Planning to travel NOW with your family is more than just planning your vacation! Just like planning for retirement takes effort, making memories before the kids are grown will take effort on your part as well. Here are some of the resources we use to plan our lives, our children’s education, our finances, our businesses, and our free time all with the goal of making memories through travel NOW before the kids move out.
Utilizing points helps us to travel more often by getting free hotel stays. We often earn 7-10 free hotel nights every year utilizing the points we earn with our Marriott Bonvoy Card. While I might use Orbitz or Expedia to compare prices, I have found that booking directly through a hotel chain we are loyal to is always the most economical way to save on a hotel.
We have enjoyed Hilton Home2Suties when we need larger family suites. You can read about our experience with a Home2Suites in Pigeon Forge here. We also choose Hampton Inns when we are passing through a town for their free breakfast and consistently clean rooms, and we have stayed in several of their Double Tree properties including the Park Vista in Gatlinburg for over ten years.
While Marriott and Hilton are definitely our first two choices, Holiday Inn Express can sometimes be a great choice for our larger family size. Again, we always find that booking direct is the most economical option and most hotel chains will match the prices on other sites. We recommend always signing up for loyalty programs to earn extra perks and points toward free hotel stays.
Booking.com is a great resource not only for hotels, but did you know you can even search homes, cabins, and campsites on booking.com? As I mentioned already, if I’m staying in a major hotel chain, I tend to book direct, but I will always price compare with booking.com and if I need an accommodation outside of my loyalty brand, Marriott, or a boutique hotel, I will use booking.com for the best rate as well as the best no hassle cancellations.
Priceline can be a great option if you don’t have to have a particular hotel chain. Since you can bid on hotels, it can yield a savings of as high as 60% in some cases. Choosing a higher star level helps ensure you receive a nice hotel. We also recommend to be careful to study the location on which you are bidding to ensure it is located in the precise location you need and not the town nearby. Careful comparison with a site like TripAdvisor alongside Priceline can help you narrow down the most likely hotels you will receive.
Skyscanneris a great way to search for airline deals. If your dates AND ESPECIALLY YOUR DESTINATION are flexible, check out Skycanner. You can enter an airport and then choose the EVERYWHERE tab on destination. You can further narrow by putting in a specific month or leaving it open to ANYTIME. This will yield the best time and rates to travel to a given destination. It can be a fun way to decide your next travel adventure. Since we are booking for 5 people, flexibility is always our friend.
CheapOAir is another site which offers the opportunity to book a cheap airfare if your destination and dates are flexible. It’s worth checking if you are open minded about where you are headed.
Just about everyone is familiar with the popular TripAdvisor so this recommendation shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, are you familiar with ALL of the features available at TripAdvisor. For a long time, I only thought of it as another Hotel shopping site, but then I discovered the travel forums, the ability to plan and save my trips by date, and the review pages. It is definitely my first go to site whenever I begin the planning process Well, I never really stop planning to travel, but you know what I mean!