Affordable Travel: Single Parent Travel on a Budget

Having the opportunity to travel should not be a luxury only experienced by those with the disposable financial means to do so. Affordable travel is possible for single parents.

If we think of resources available to us beyond just money, then we make travel a possibility for everyone who wants it. As a single mother in love with travel I knew two things.

One: It seems nearly impossible and expensive to be able and take my son anywhere for a trip.
Two: I am pretty creative when it comes to finding ways to make the magic happen, regardless. I’ve gathered some of my favorite tips and tricks so that you may do the same.

Let’s start small and go big. And be willing to be patient, because saving money on travel usually takes time and preparation.

Local travel is a viable option

One of the most affordable ways to take a family vacation and get away for a night or more is to travel within your area. If interested in camping, start scouring garage sales for used camping equipment. Stay tuned to email listserves or social media for your state’s national parks or other camping grounds to hear about promotions like free or discounted days. KOA Campgrounds has sites throughout North America where you can set up camp with “lodging.” Such as putting up a tent, bringing an RV, or you stay in the cabins or other lodging options. There are always nice amenities on site such as showers and sometimes pools. KOA does annual promotions where kids camp free and no membership is required. In the meantime, camp out in the backyard or a friend’s backyard and roast s’mores for something different one weekend.

Hit the road

Road trips are a lot of fun too. There are likely a lot of places in your own state that you’ve never visited before. Look around your area for museums, hot spring, town events or quirky attractions that could be worth a visit and are within driving distance. Some places have Airbnb’s for as low as $40/night, depending on what you’re looking for. You could also head out of town with some friends or family and split the cost of a bigger place. Take your own snacks and easy to prepare meals to save on costs.

Secure Affordable Flights in Many Ways

Surveys/Points

There are a few survey sites out there that will reward you in points you can redeem for airline miles by taking surveys. My favorite one is E-rewards because I can earn up to 2000 miles a month for Jetblue or Southwest Airlines in a month. It does require consistency and logging on routinely to see what surveys are available. However, I’ve been able to get a few flights for free this way. I’ve also signed up for airlines’ dining programs that rewards you with points when you eat out at one of their affiliated restaurants. Any little bit helps, really. You won’t see enough points to redeem for a flight right away, but if you’re ok with the slow path, you’ll get there eventually.

Deals and compare

When it comes time to actually purchasing your flight, this will also require patience and doing your homework. Sign up for emails from airlines that you’d likely travel with. Keep abreast of their sales and snag them when low. Some of my favorite times to purchase flights is when Jetblue advertises for $69 fares and Southwest for $49 fares. For my city, that usually means it’s another $30 more for those deals, but its still lower than it would be without the sale days. If you’re willing to travel with a budget airline look into airlines like Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit. I’ve seen them as low as $20 if you just take a small backpack as carry-on. While sites like Kayak are great for comparing prices, they often leave out some of the budget airlines I mentioned, but it’s still worth a shot to compare all the places.

Those Traveling With Special Needs

A couple tips for those traveling with special needs including extra space for seating- Southwest Airlines has a customer of size policy that will give you an extra seat free during check in, and Delta will upgrade you to seat with more space if you give them a call and talk to disability services. Other airlines may have similar policies.

Finding Accommodations

I like using Trip Advisor to compare hotel and accommodations. They even include homes that are similar to Airbnb style, so you can a good comparison of your options. It will link you to the site that has the lowest prices for what you need. Consider the fact that Cheap Tickets.com usually sends out a coupon a couple times a week for 16% off hotel stays. I always search for online coupon codes before purchasing a hotel. RetailMeNot is a good site to find additional promo codes. There’s also the option of calling the hotel directly, letting them know which rate you found and sometimes they will match it so they don’t lose a portion of that sale with you booking through a 3rd party. Trip Advisor also has great reviews from people who’ve stayed there previously so you don’t skimp on quality just to save some cash.

Attractions, Food, Commuting While You Are There 

Attractions

Groupon is your best friend when it comes to finding attractions for less in bigger cities. You can grab that deal for even less if you couple it with a promo code. I get these by subscribing to Groupon or Living Social emails and using the 20% off codes they send via email on a regular basis. I also recommend using Trip Advisor for finding things to do that you don’t necessarily see advertised places. You can find some real gems in there.

Food

Restaurant.com routinely have promo codes in their emails and the brochure stands in hotel lobbies. You can even get restaurant vouchers from them. A tip I’ve learned from Groupon is that some local places honor the Groupon rate if you book with them directly as well.

Commuting and transportation

If new to Uber, Lyft, GrubHub, Seamless or Post Mates, be sure to take advantage of the free promos floating out there to get some free or discounted rides or meals. You could also get a discounted ride to or from the airport using a shuttle service, coupled with a promo code from RetailMeNot. However, depending on how many kids you have with you, an Uber or taxi may actually be cheaper. It saves to do a little Googling on your airport ride options before getting there. While public transportation and/or walking is by far the cheapest option for commuting, it’s also not realistic for many with disabilities and/or worth the mental stress it takes to figure out directions. Do what is best for you and your family, and sometimes that means taking an Uber, not the bus. That’s ok.

It can be tough!

The hard part about saving money on travel is that it takes a lot of patience and extra work. Others who have disposable income to spend on travel can simply type in their itinerary and hit purchase. The rest of us gotta use these tips and tricks, and others to take that vacation for hundreds less. I promise it’s worth it, especially when you see the joy on your kid’s face when you take them on that cool adventure! And you, as the parent can spend some time relaxing and enjoying the fruits of your labor.


Esperanza Dodge is from New Mexico and a proud single mother of one. She loves helping others make plans to achieve their financial goals while treating life like the adventure it should be.