Vacationing With Baby: How to make the money last

Budgeting for a vacation can be hard enough, but is it worth it when you have a baby in the mix? My family proved it is. My one-year-old daughter has been on three family trips, including one overseas vacation. How did we swing it?

Stagger the Expenses

We purchased the plane tickets before my daughter was born (about a half a year in advance), and then added her on to the ticket. Although children under two years old can fly free, we booked a bassinet for $100. While booking early can be risky, credit cards and travel insurances allow you to switch or cancel plans with valid reasons. Planning ahead allowed us to save up for a few months.

Location is Everything

Each vacation area has different lodging options for different prices. Be flexible about where you stay, and you can save a bundle. When we stayed in Washington D. C., we saved by staying in a hotel in the suburbs. We saved over $150 dollars on the hotel. However, hindsight I would perhaps have been better off staying in the center city and traveling via bus or subway. Parking cost a decent amount, even though we walked a lot. In Florida, we were able to rent a villa for less than what a hotel room would cost. Overseas, we rented an apartment for most of the time. Weigh your options to see what works best for your family.

Also, when traveling keep in mind the overall expense. In big cities such as Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, check out the myriad of free attractions. Also look attraction bundles or entertainment clubs for a discount. It's worth it if you're interested in most of the attractions offered on the pass. Also, make sure these locations are suitable for babies and children.

Practice Food Frugality

Staying in a suite or villa with a kitchen may be the same price or less expensive than a hotel. You will also save by preparing your own meals instead of eating out every day. Breakfasts are the easiest to plan ahead and prepare, if you're not lucky enough to have free breakfast included in your lodging. During our trips, we'd have a filling brunch then save time and money by skipping lunch and packing our own snacks. Occasionally, we purchased take-out food at half price at the end of the week at a local grocery, freeze it and warm it up later for a relaxed dinner.

Pack Your Baby Essentials

Bring along your car seat, and you'll save each day on the car rental. Car rentals are notorious for their add-on fees, and rental car seats can cost between $10-15 a day. They may cap it at $60-70 per seat. I love my snap and go stroller (purchased secondhand) and used it all over. A baby carrier is another great option to bring if you plan on walking. Although a baby carrier isn't as comfortable (you'll definitely get good exercise), it will allow you to go places a stroller just wouldn't work. If you're thinking of going hiking, touring places with bumps or steps, or visiting a museum that doesn't allow carriages, consider taking a baby carrier. These options allow public transportation and save on parking fees.

Also, remember your basic baby items. You don't want to buy an overpriced can of formula or package pampers out of desperation. And while traveling home by plane, you don't want to pay additional luggage fees, either.

So is vacationing with baby manageable? In a couple of years, the baby will be big and asking you for souvenirs, rides and the dreaded "Are we there yet?" Enjoy relaxing with your little one while it lasts.