Post by International Military Life Community Manager, Courtney Woodruff
Planning trips on a tight military family budget is like staring down a jumble of tiny puzzle pieces scattered across the floor. Working to make the irregular shapes fit together just right can be time-consuming, stressful and even a bit disheartening at times. But don’t get discouraged; it is possible to travel without turning your family’s financial plan upside down.
Follow these four tips to help save more money for what really matters on vacation: soaking up the sights, sounds, flavors and experiences, and spending quality time with your traveling companions.
Be flexible with your dates.
Simply giving yourself a day or two lee-way on either end of your trip can be a great way to save a significant amount of money on flights and hotel stays. Prices can fluctuate drastically from one day to the next. Research and compare fees for a range of dates on websites like Skyscanner.com, and plan for your departure and return to fall within the timeframe offering the lowest rates.
Avoid peak times.
The best deals can often be found during the week, on the off season (October through April in Europe, for example) and around special occasions, such as holidays, school breaks, conventions and popular events. Consider the time of year and find out what’s going on in the area when you plan to travel. Choose dates that will allow you to steer clear of crowds to keep from paying inflated fees.
Take advantage of exclusive discounts.
Watch out for special offers you may qualify for, including deals for veterans and military families. For example, USAA offers members-only pricing on car rentals and cruises. Many destinations also offer city cards, like Rome’s Roma Pass, which include a bundle of deals for one flat rate. These passes often cover skip-the-line museum admission fees, public transportation, events, services and more. Research discounts specific to your demographic and the city you are visiting to get the biggest bang for your buck.
Protect yourself with travel insurance.
Even though travel insurance is technically an added expense, my family has learned the hard way, when traveling on a budget, we can’t afford to skip it. Life is unpredictable, and the call of duty has a way of derailing even the best laid plans when unexpected orders come through. Save yourself the hefty expense of having to pay for flight changes, hotel cancellation fees and missed excursions by making sure your travel plans are covered.
What are your best kept secrets for traveling on a budget?
Check out the USAA – International FAQ
Courtney Woodruff is a military spouse, mom, writer, editor and web content manager currently living in Germany. She has a heart for our troops and their families and hopes to share what little she has learned along the way to help others overcome the unique challenges of military life. You can follow her adventures at her blog, Courtney At Home, or through her social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.