Activities can be expensive for a large family! See our families' tips for saving money on their trip.
This brings us to the fourth and final part of this file. We will discover the tricks of large families and our expert Jean-Maximilien to save money while allowing everyone to have fun and enjoy themselves.
On your marks, get set… smile!
A word from the expert
All parents want to please their children. Except that entertaining these little people is expensive, and there are plenty of opportunities
to break the bankon a trip! This form of expense it one of the hardest to use points for. However, a few tips can help people save money.Jean-Maximilien Voisine - Président-Fondateur de milesopedia
Strategies for large families
Saving on activities
Here are some tips to save on activities.
- Look for ALL the discounts you may be entitled to. Even outside our country, it is possible to apply for membership cards for both groceries and activities. Take the word of a knowledgeable parent for it. The local newspaper is particularly interesting in this regard.
- Are there libraries that offer arts and crafts activities for the little ones? Do the aquarium or the botanical garden open their doors for free or at a lower cost on Wednesdays? The Children Museum in Boston for example is $1 instead of $17 per person on Friday nights (conditions may have changed with the COVID-19 situation).
We were able to enjoy this type of discount in Australia and New Zealand with the reading of stories and songs. The children could interact with local people at the same time and keep a beautiful memory of it.
- In addition to looking at family rates, look at annual subscriptions. You might be surprised.
- Use AIR MILES miles to pay for events, Universal Studio tickets, zoo tickets, etc.
- Buy cards like “Go City Card” and look for promotions like half price after 3PM (sometimes in aquaparks and amusement parks). An example is the “Table Mountain” cable car in South Africa.
- Ask the locals (or the owner of your Airbnb rental) their well-kept secrets and explore the blogs and”Tripadvisor” reviews of this world. This trick allowed one of our families who was traveling in Costa Rica to go twice to bathe in a natural warm river instead of going to theexpensive “Resort Hot springs“, which was basically the same river (Rio Cholin).
- In Latin America, some countries have a Solidarity Network (e.g. ToutCostarica, ToutPérou etc.). These networks have access to discounts with hotels or accommodation sites, such as certain activities.
- Call in advance to book and discuss with the manager. A family of six children and two adults was often considered as a group and received an additional discount for booking early.
- Finally, here’s a tip for activities for parents of children with special needs: the Access2 card saves you the cost of an adult ticket with the purchase of a child’s ticket; it’s valid for many attractions, activities and museums across Canada. In addition, for a child in a wheelchair, for example, discounts or additional services (luggage, larger room, no queuing, etc.) can be requested.
Entertaining children at low cost
Ah! Our resourceful mothers.
One of them, when the family travels outside the Western part of the world, always tries to befriend the people at the reception desk to find out where local families go on outings. She also inquires about the price they pay.
For example, she asks the front desk clerk how much it costs to get from the hotel to the city centre. She’s then able to negotiate for a fair price.
In countries where this type of toy is less common, and to encourage contact with local children, she brings inflatable balloons, bubbles or chalk. Children will be pleased.
Another family has downloaded the free “Geocaching” app, which allows everyone to make beautiful discoveries while being on a “treasure hunt” mode. Perfect for entertaining the crowd at no cost.
During a longer stopover time, parents discovered that it was possible to plan a visit of the airport. It can be booked online and to give you an idea, in Amsterdam, the visit lasts one hour and costs 16 euros per adult and 8 euros for children aged 4 to 12 years old. 4-hour city tours are also available.
Here’s an original idea to keep children “in the loop”, if they are old enough to do so: ask them to participate to the preparation stage of the trip.
They must choose an activity that they will pay for out of their own pocket. Parents offer them a few choices and mention the associated costs. The clan must then find a consensus.
In order to earn money for the activity, they will do certain tasks such as shoveling snow at their grandparents’ house, babysitting, asking for money for Christmas or their birthday, etc.
In addition, each year the children participate in theBig Day for Small Entrepreneurs, where they create a micro-company and sell their products.
They managed to pay for their trip to Xel-Ha in Mexico, sleep in the desert in Morocco, do the Pipe Mountain Coaster in Revelstoke, and go horseback riding at Monument Valley.
