Should You Take the Kids on Vacation?

Christine Ryan Jyoti

Lau regularly buys points for her timeshare, which allows her family to stay for one week in a two bedroom condo with a full kitchen. They pay an annual maintenance fee of about $800. The family can also use the points for weekend getaways, last minute vacations, cruises, car rentals and some hotel rooms through their timeshare company.

“As the kids get older, we spend less on theme parks, choosing to do just one on each trip, rather than one every day,” Lau says. The family tries to use coupons and take advantage of discounted sightseeing.

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On Their Own: Lau and her husband have been on getaways to Vegas, and recently took a three-week Asian vacation on their own. “Traveling together can be very rewarding and enjoyable,” says Lau. “It gives us a chance to reconnect. Without the duties of daily life, we are able to relax.”

Like Their Style? Even if you don’t have a timeshare, you may still be able to benefit from memberships you do have. Frequent-flyer and hotel loyalty programs can cut costs, and you can find travel discounts through memberships to AAA, AARP and Costco, as well as through many credit card rewards programs. Even some professions (teachers, for example) offer built-in savings on things like rental cars, theme-park tickets and hotels.

all-inclusive resorts

The Richardson family in Panama City Beach, Florida.

What Works for Us: All-Inclusive Resorts

Rachel Richardson, a stay-at-home mom in Springfield, Tennessee, takes her two girls, ages 5 and 8, on three family vacations a year. “I look at it more as ‘family time’ together, since my husband has a time-demanding job,” says Richardson. “It’s a week together to have fun—and hopefully relax some too.”

She and her husband rely on the all-inclusive nature of the clubs to get time together—and time off. “Some cruises and resorts have kids clubs we use occasionally for ‘adult time,’” she says. “My husband and I also trade off a couple times, so I might get a massage, then he goes fishing.”

How do they cover the bill? “To make sure vacations are a financial priority, we have a vacation fund—basically a bank savings account that we put money in each week,” says Richardson. “We also use some of the bonus money we get each year.”

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On Their Own: Richardson enjoys an annual couples vacation and several solo weekend trips. “The couples trips give us time to relax and do ‘adult’ activities like scuba diving, going to concerts and shopping,” she says.

The couple has splurged on a variety of trips together, including to Chicago, Key West and a few music festivals. ”We tend to stay in nicer hotels when we travel as a couple,” says Richardson. “We also fly more often when it’s just the two of us because it’s much more affordable.”

Like Their Style? To find an all-inclusive package to enjoy with your kids, check out sites like Funjet Vacations, Cheap Caribbean, Go-Today, Vacation Outlet, Apple Vacations, Vacation Express and Fare Deals. ”All-inclusive packages are usually a better deal for families if you’re traveling with kids, and you generally use all of the services, food/drinks, amenities that they provide,” says travel expert Nancy Schretter, managing editor of the Family Travel Network.