executive suite where appetizers and drinks were offered in the latter part of the day as well as breakfast in the morning. The girls still talk about that “fancy” hotel with the pool and “free” food. I am saving my points now to hopefully have another posh experience for a night in Vancouver this summer.
Airline Loyalty Programs- Most airlines have a membership program that offers points towards free travel. I have been part of the Aeroplan program offered by Air Canada since the beginning of my independent travels. I have mainly used points to fly within North America and Hawaii, as I found I received more bang for my points staying on this continent, and the service fees and fuel charges were not so high. I have recently discovered that you can now combine up to 7 family members' accounts together to gain more points quickly for a free ticket through Aeroplan. I have signed up the family for this option and will see if it really does benefit us. Another option if you do not have enough points for a return ticket, is to purchase a one-way. One day years ago I had caught up with a friend who had just returned from the Big Island of Hawaii the day before. We were chatting over coffee, and he was telling me about all the places he loved there. He even drew a map on a napkin to show me great hidden gems. As I left the coffee shop, I had visions of beaches and volcanos in my head. I thought to myself, if I could purchase tickets for 5 of us at around $1300 in total, we are going to the Big Island this year. I went home and started searching airfares, but it seemed only like a dream. Then the next morning I woke up with the idea of maybe we each had enough travel points on our Aeroplan accounts for a one-way ticket. I started looking into our airline points to discover that we did have enough. It was a little bit of a puzzle to put together, but in the end, after using our airline points and some points from the credit card and with a bit of flexibility in dates I found tickets for just over $1300 for the 5 of us and 2 months later we spent 17 days on the Big Island.
Renting condos through VRBO and Airbnb are accommodation options we have been using for 15 years. The first time we used this option was in Napili, Hawaii when I was 23 weeks pregnant with the twins. It was a great new discovery of places to stay and the answer to my prayers of how as a family of 5 were going to make traveling part of our life. This was the only way we could afford to travel and have a room big enough to accommodate the 5 of us. A lot of hotels do not accommodate a family of 5 and if they do you are paying double the price for a bigger room with no kitchen. We found that these condos offered a lot more bang for their buck. Some property owners would stock up their condo with beach toys and chairs, binoculars, reading materials, board games, cards, coolers, etc. Extra conveniences to make your stay more enjoyable or convenient. Some would stock their kitchen cupboards with kitchen staples, so you did not have to purchase those little things for your stay. It is always fun to go into a condo and see what little extras have been left for you. So far, we have rented this type of accommodation in Maui all three times, the Big Island, California, the Cook Islands, Fernie, and this summer we have booked a cottage across from Chesterman Beach, Vancouver Island for a week. I believe that this kind of accommodation will be a popular option after what we have been through these past 16 months. Self-contained accommodation is the perfect way to holiday for the next while as we navigate our new travel normal.
Food- Meals eat up a big part of our budget while on holidays. But we have learned to balance the costs out with a little restraint. Renting any kind of accommodation with at least a small refrigerator, but preferably a kitchen can help with your travel budget. When the girls were younger, their choice of meals was limited. Chicken fingers, burgers, or pizza were, and still are the only items they look for on a menu in a restaurant. Having a kitchen allowed us to serve them up some special sugared cereal they never got at home for breakfast, snacks, and sandwiches for lunch and then we would head out for dinner. It was also the only way I could get some fruit and veggies in them. In Hawaii, we would make a trip to the local grocery store to the seafood counter and pick up some fresh poke with rice for half the price you would buy in a restaurant, and it was good. For me, a trip to the local grocery store in a different country is an experience. I love looking at the products I would not find in my grocery stores at home and sometimes I get a real kick out of the labels. It is fun to purchase some local products and try them for yourself. Also, ask the locals what their favorite restaurants or take-outs are. They will know where the best deals are and the tastiest food worth trying.
