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Money-Saving Family Travel Tips

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Like any good Latina, I traveled to visit family in the Dominican Republic often as a child and because my travel schedule was dependent on school breaks and holidays, my family and I always traveled during the busiest time to do so.

Oh, the long lines of travelers waiting to check their numerous bags, often so heavily packed with goodies to bring back to the familia, that they required plastic wrap and industrial tape to hold them together. My cousins and I would often joke about seeing chickens and other livestock pocking out at the seams. What wasn't a joke was the amount of money our family spent to travel back home, unaware of the many ways in which to not only save money, but also improve the way in which they travel. Here are some tips to make those trips less expensive and much more enjoyable.

Loyalty Rewards

You know how abuela would only travel that one airline because it was the one she first came to this country on, and it's the one that always gets her back home alive? Well, little did she know that her loyalty could have delivered some pretty great rewards. By signing up to an airline's frequent flier program, you stand to collect points that can save you money in baggage fees, as well as hotel and car rentals—for those moments when you'd rather not stay with your cousins while visiting. I am huge fan of the Star Alliance Program, which covers a lot of airlines both national and international, allowing you more choices as well as more opportunities to save. And loyalty programs are offered at many hotels and car rental companies as well. Members can save in many ways, from free Wi-Fi at hotels to free or discounted upgrades with car rentals.

International Banking

I prefer to pay with a credit card when I travel anywhere, including overseas, especially if my card is tied to a rewards program like those mentioned above. But a lot of cards add an exchange rate fee when you use them, increasing your spending costs. I know my abuela didn't feel comfortable using credit cards and maybe didn't meet the minimum requirements to apply for such a card. In her case, a prepaid credit card would have been great. But if you need to get cash while traveling, then you want to make sure that you have a bank that won't charge you crazy fees every time you have to take out cash. Nomadic Matt, as well as Ryan from Pause The Moment travel blog, has recommendations for the best banks for your money when traveling internationally, and they both speak very highly of Charles Schwab as an option due to their "no fee" checking.

Cash Exchange

Two important tips to remember about money and travel: Always keep cash to a minimum, as it can't be replaced when lost and never exchange money at the airport, as these have the worst exchange rates available. The best place to exchange money is in a bank at the destination. Hotels often have this service as well, but they charge a fee for the convenience. If you are traveling to remote areas, chances are you'll need cash, thus some calculation on estimates on cash needed might be required. Familiarize yourself with exchange rates before leaving home; never blindly trust that others will get it right and never exchange before asking up front about the rate being offered.

Break The Mold, Search For Deals

Unlike my abuelita before me, I'm breaking the mold and traveling even if it means taking the kids out of school for a day or two, or taking a vacation when no one else is even thinking of it. I do this because it saves me money and allows me to experience the destination without all the crowds. This is also when I get the best rates in hotels, as they're often looking to fill those rooms. They are also most flexible during "low season." I have often gotten luxury rooms for the price of a standard during off-peak periods. The same applies for car rentals, though for airlines, you might just get an empty seat next to you in coach.

I miss the insane traveling days with all my cousins, grandparents, parents, tios, and tias. Those were the most insane and the most fun, but also the most expensive. With these tips, you can continue the tradition of the locura in travel with your little ones without breaking the bank.

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