4 tricks for saving money on a family vacation

My family didn’t travel much when I was a kid, but when we did, my parents jumped through hoops to cut costs.

On a trip to Disney World,
DIS,
-1.11%
for example, our family of six switched hotels. Every. Night. My mom worked for a hotel chain and could get one free night per property.

Did my parents save money? Yes. Did it add to the mental burden of traveling with four kids? Absolutely.

As an adult now, planning a trip with my own child, I fully understand how expensive — and hard — it is to travel with kids. Planning and packing requires accounting for naps, snacks, tantrums and blowouts. And you’re budgeting for extra airfare, a bigger rental car and additional lodging.

You can save money on family travel and still have peace of mind. To find out how, I consulted two experts. Here’s what they had to say.

Pay with points

The secret of savvy travelers? They don’t actually pay for airfare and lodging. Instead, they use rewards credit cards to turn everyday purchases into free flights and hotel rooms.

“Make your money work for you,” says Preethi Harbuck, a San Francisco Bay Area-based travel writer behind the blog Local Passport Family. Harbuck’s family of seven (soon to be eight) travels almost exclusively on credit card points. “There are more expenditures when you have kids but you can leverage those into greater benefits.”

Card hopping can net you major points thanks to signup bonuses but can be hard to manage, says Jamie Harper, mother of four and author of the travel blog Fly by the Seat of Our Pants. To keep things manageable, stick to one or two primary cards.

Harper and her husband rotate between Hyatt,
H,
+4.10%
Marriott
MAR,
+1.90%
and Hilton
HLT,
+2.37%
cards, which offer perks…

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