Twenty Budget Travel Tips For Great Family Vacations

By Kathy Steinemann

In today's economy, you might find it difficult to plan a family vacation that fits within
your budget. However with some forethought, you can organize a holiday that will keep
everyone happy - without straining finances.

Here are some tips that will help you save money while you enjoy quality time with
your family on holidays.

For the Tiny Travel Budget

• Instead of selecting a destination that requires travel by air, find something within
driving distance.

• Choose destinations with free attractions - like swimming at the beach, hiking in the
mountains, wildlife viewing in public parks, or playing baseball in a nearby recreational

• Investigate attractions off the beaten path, places that are not tourist traps.

• If you are planning a road trip and you own a gas-guzzler, try to swap it with a friend
or family member who has a vehicle with good gas mileage.

• Vacation rentals are often much cheaper than hotels - and you can cook all your own
meals, saving even more money.

• If you travel with friends, you can take turns babysitting for one another.

• Try a camping trip. There is a nightly charge in public campgrounds, but it is a small
fraction of what you would pay for a hotel. The family can enjoy hiking, biking, and
boating during the day. After dark, everyone can bond around the campfire while they
toast marshmallows and tell spooky ghost stories.

For the Larger Travel Budget

• Check currency exchange rates and select a destination where the conversion is
favorable. You can buy a lot more with much less money in some countries.

• Try to avoid peak-season travel. Unfortunately, a family with school-age children will
have to pay higher rates during summer holidays and other school breaks.

• Some airlines have a "kids fly free" program. Investigate and take advantage of the
savings if appropriate for your travel dates and destination.

• Investigate the reduced cost of flights to smaller airports. Sometimes, you can save
several hundred dollars per ticket by landing in an airport that is within an hour or so
of your destination. The car trip to your final destination can often be a scenic drive that
everybody enjoys.

• Remember to pack eBook readers, portable gaming systems, and other creature
comforts that will keep your kids occupied during inclement weather or airport delays.
Buying gadgets in another country can be expensive.

• If you plan to travel by air, check the price for airport shuttle service (usually a per-
person fee) and compare it with taxi fare. The taxi might cost a lot less.

• It may be cheaper to rent a car than to hire taxis if you plan to do a lot of local

• Many popular destinations offer coupon books with discounts on local attractions,
hotels, car rentals, and restaurants. Ask the local chamber of commerce or tourism
board for information.

• Try to find a hotel that offers free breakfast and/or a "kids eat free" program.

• Food is often the largest expense on a family vacation. To economize on meals and
snacks, make sure your hotel room has a refrigerator and microwave oven.

• When dining out, eat where the locals eat. The prices will be lower and the food will be

• Ask the hotel concierge or tourism board about local family attractions that are
inexpensive or free.

• Always inspect your hotel bill before checkout to make sure it does not contain any
unusual or unauthorized charges.

Tips For Avoiding Delays And Line-Ups While You Travel

By Kathy Steinemann


Travel can be stressful enough, without the exasperation of delays and line-ups, especially if you are traveling with kids. This article provides a few tips that will help you plan a more streamlined trip.


What do you remember about your last travel experience? The sights and wonderful people you met along the way, or delays at the airport and hassles at border crossings? If you mentioned one of the latter, you should benefit from these tips.


How to Reduce Wait Times in Line-Ups at Major Tourist Attractions


• Many well-known tourist attractions have websites where you can purchase tickets online. Advantage: You skip the queues and may even get a discount. Disadvantage: You are committed to the time you choose, regardless of weather or travel delays.


• Other attractions offer special conveniences; for instance, Walt Disney World's Fastpass. Rather than wait in line at a ride, you purchase a Disney Fastpass ticket and receive a specific time to return. You can then go and visit other attractions until your Fastpass return time. When you get back to the ride, the longest you have to wait in line is one hour.


• To avoid crowds, visit attractions during the week and arrive early in the day.


