We are a traveling family. Before we had kids, my husband and I used to go on road trips every weekend. Later on, after our kids were born, we still were traveling every opportunity we had. We took our first born on a day trip to Sunset Crater when he was less than a week old, our youngest one experienced a week long vacation in Colorado (Silverton and vicinity).

We’ve traveled through Europe, Mexico and Canada, even visited Australia with the three kids at some point, in addition to trips all around the country.

It sounds like a lot, and it sounds like we should have tons of money to do all this, right? In fact, we have no more to spend than the average family. But we spend most of our money on travel, and we travel on a budget.

By far the cheapest vacation we’ve ever taken was when my husband and I first moved to Arizona, and we were trying to save up for a house. We still went on a vacation. We took our camping gear, and set off for Northern Arizona and the Four Corners Area. We slept in our tent, ate maybe once a day, but mostly we stopped for groceries and got cheap food, we also had a car that had very good gas mileage. We barely spent any more on the road than we would’ve just sitting at home. If we could do that, we could do anything.

This summer, before the kid went back to school, we spent a month in Europe, then after regrouping for two weeks, we took off for Canada, where we spent another ten days. Two months before that, my husband and I spent a week in Mexico (Yucatan).

We got to see one of the most beautiful sites in the world:Lake Moraine and the Ten Peaks around it, the image made famous by the old Candian $20 bill.

We got to see one of the most beautiful sites in the world:Lake Moraine and the Ten Peaks around it, the image made famous by the old Candian $20 bill.

How did we do it? The plane tickets alone cost a fortune, right? Yes and no. Over the years we learned when exactly to buy the tickets to get the very best deal. It has to be on a certain day of the week, and even at a certain time of day, the right time before traveling. We watch the deals, and at the right time, if we see a deal, we buy the tickets. We are also flexible about destinations, although we needed to go to Europe (that trip includes visiting family), we didn’t plan on going to Canada, but we noticed a deal we couldn’t pass. To Europe we had one free ticket from frequent flyer miles, so we only needed four. It helped.

We flew into Prague, rented an apartment through VRBO (it was huge, bigger than the five of us needed), and cost us half of what a hotel room would have. We had two bathrooms and a kitchen. We asked around and learned where the closest grocery store was, and shopped there for the time we were in town. We walked through the city each day, and loved every minute of it. When it was time to leave, we took a bus to Vienna.

We visited Prague, a World heritage site, with its beautiful Castle.

We visited Prague, a World heritage site, with its beautiful Castle.

Bus travel is by far the cheapest way to see Europe, it is less than taking the train even. Same thing in Vienna, where we spent another two days in an apartment we rented, then we took another bus to Budapest. I have family and friends there, we can stay with them, though we didn’t spend much time there on the way, we stopped for longer on the way back. From Budapest we took another bus to Romania, to my parents’ house. Every place we visited on the way was a great experience, we saw a lot, lived like locals for a few days, and had an overall great experience.

In Canada, we wanted to visit Banff National Park. Keeping our budget travel habits, we rented an apartment in the little town of Canmore, just outside of the park boundaries. In addition to saving a lot, we got to experience life in a small Canadian town, not just a tourist destination.

My husband and I are firm believers in education through travel. Ever since they were born, our kids have been traveling, but never the easy way. They get to travel like locals, live like locals, eat like locals. The idea is that we are raising more open-minded kids, who might not be fluent in many languages, but learn a bit about other cultures around the globe, and learn to appreciate the diversity of people on our planet.

Of course there is another side to it. Our kids don’t get to wear new clothes on their first day of school (we buy them when they need them), they don’t have the newest electronics, like many of their friends. Though they see a lot of the world, they don’t get to stay in well-know resorts. As teenagers, I understand if it bothers them at times. But even they agree that the trade-off is worth it.