Here are some tips for saving money if you’re traveling to the US with kids for the first time.
1. Kids’ meal deals.
Lots of places offer children’s meals for around $4. Look for these on menus or enquire about a children’s meal option. Otherwise, remember that portion sizes in the US are professional wrestler-sized. You’ll easily be able to share.
2. Research when kids travel free on public transport.
Once you have your itinerary, check the rules for when kids need their own tickets for public transport in the cities you’ll be visiting. Often they’ll be able to travel free.
3. “Suggested admission” museums.
Some museums are suggested admission. Often this is written in tiny writing underneath an astronomical listed entry price. Pay what you like. If your kids flake after 30 minutes, it won’t matter. If you’re there for 4 hours, leave extra in the donation box at the door.
The Natural History Museum in NYC is suggestion admission. When a museum has this policy, they’ll usually have some premium priced extras. Make sure you’re prepared for needing to say No if these aren’t in your budget.
4. Public libraries.
I got my library card in NYC recently and happened to do it via the Children’s room inside the iconic 5th avenue main public library in Manhattan.
If your kids (or you) need some downtime, this would be a great free thing to do. I went on a Saturday morning and it was blissfully quiet, despite being in the middle of Manhattan.
It’s a fun space with colorful walls and huge number of kids books. Libraries often have wifi too if you need to get some work done while your kids are checking out the books.
5. Meals in your room.
Use your mini-fridge to store milk and yogurts for breakfasts and snacks. Plan some meals you can eat in your hotel room. There will be plenty of times when you’re too tired from sightseeing to find going out to eat enjoyable.
Think through some options that will please the kids and adults in the family e.g., bagels with hummus or cream cheese, a bag of washed salad, grapes and other easy to eat fruits.
Trader Joes is a supermarket chain with great prices and high quality options. Their fresh fruit sometimes isn’t the best.
For things like avocados, tomatoes, and fruits, buy those from the stalls set up on the streets. Those have the best prices and usually the best quality.
6. Research theme park tickets.
If you’re going to be visiting theme parks, the tickets will be a big chunk of your budget. Research deals online to find the best option for your family. There are lots of different options so spend some time thinking this through. What do you really want/need? Try to avoid upsells that seem like they’re great value but might be more than you need. Although expensive, theme parks are a great way to get your kids hooked on travel and to add variety to your trip activities.