How to Reduce Wait Times in Airports


• Try not to travel on weekends or during busy holiday seasons like Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas.


• Pack only a carry-on in order to avoid baggage drop-off lines.


• Check in online and also take note of your flight's status before you leave home. There is no point in arriving at the airport at noon if your flight has been delayed until six pm.


• Use a self-serve kiosk to tag your bags.


• Some countries can issue special passes like NEXUS that allow frequent flyers to use kiosks for clearing the border and declaring their goods.


• Check-in kiosks are available at some airports.


• Avoid delays at security by carrying only approved items and wearing shoes that slip off quickly.


How to Avoid Delays at Border Crossings


• The best way to avoid delays is to have all required documents in order: passport, visa, permission letters, birth certificates for kids, receipts, etc.


• Be honest with customs officials and exhibit a respectful attitude.


• If you are driving, you might be able to access webcams that display traffic conditions at various border crossings. It may be better to take an alternative route if a particular crossing looks extremely busy.


• You can also use your NEXUS pass at border crossings to expedite the clearance process.


How to Avoid Lineups at Airport Parking Lots


• Many airports allow you to reserve and pay for parking online. They should have maps showing the various parking areas and how to access the main airport from each parking lot. Print out as many maps as you need and carry copies on your smartphone.


• If you plan to stay in a hotel before flying, see if they offer shuttle service and a stay-and-park plan that allows you to leave your vehicle in the hotel parking lot.

Packing Tips: Create A List Containing These Essential Items

By Kathy Steinemann


A packing list is a good thing to have; but where do you start? The answer: begin with these items and add whatever you need. Make a copy if you are a frequent traveler and update it before every trip. It will save you time and aggravation.


The best holidays usually begin with carefully packed suitcases. Create a list beginning with the following items and add to it depending on your individual needs. If you travel often, make a copy and revise it before each trip.


You will never leave home again without your passport or travel insurance card!


Passport, driver's license, and ID cards


Photocopy all documents. Carry the photocopies with you and store originals in a hotel safe or other secure place. Never keep originals and photocopies in the same location.


Travel insurance policy and information


Review your travel insurance before you go so that you are aware of what your policy covers and what it does not cover.


Original prescriptions for medications and eyeglasses


Be sure that you photocopy prescriptions and keep the originals with your passport. You should store all medications in original containers. Do not transfer to smaller bottles or zip lock bags.


Emergency numbers


Prepare a list of emergency numbers for every stop along the way. The list should include medical facilities, police, ambulance, coast guard, or whatever is appropriate for your personal situation and the specific location.


Maps, guidebooks, Internet printouts, and pamphlets


Remember to include the information you will need to navigate around your destination. Good street maps are especially important. If necessary, you can purchase a map at your destination; do so as soon as possible after arrival.




Carry a pen with you at all times. It will be useful for signing credit card slips and filling out forms such as customs declarations.


First-aid kit


Department stores and pharmacies usually carry small first-aid kits. These kits will help you to cope with small cuts and abrasions, bug stings or bites, diarrhea, indigestion, etc. Add to it if necessary. For example, if you have allergies, add anti-allergy medication or an auto-injector, depending on the severity of your allergies.


Hand sanitizer or baby wipes


Viruses and bacterial infections can attack any unprepared traveler. Carry a bottle of hand sanitizer - 100 ml/100 grams (3.4 oz) or less - and follow current transportation guidelines for packing liquids. Alternatively, pack individually wrapped single-use sanitizer gel-packs or anti-bacterial baby wipes. Use wipes to clean your hands or dirty eating surfaces.


Power converter kit


In many countries, you will need a special adapter before you plug in your razor or curling iron. If you will be traveling to several countries, a multi-unit kit is ideal.




Plan to take along your MP3 player, headphones (airline headphones are usually poor quality), books, magazines, or whatever you will need to keep yourself occupied for the duration of the trip. If you have children, be sure to include their favorite games and toys.


