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Look for incentive programs. The early bird gets the worm when traveling with a family. Sure, booking a flight can be an anxiety-ridden experience. When should you book to get the lowest fare? Where should you book? It can be a mess. Save yourself some panic. Several travel booking sites offer programs that help guarantee the lowest price on flights, hotels and car rentals. For example, Orbitz Price Assurance will send you a check for the difference if another customer books the same flight or prepaid hotel for less. Priceline will refund you the difference or let you cancel your reservation if you find the same itinerary for a lower price within the next 24 hours. Continental Airlines offers FareLock, which lets you hold your itinerary and fare for 72 hours or seven days, for a fee, and is available on select flights.
Scoop up package deals. Try booking air fares, hotel reservations and car rentals together. Airlines and hotels offer the online travel agencies discounted rates that are not offered within a standalone hotel or air booking, says Marita Hudson-Thomas of Orbitz.com.
Timing is everything. The best prices are typically found for flights departing on Sundays, Mondays or Tuesdays and returning Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays. Book accordingly and you'll save big bucks.
Try shoulder season. If your children are not yet school age, try traveling in "shoulder season"—the off-peak time of year for a particular destination. The costs of family-oriented destinations often dip drastically once school is back in session. Flights to and hotels in Disneyworld are packed and pricey during April—prime spring break season for most school kids. Come September, when the weather's still warm but the crowds are back in the classroom, airfares and hotel rates plunge.
Go all-inclusive. Booking resorts like Club Med help you avoid the one-off costs associated with three meals a day, drinks and entertainment. Paying upfront helps map out the family vacation budget. Many destinations have special children's rates with some children's activities already paid for in the cost.
Consider lodging in the suburb of a big city. If you're heading to a big city – consider accommodations in a nearby suburb. You'll often have easy access to all the city has to offer at a fraction of the price you'd pay to stay at a hotel within the city center. Best of all, you may discover attractions outside of the city limits that you wouldn't have experienced otherwise.
Work those loyalty programs. It’s never too early to sign up kids up for their own frequent flyer number on the airline your family regularly flies—children can earn miles as soon as they’re old enough to need their own seat. When you have more than one loyalty reward program floating around, a site like Points.com becomes a one-stop shop for keeping tracking of all your programs in one place. Plus, these types of sites allow you to transfer points from one account to another (from other family members or even from friends) in order to accumulate enough points to redeem for travel in your program of choice.