Before you know it, the kids will be out of school and summer will officially be here, which means you need to start planning your family-fun escape... now. To make it simpler, we’ve streamlined the planning process so you can save money—and get the best bang for your buck.
Set an alert. It’s no secret that flight costs fluctuate, but to score the best deal, sign up for airfare alerts (you can do this with any airline). After providing your desired departure and arrival dates and times, you’ll get alerts sent directly to your email inbox about the changes in your flight costs. “This way, you’ll always be informed of the best price without having to check back constantly online,” says Anne Banas of Smarter Travel.
Package it. Looking to save time and money? A package deal may be the best option. Dynamic packaging will allow you to book flights and rooms—and rent a car— all in one shot. You’ll wind up saving more money purchasing it all together, rather than separately. “Hotels with excess inventory give sites like Orbitz rooms to sell at discounted rates, notes Jeanenne Tornatore, Senior Editor of Orbitz. “Within a package, they don’t have to broadcast how much they slashed the price.”
Beware of fees. When searching for hotels and flights, be sure to check the fine print of every bargain and know what you’re getting charged for. Beware of extra tax fees that may pop up, and try to identify all the miscellaneous things your hotel might charge you for, like phone calls, Internet usage, equipment rentals and more. And most often than not, additional services—like in room dining— will cost you extra.
Find kiddie care. Check out the children’s amenities at the resorts you’re considering, like kids’ clubs, kiddie swimming pools, or a kid-friendly dining area. “Pool time is free entertainment, and a great way to wear the kids out before bedtime,” says Tornatore. Having a general plan of what you’ll do with the kids once you arrive at your destination will give you peace of mind. Plus, you’ll also be able to answer honestly when your kids ask, “What are we going to do when we get there?”
Get real feedback: How can you be sure you’re really going to a four-star hotel? If you want to get the honest 411 from been-there vacationers at specific resorts, then it’s always helpful to check out websites like TripAdvisor.com. “They are the most comprehensive when it comes to hotel and resort reviews,” says Banas. Reading through the reviews will provide you a more realistic depiction of the resort you’re looking into—you can check out users’ photos and videos to see the real deal, too. You’ll also find listings of places to eat and things to do around the area, with travelers’ tips for making your trip affordable.