We can’t talk about travel activities without at least touching on the subject of Disney. Several articles have been written on milesopedia about possible savings for this destination and there are sites dedicated only to this experience. Far be it from us to measure ourselves against their expertise, but let’s add a few tips from our smart parents.
For Disney and Legoland, did you know that you can watch fireworks or shows in hotel lobbies for free?
At Legoland, my children watched a show in the hotel lobby while playing with Lego. We had paid our entrance fee to Legoland and the show is a sight to behold. No need to pay for another ticket.
For the Disney fireworks show, it works out great. We did it one night, on the advice of a friend. All you have to do is find a spot in the parking lot.Annie
Another mother reports that she booked a Disney hotel for five people from the “Moderate” category without a meal plan, since young children don’t eat enough to make it worthwhile.
So the family spent three or four days in the park, and used the installations, just like the Disney Spring ones. After a lenghty research, she has twice succeeded in making six-night stays for $5,500 each, all expenses included. The mother carries her daily expenses on her BMO® AIR MILES® Mastercard®*, which allows her to earn between $1,000 and $2,000 in miles per year.
Another interesting story:
Stay in “Value” hotels such as the “Art of Animation” during off-peak times such as September when meals are offered free of charge.
Parents order some snacks from the grocery store “Garden Grocer“, which delivers them. No purchases are made in the park.
For five people, they paid $7,000 for their five-day getaway at the park, including the parks, the Halloween party and the “Makeover pirates league” for the two oldest.
Another member experimented with the rental of “Time Share” points (their experience was with Disney Vacation Club which uses Disney points). They were able to rent luxurious suites to accommodate everyone at a lower cost than the posted price.
And finally, in another brainstorm of ideas from an organizational point of view, to make it easier to travel with the children, one family says they brought an umbrella stroller even though the youngest was six years old.
This allowed them to walk all day without having a child crying his life away because he was tired. Naptime was mandatory every day. Days started early: the family was there as soon as attractions opened.
In the afternoon when the children began to feel tired, everyone went for a nap at the nearby hotel. Then the family would leave for the evening until 10 or 11PM.
The Disney Kingdom is the perfect place to try out tips and strategies!
The expert's strategies
As for credit cards, the main objective is to avoid paying any conversion fees for transactions in foreign currencies when you’re paying for activities. Apart from that, some programs or some cards stand out.Jean-Maximilien Voisine - Président-Fondateur de milesopedia
In terms of activities, AIR MILES will generally be used to get tickets for amusement parks in the United States (Disney, Universal, etc.), but also for other attractions: aquariums, water parks, zoos, spas, golf courses, etc.
The AIR MILES advantage? There are more than a dozen credit cards, each offering nice welcome bonuses. Here’s a selection:
Some credit cards have a category that lets you earn points faster when it comes to activities. Here are a few of them:
- 5 points per dollar with the Scotiabank American Express Gold Card
- 3 points per dollar with the BMO® World Elite®* Mastercard®*
- 2 points per dollar with the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card
However, as soon as the expense is made in foreign currency, it is better to use another credit card such as the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®.
If you are traveling abroad, make sure you have a credit card that does not charge a conversion fee for your foreign currency expenses.
In my opinion, the best choice is the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®: since it’s a Mastercard, it will be accepted everywhere in the world!
This is the end of our file on tips to help families travelling with three or more children.
Four aspects were discussed:
The latter, as we have seen, sometimes require more ingenuity than budget.
Participating mothers shared their best practices and the expert was able to identify some existing or promising avenues. I thank them for that.
We hope that the file will improve with time and the contribution of other members. As such, we invite you to leave your comments which we will be pleased to add to the article. This way, everyone will be able to benefit from them.
Let travels continue, be them small or big, or near or far!
Thank you to our members of the milesopedia community:
Maude, Marie, Marie-France, Sandie, Annie, Annick, Aurélie, Isabelle, Jessica, Kawine, Mamarrylyne, Marie-Pier, MP and Virginie.