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The less you spend on a trip, the more you can actually travel. But sometimes it is worth throwing extra money at things, especially when you're traveling with kids. Here are eight splurges you won't regret making by the time you set out with the kids.
If you've been putting off travel due to finances, but you're still buying non-essential items like toys or elaborate birthday parties for the kids, it's time rethink your approach. Or maybe you make it out for a long weekend to the same family lake cabin every year, which is great, but you'd really like to do better someday. It's time to reprioritize and make an investment in meaningful travel experiences for your family.
Studies show that travel is a worthwhile investment for your health and happiness. Sharing such an experience with children provides them with an opportunity to expand their world view, pick up new languages, appreciate different cultures and learn important soft skills like flexibility and decision-making. Don't think of paying for a family trip as something you spend money on but rather something you invest in.
2. Direct flights
Though there is such a thing as a family-friendly airport, let's face it: You don't want to spend your precious vacation time getting to your destination. Sometimes you can save a few bucks if you're willing to take a more circuitous route that includes layovers, but if the price difference isn't going to break the bank, then book direct flights instead.
Alternatively, know what airports are notorious for delayed or canceled flights at certain times of the year (we're looking at you, New England in the winter) and pay more if it means you can avoid these airports as part of your route.
3. Travel insurance
Travel insurance is one of those purchases you hope you never have to use,but pays itself back tenfold when you do. Whether you miss a flight, get sick or injured, or lose your luggage, having insurance can help sort out whatever threatens to ruin your trip.
You can purchase travel insurance from a number of sources—directly from airlines, travel-related providers like AAA and insurance companies, for example. Find out what is available to you and appropriate for your situation.
4. Decent accommodations
Getting a good night's sleep is just as important while traveling as it is when you're at home. Choose accommodations that allow for ample room for all your family members and their needs. This may mean paying for two adjoining hotel rooms so the teens can spread out, or even renting a home so there's a family room where you can all relax.
Likewise, it's worth it to pay a bit more for accommodations in a safe part of town. Also, book a room with air conditioning if it's needed. This can be tough in Central America or Southeast Asia, but it's essential for your comfort.
You don't need to spend a fortune for a good bag, but don't buy anything with questionable seams and zippers that tear out at first use. Luggage is constantly bumped, jostled, thrown, stuffed and man-handled. The last thing you need to be doing on your family getaway is trying to find duct tape to hold your belongings together.
When you shop for luggage, consider what you need and do a thorough job researching your options. Read reviews carefully, and pay a bit more for a quality piece of luggage.
6. That once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
If you are given the chance to knock something off of your family's bucket list, then do it. It's not every day that you and your kids can snorkel off the beaches of Belize or ride in a hot air balloon above the Serengeti. You may never have this opportunity again. Spend. The. Money.
These are the moments you will look back on for years to come. You're not going to reminisce the same way about an expensive pair of jeans.
7. An interactive experience
There is value in wandering around your destination at your own leisure, discovering the ins and outs as you see fit. But you may also be missing an opportunity to really get to know a place if you're just skimming the surface.
Consider signing up for a cooking, or arts and crafts, class as a family, or look into a volunteer opportunity where you're staying. Although tours sometimes get a bad rap, there are exceptional, family-friendly guided tours that provide a deeper context for a place (and they often let you skip the lines at the most crowded tourist destinations). Read reviews before you go to find out what the best options are for your family, keeping in mind the ages and interests of your kids.
You are required to get some vaccinations when visiting certain parts of the world. Others are simply optional. Unless there is a really good reason not to, spring for those optional vaccinations (and throw in the malaria medication too). Your body is not accustomed to germs and conditions you'll meet on the other side of the world, and the last thing you want is to do is spend your vacation sick.
This small expense really could be a matter of life and death, so don't skimp here.