Digital camera with extra memory card(s) and batteries


If you have an expensive digital camera at home, it might be wise to pick up a cheaper model just for your vacation.


Travel alarm


Hotel alarm clocks do not always work and may be tethered to a location that is not convenient for you. If you like to wake up during the middle of the night and see the time or if you do not trust wake up calls, an individual travel alarm solves the problem.


Season- and location-specific clothing


Prepare for all applicable weather conditions, including rain, snow, heat waves, wind, and anything else you might encounter. Even in the tropics, a sweater comes in handy.

How To Keep Your Valuables Safe Whenever You Travel

By Kathy Steinemann


Every time you devise a way to keep your things safe - then post the information online - crooks read your posts and learn how to circumvent what you have done. So, you might not want to follow some of these tips. However, use them to spark ideas.


Are you looking for ways to keep your valuables safe while you travel? Here is a selection of ideas that have been used by travelers in the past. Although you might not want to follow some of the tips (because savvy crooks will already know about them) use this article as a springboard to develop your own security measures.


Once you have discovered something that works for you, keep it a secret!


Tips that everyone should read carefully are marked as Important in bold type.


Important: Although the hotel safe is the best place to put valuables, in some areas of the world the "safe" is just a desk drawer that can be accessed by any of the hotel staff. Use your best judgment and avoid anything that does not feel right to you.


It is impractical to take valuables with you. You should not leave them in your hotel room, either.


So, what are you supposed to do if you are in a hotel without secure safes?


Important: Do not leave the room until after it has been cleaned. As you exit, put the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the outside handle. Cleaning staff are more likely to avoid the room, thinking that it is occupied.


Places Where You Might be Able to Hide Valuables


You can place small valuables under the mattress once the room has been cleaned. Put them right under the center of the mattress (not under an edge where it is easy to see something by lifting a corner). Set some clothing or luggage on top of the bed.


Using a utility knife, you can turn an old pocket book into a hiding place. Carefully carve a square hollow into the center of the pages, leaving several of the first and last pages intact. Place the book in plain sight. If it is in a small pile of paperbacks, it is not as likely to be disturbed.


Other Tips


Important: Keep your suitcases locked when you leave the room. Most thieves will be after small objects that they can hide on their person. Walking out of a room with a suitcase would arouse suspicion, especially in hotels with security cameras.


If your room has a small fridge, you can hide valuables in food containers. Use your imagination - and don't forget where you stashed things when it is time to leave.


Tape an envelope underneath a flat surface, to the back of the television, or to the wall behind heavy curtains. An envelope can also be stashed between clean towels stacked up in the bathroom, or under an unused wastebasket (since there is no need for cleaning staff to touch it).


Place valuables in a sock and pin inside a back fold of heavy drapes (between drapes and wall - not in front of the window).


Consider the tips mentioned, then try to devise something new and unique that will foil would-be thieves.


Vacations Are Important For Your Physical And Mental Health

By Kathy Steinemann


Do you have to push yourself to take a vacation every year? Getting away from the grind might be more important than you realize! A properly-planned holiday with ample opportunities to relax can improve your health in several ways. Here are a few.


A well-planned, restful vacation can be like a new lease on life. Here are seven reasons why.


Vacations Can Help You Maintain Your Ideal Weight


Chronic stress triggers the buildup of cortisol. According to many authorities, this causes weight gain. You are also more likely to eat "comfort foods" during stressful periods, which can pack on several pounds over a year.


Vacations May Help You Sleep Better


Sleep deprivation is one of the top health-related issues in our modern world.


• It can be caused by family pets who share the bed.


• Late-night business calls are also culprits.


• Evening computer work can stimulate the brain and make it more difficult to relax once the lights have been turned off.


• Some people just don't dedicate enough time for sleeping.