Car Rentals- Most car rental companies will allow you to book a car without having to pay upfront or they do not have a penalty for canceling last minute. Once you have done your initial search for a car rental and found a good deal, book it. But do not end there. Keep checking back once in a while to see if there is a better deal out there. Sometimes you will find the best deal many weeks out or last minute. Having a Costco membership can lead you to some great car rental deals. Also, check into your car insurance as well as your credit card to see if car rental insurance is covered. This is mainly for North America if you live in Canada or the USA. Other country destinations may not be covered the same way. For long-term rentals, investigate in a “rent a wreck” scenario. We rented a wreck in New Zealand for 4 weeks. It was a 2012 Subaru Legacy Wagon and it had so many dings in the body the “walk around form” looked like a masterpiece of dot art. The side bumper was held up by duck tape. The girls hesitated in climbing into this vehicle. We asked the agency if someone could tie up the bumper with zip ties. A quick fix later, we named the car Ernie and we were on our way. This car was awesome for our family of 5 who would be living out of the back of the trunk for 4 weeks, camping. We did not feel bad that we returned it very “lived-in” because that was the beauty of a “rent a wreck”, it did not have to look perfect when you returned it…just “clean”.
Flexibility is Key- To travel and get some great deals on flights, accommodation, and car rentals you will need to have some flexibility. If you can travel in non-peak times, that will save you a lot of money. If you can fly out on a Tuesday or Wednesday, these tend to be cheaper days to travel. Up until 2019, I was able to book holidays on a budget because we had a lot of flexibility. We did not have a problem taking the girls out of school for a couple of weeks (or more) because, on the grand scale of life, we did not think it would make a difference in their education. However, that was when they were in primary and junior high school. Once our oldest reached high school, we came to terms with the thinking that we may have to travel at the same time as everyone else. I was completely shocked at the prices for beach holidays during February Break 2020. We could not bring ourselves to paying double the price. This was when we went to plan B and decided to head back to Ontario for a visit with family and friends as well as treat ourselves to a couple of days in Toronto and picked up last-minute tickets to see “Come from Away” and watch the Raptors Farm Team play. I found cheap airline tickets for the 5 of us to fly home. Everything had come together beautifully. Even Mother Nature was good to us. Deep down inside I had a question about why the signs were leading us home to visit our family in the winter of 2020. A few weeks after our return, the world shut down and I got my answer.
Word of Mouth Recommendations from friends, family, acquaintances, people in line at the grocery store, and locals are a great source to find good deals. I am always asking for advice from others. This helps clear the clutter of multiple choices out there. Also, you might stumble upon a place that you would have never thought of going to, because no guidebook recommended it. In New Zealand, our friend mentioned to us that if we ever passed by KeriKeri we should go there because they had the best oranges in the country. A few days later we came upon this town and decided to take the exit. The first place we stopped was a bakery with a fruit and veggie stand. They did not have any oranges, but the baking looked amazing and was cheap. We ended up buying some donuts and custard buns that were so delicious. We then headed further into town and discovered a Farmer’s Market with music. This was a great find because we found oranges, plus discovered other local products, and listened to some good tunes. I still remember that market. This was all because we needed to go try the oranges in KeriKeri.
The Little Things- The last point I have is to just enjoy the little things that a holiday has to offer. Tap into your senses and take more time to breathe in the smells of the flowers, watch the lingering sunsets, taste a new street food specialty, listen to the birds, and feel the warm sand between your toes. I found myself this year tapping into my senses more just to find joy in the little things as our world had become so small, quiet, and lonely. With an air of caution, I feel like we are slowly on our way to the provinces, country, and world soon at our disposal again. I feel like I will experience travel in a different way…at least for the first few trips. A world of wonder, appreciation, and gratitude. The chance to connect with others. A friend of mine pointed out something to me the other day. We have something in common with every single person in the world now…we all experienced the pandemic. In an odd way, we have become connected in a small way.
Thank you for being here.
Have a beautiful day.