The last pillar of affordable family travel is BE FLEXIBLE. This will save you money. More importantly, it will preserve your sanity and ensure that you have a better trip.
Life is messy, and wonderful in its messiness. Embrace it. Of course you are going to spend time planning your trip, and by doing so you’re going to ensure that your family has the best possible experience. But sometimes your best laid plans are going to go completely awry.
That’s ok. Be flexible.
By having plans and a structure for your trip, you’ll ensure that your family gets the absolute most out of your time and money. You’ll ensure that you see the things that are most important to you (and them), and you won’t waste time and money on experiences that aren’t valued by your people.
But sometimes you’re going to miss the train. Sometimes the kids are going to be having so much fun playing on the playground that you just can’t drag them away. Sometimes there’s going to be a strike that affects your ability to have an experience you’ve been planning on.
Roll with it.
Try to take a step back and look at it with some perspective. An unplanned closure may mean that your family doesn’t get to visit the Eiffel Tower. But maybe the kids end up spending an hour running around the Champs du Mars, playing with kids from several other countries instead. You and your spouse have a chance to sit on the grass, relaxing and watching them play while you have a (somewhat) uninterrupted conversation with the Eiffel Tower looming over you. That’s still going to be a cherished memory.
We’ve had some doozies
For the most part, our trips have gone according to plan, but we have certainly had our disastrous moments. There was the time that I loaded us all on the train, realized that I might have gotten the train wrong and got off (alone) to check. I turned to see the doors close and the train leave the station, as my family waved at me through the window. Oops. (Thank goodness for cell phones. However, that was when we realized that we needed an iron-clad plan for if/when our family gets separated).
There was the time that the toilet at the Airbnb backed up and overflowed. Everywhere.
One day we made the trek to the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., a bit off the beaten path. After a metro ride and a one mile walk, we found that the cathedral was closed for the day.
One hour before we left for the airport to fly to Paris, our cat bit my younger daughter on the face. Facial bites require antibiotics. My husband was already in Europe, and it was the kids’ first time traveling internationally. That one was fun.
These things happen, and you know what? Our trips were still amazing. Sure, we would have preferred to not have those hiccups, but expecting perfection isn’t realistic. Counting on perfection is a perfect way to make yourself and your family miserable.
If you can keep the big picture in perspective, it’ll make it so much easier to be flexible and roll with whatever comes your way. You’re still making memories!