On vacation, there are no pets or business calls to contend with. Worries about tomorrow's hectic schedule are gone. Sleep quality improves, especially if ample time is allotted for a good night's rest.


Vacations Can Make Your Brain Function More Efficiently


The everyday stresses of a job or daily routine can accumulate over time. Stress affects your brain's ability to function at peak efficiency. It may stifle analytical skills, decision-making capabilities, and creativity. Now there's a great reason to take a holiday - it might make you smarter!


Vacations Can Help Prevent Coronary Disease


Stress relief in the form of a vacation can prevent heart attacks! Those who take advantage of a break from their daily routine are much less likely to suffer coronary events. A time-out from your hectic schedule can help to lower your blood pressure and boost your immune system.


Vacations Can Improve Mental Health


People who take regular vacations are less likely to suffer from depression, fatigue, and anxiety. They are also generally happier with their marriages and relationships.


Vacations Can Improve Family Relationships


The family that vacations together bonds together. During a well-planned vacation, family relationships can improve. Everyone creates memorable experiences together. These memories can form the basis of future happy discussions as everyone reminisces about the great time they had. Parents and grandparents find out more about younger family members. Children and teens feel a sense of belonging when they get a chance to help plan destinations and activities.


Vacations May Enhance Job Performance


Here is a good reason to ask your boss for a vacation! A break from your job can prevent burnout. On your return, you will be a happier, more productive employee with a new perspective on life and work responsibilities.


What Are You Waiting For?


Start planning your next vacation now. It doesn't have to be expensive or fancy.

How To Protect Your Valuables While You Travel By Air

By Kathy Steinemann


Your vacation should be enjoyable. However, thieves can ruin your holiday and transform it into an unpleasant memory with long-lasting repercussions. This article discusses how you can protect your valuables and cash from crooks.


Before we discuss protecting your valuables, ask yourself what you really need to take with you.


Do you require an expensive digital camera, or can you borrow a cheaper one that will serve the purpose?


Are those diamond earrings essential, or can you make do with costume jewelry?


Is a gaming laptop computer necessary, or can you survive with a tablet that has access to online games?


Once you have established a packing list, here are some steps you can take to protect essential valuables.


• Check your home or renter's insurance policy to see what it covers. You might need to purchase extra coverage for loss during travel. Carry your insurance company's contact information with you on your smartphone or on a piece of paper that is always nearby.


• Be sure to document everything before you leave. Take photos of expensive items and photocopy receipts, assessments, or other important documentation, including serial numbers. Leave one copy of everything with a contact person at home and take one copy with you. For extra security, scan everything and upload it to an online email account.


• Do not pack important items in checked luggage. Carry them with you in a next-to-body security pouch (best option) or in your carry-on.


• Place valuables in clear zip-lock bags for easier security inspection, to keep small items from falling on the floor during inspection, and to avoid theft by light-fingered security personnel.


• Do not throw anything loose into the TSA bin. This includes your cellphone, iPod, watch, etc. Instead, place small items in a zippered jacket pocket or zip-lock bag before putting them into the bin.


• After you clear security, attach locks to all zippered compartments of your carry-on and keep it locked.


• While you travel, remain alert and in complete control of your possessions at all times. Pickpockets often work in groups or with street performers to engineer distractions and divert attention from their activities.


• Never count money in public or reveal where you keep most of your cash. Store a small amount of currency in a fake wallet, and use a private area like a washroom to transfer bills from your security pouch to your fake wallet.


• If you are seated in the airport or at a restaurant, place hand luggage on the floor with one of your legs inside the shoulder strap so that it cannot be dislodged without your notice.


• On the plane, place your carry-on under the seat in front of you or in the compartment directly above your head.


• Once you reach your destination, take valuables out of your hand luggage and lock them in your room safe or hotel safe. If you use the hotel safe, carry your valuables there in something nondescript that does not reveal contents (like a leather pouch, makeup case, etc.)


Remember these tips - and enjoy your vacation!

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