It doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Time It Right
“Booking plane tickets in advance—three weeks or more from your flight’s departure date—is still the biggest key to saving,” says Sarah Waffle Gavin, a travel expert at Expedia. (Once you’re inside that 21-day period, fares can jump by 50 percent.) Purchasing a ticket that includes a Saturday night stayover at your destination can reduce the price by up to 57 percent. The least expensive time during the summer to visit Europe is August—in particular, August 20-30—whereas June 1-30 and the Fourth of July holiday week top out at the priciest.
Foreign airlines tend to have more family-friendly fare policies than their U.S. counterparts. Children up to age 11 can get a 33 percent discount on medium- and long-haul flights and a 15 percent discount on short-haul flights on Air France, for example. (On American, you’d pay full price for the seat regardless of who’s in it.) Purchase directly from the carrier to ensure you’re receiving the correct rate, says Shelly Rivoli, author of Travels with Baby and founder of FamilyTravel411.com.
Take Charge of Money Matters
While abroad, stick to using a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees. (Two to try: Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Capital One Venture Card.) If your home bank has a relationship with a bank overseas—Bank of America and Barclays are sister institutions—you can also avoid getting dinged for withdrawals at ATMs. Whatever you do, don’t exchange money at airports or train stations, where the rates are often notoriously high.
Picky Eaters? Picnic!
Exposing your kiddos to the wonder of new cuisines is part of the travel experience—unless you have a picky eater. When nothing on the menu is speaking to your little ones, don’t force it: Let them fill up on healthy favorites like protein bars and trail mix, says Colleen Lanin, founder of TravelMamas.com. You can also get plenty of low-priced—but still familiar—fare locally. “Purchase bread from a bakery and cheese, meat, and fruits from an open-air market or grocery store, then have a picnic in a park,” says Lanin.
Mind Your Mobile
All those GPS searches you’ll be doing could add up to beaucoup data usage. Keep it in check by switching your mobile to airplane mode and then manually turning on the Wi-Fi—which you may find more plentiful than it is back at home. “It’s amazing how many places in Europe have free Wi-Fi that you can use to connect for email and free texting options like WhatsApp and iMessage,” says Gavin.