10 Ways to Save on Family Travel

Whether you go by car or plane, a money-saving strategy for your family vacation is key. Work the Web and try these tactics to get the best deals.

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Mario Wagner

1. Score the cheapest airfare by buying domestic tickets six weeks before your trip, says Pauline Frommer, host of the radio program The Travel Show. Check prices at the beginning of the week: Competing airlines usually list their sales on Tuesdays, according to Frommer. Prices generally rise during the weekends, when more people are searching.

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2. Download the app Hopper (free; Android and iOS) to be notified of the best time to purchase a flight. Just search for your trip by entering your desired dates and you’ll be alerted when the price drops. You can book your flight directly through the app.

3. A seemingly cheap flight may not be such a great deal once you add on luggage fees. Be familiar with an airline's policy in advance: Websites like airfarewatchdog.com and farecompare.com list many of the most common charges by carrier. For example, Spirit charges for carry-on bags (up to $55 at the counter and $65 if you gate-check) while Southwest and JetBlue allow at least one free checked carry-on or item per passenger.

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4. Keep track of your loyalty programs. AwardWallet which works with over 600 loyalty programs from airlines, hotels and credit cards can help you monitor all your points in one place. The site Points even allows you to exchange and convert points and miles from one loyalty program to another for faster booking. 

5. When you're considering a particular destination, follow the cost of flying there with alerts from airfarewatchdog.com, farecompare.com, or my.yapta.com. Yapta also lets you know if your fare drops after you book and whether you're eligible for a refund, says budgeting expert Andrea Woroch.

6. Reserve your hotel through tingo.com (part of Smarter Travel Media, a TripAdvisor company) and your reservation will automatically get rebooked at the lower rate if the hotel drops its prices, plus you'll be refunded the difference. Enter your hotel reservation on backbid.com and comparable hotels will e-mail you competing deals.

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7. Vacation rentals can save you up to 30% in total trip costs, says Frommer. You also get more space as well as amenities, like a kitchen. Search on vrbo.com and homeaway.com.

8. The cheapest option of all is a home swap—all you pay is the membership fee to a website like homeexchange.com ($150 per year). Just keep in mind that you'll have to open up your home to guests in return.

9. Bid for a vehicle through Priceline or Hotwire; both use major car rental companies, says Frommer. Or browse at breezenet.com, which also includes local companies. And don't forget to check AAA.com and your warehouse club store, such as Costco, for additional member savings.

10. Instead of booking directly with a cruise line, consider using an agency, such as vacationstogo.com or cruisesonly.com. These companies get money-saving perks from cruise lines, including free upgrades and onboard ship credits, then pass them on to their clients.

—Ardenis Perez contributed to this report.

Updated May 2018. This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each hotel and attraction for up-to-date rates and information before taking your trip.