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How You Can Afford Travel as Parents

Many happy couples do much of their traveling together in the time before they have children — and then hope to travel more during retirement. This is an understandable pattern to fall into. Kids naturally make it a little bit more difficult to take off as a couple at any given point, even if family travel is still on the table. But plenty of parents also put their travel plans on hold due to expenses. For all of the happiness they bring to your lives, children are expensive, and it can become harder for a lot of parents to justify travel costs when so much money needs to go toward the kids.

This, too, is perfectly understandable. But it’s also avoidable! And that’s what we want to focus on here, by providing a few ideas for how you can afford to travel even with kids in the house.

Book Flights Strategically
One thing about travel that you do lose as parents is spontaneity. With kids in the picture, there’s really no such thing as jetting off for an impromptu long weekend on an island (unless the kids are of a certain age and you’re just really cool parents!). But this is actually a good thing with regard to expenses, because planning ahead often means securing better rates.

Indeed, it’s often true that the earlier you book flights, the more likely you are to find low-cost rates. Or at the very least, the earlier you start monitoring flights, the more likely it is that you’ll find a good deal. Additionally, many hotels like those back home in the Philippines offer promos that are good for a year to help them weather the global health crisis, so parents don’t need to worry about booking flights at an advanced date. This sort of planning — booking flights and sifting through accommodation options early, planning activities, and so on — can result in hundreds of dollars in savings for a given trip.

Employ Family & Friends — Not Babysitters
This point speaks for itself. But to be clear, some of the heftiest costs parents can face in planning vacations involve care for the kids. As you might imagine, hiring overnight babysitters gets very expensive, even if it can seem to be the most straightforward option. So instead, we’d recommend asking friends or family to help out and watch the kids. You’ll still want to do something nice for them, of course. But friends and family will be happy to help if it’s not happening too often, and paying them back with a nice gift card or a few bottles of wine as pasalubong will likely save you money in comparison to sitter fees. According to Global News, the average cost per hour for a babysitter is between $12 to $15 — which can add up very quickly, and will likely be higher for a more demanding job.

Set Up Reliable College Savings
An argument that some parents will make to themselves is that it’s unwise to spend significant funds on a vacation when those same funds could be put toward their children’s future. This is clearly a valid concern and even an admirable sentiment. But if you plan strategically for your children’s future — and specifically for their education — this matter may not have to be such an “either/or” decision.

Specifically, establishing a reliable college savings fund that you contribute to as needed can help you to feel secure in the idea that these expenses are being taken care of. This is true essentially because a fund can be invested to grow over time — meaning it’s not simply a matter of putting more of your own money in on a regular basis. A guide to popular RESP plans clarifies that the money in these accounts can actually be invested in things like mutual funds and ETFs, such that they expand and build up to fund future education. With that sort of arrangement in place, you may feel more justified in putting a little bit of money now and then toward something for yourselves. It doesn’t have to come at the expense of education or other future plans!

Set Up Savings For Travel
Just as you might benefit from setting up funds for your children, you might also find that setting up specific savings accounts of your own can free up funds for travel. One way that this idea can help is simply by establishing “extra” money that you won’t mind spending when the time comes. Make a plan to skip a small luxury once a week — say, that latte you grab on the way to work — and put that money into a savings account that’s specifically for vacation funding. In a year’s time, you can be well on your way to funding a whole trip with what will, at that point, feel like bonus cash. Not to mention, those funds will grow a little bit through interest over time, too.

Another way to go about this idea is to establish a high-yield savings account, and focus more on growth. In this case, you’ll want to put more of a lump sum away in the early going. But with a high-yield arrangement, the account will typically grow more if you leave the money in it for a given amount of time. Thus, you can invest a modest sum, and, down the road, withdraw enough of a return to feel better about paying for a trip.

Prioritize Destinations By Cost
We love this last tip in particular: Sit down together and establish a long list of places you’d both like to travel at some point in your lives. Be ambitious, give it some real thought, and try to include all of the options you can think of (naturally, you can always change the list down the road!). Then, figure out which of your destinations might be more expensive, and decide now to put them off. Aim to visit these places once the kids are grown up, and/or if you retire comfortably. And in the meantime, spend your busy parenting years focusing on more affordable trips.

This doesn’t mean you have to restrain yourself to the nearest beach or lake you’re able to drive to, either. Take a look through a list of affordable dream vacations that was posted at Verily a few years ago, and you’ll see that there are some fairly exotic possibilities that can be cheaper than you think. At that time, some of these destinations included Mediterranean getaways, trips to South Asia, and even trekking in Nepal — though affordability shifts over time. The basic idea is that your list of lower-cost vacation desires can probably be a little more adventurous than you’d guess!

There are a lot of reasons that parents can’t always travel quite as much as they’d like to. But hopefully, by taking these tips into account, you can keep cost from being one of those reasons. With some strategic planning and consideration, you can manage vacation expenses and travel to relaxing locations like El Nido in the Philippines or Phuket in Thailand — even while raising children.

Laydee Smith

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