Whether you’re road tripping or flying, visiting family or a brand new place, one thing unites all family vacations: They’re expensive.
Of course, there are some common sense money saving tips: Drive rather than fly, consider staying in shoulder season weeks like right before or right after labor day, and stay with family members or friends.
But chances are, there are some other ways to save big that you may not have considered.
Here are the best under the radar techniques for saving on summer vacations.
Whether you rent or own, you may be able to swap your house for the same week, so you can live in another family’s house.
Pro tip: Look for a house whose owners have children around the same age as yours so you won’t have to pack up that crib or toddler toys.
Third-party websites, like HomeLink and LoveHomeSwap connect you to other potential swappers while providing insurance to protect your home and belongings. Some people often do an informal house swap within their own network of family and friends, in which case, it’s smart to lay out some ground rules and expectations to make sure everyone is on the same page.
See which credit cards you currently have, and what travel perks they may offer.
If you don’t have a travel rewards card, it may be a smart idea to consider applying for one with the best credit card perks, which could include free checked bags or priority boarding.
In addition, many credit cards offer bonus rewards to sign up, and since you’re likely already spending a significant amount of cash on the trip, opening a new credit card and putting the charges on the travel-specific card (with the plan to pay the balance in full) could help you unlock bonus rewards you can then put toward the hotel stay on your trip.
Just be careful to not overdo this - signing up for too many cards too quickly can negatively impact your credit score.
It’s smart to make sure you join any hotel loyalty programs prior to booking a stay.
These programs are often free, and enrollment may have perks including waived fees (like parking), free wifi, access to exclusive discount codes, and more.
If you know where you’re staying, consider following that hotel on Twitter and Instagram, as well as following the feeds of local restaurants, tourism boards, and attractions. These social media posts may clue you into specific discounts or deals you wouldn’t otherwise know about.
In addition, consider joining a local parents group on Facebook, which may clue you into fairs, festivals, and locals-only activities like toddler storytimes or swim sessions, that you wouldn’t otherwise know about if you were only visiting and looking on “official” channels.
At the car rental kiosk, a lot of people may feel pressured into purchasing car rental insurance, which can add hundreds onto your final bill.
Some credit cards include some forms of car rental insurance, and your auto insurance will likely give you liability coverage on a rental car. Know exactly what you have and what it covers before you go.
It also may be smart to reserve a rental car at an off-airport location other than at the airport, taking a cab, Uber, or Lyft to and from the location — rental cars tend to be pricier at transportation hubs than a few miles away and airport location surcharges can add up quickly.
If you’re traveling with toddlers, you may not need to see “must see” attractions to have a full experience.
Playgrounds, swimming pools, and local kid’s meetups can give you and your child a fun vacation experience at a fraction of the price of the tourist trail. Joining a local Facebook parent’s group can be one good way to find attractions, as can downloading an app like Winnie (which helps parents find local activities depending on zip code) or Playground Buddy (which helps parents find nearby playgrounds).
Your kids, too, can earn big when it comes to miles. They don’t need to have a credit card or be 18, as long as a parent signs them up, and having all your family simultaneously earning miles on a flight can help you all save on future travel.
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