Travel

How to plan a (truly) affordable March break without it seeming like one

A little strategy and good ideas may bring that getaway within reach.
(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

If you're itching to get away with your family this March break but cringing at the cost, don't give up just yet! You can still plan an awesome getaway that's affordable too.

Create a budget, then discuss as a household what kind of experiences you're open to. From work exchange opportunities to house swaps, there may be options to make a getaway work within your means, while creating unique and unforgettable memories.

Strategic flight-shopping is key

Sign up for reliable flight sale newsletters, from sites like Groupon and Travelzoo, to have the latest travel promotions come right to your inbox. Before jumping on that sale, research first to factor in extra costs like baggage and visa processing fees for the destination in question. Once that's done, and you're within budget, don't wait. Deals go fast!

Ideally your travel reward card(s) can be put to good use here – for flight, fare, hotel, or car rental. Awardwallet helps you keep track of your points all in one spot. And if you don't seem to be gaining rewards fast enough, do the research now and, if it makes sense (beware of higher interest rates, hidden fees and travel restrictions!), sign up for a more suitable card. Oftentimes, banks give you a bundle of points just for joining, so you can put those towards your trip.

If no sales come through and your points can't get you anywhere, it's time to start comparing fares on Google Flights. You can also check hotel rates right in Google's search bar and filter the results by price and rating.

Get adventurous when it comes to accommodation

Accommodation can be costly, especially when you factor in a separate bedroom for the kids. To cut out this cost altogether, consider a house swap. It's also a great way to see the country like a local. List your home on Home Exchange or Geenee and search for exchange opportunities. While you'll probably have to pay an administration fee, either yearly or when you make the swap, the sites offer a certain level of protection. Plus some exchanges include a car, as well.

Another way to save on accommodation is to book a work exchange. You'll find opportunities listed on WWOOF, Workaway and Helpx. Look for placements that accommodate families and make sure you communicate with hosts so you know exactly what to expect. This is a great way to keep the kids engaged over the break and for you to create an incredible bonding experience for everyone.

If neither of those options is right for you, consider renting directly from owners on Airbnb or VRBO. It's great for families because you can book a whole house with a kitchen, and get the authentic experience of living like a local too.

Stay home – sort of!

Has there ever been a better time to explore Canada on your vacation? It's this country's 150th birthday and entrance to our national parks are free until the end of the year. Some parts of the country are chilly, sure, but you'd be seeing the country at its most Canadian, right? And be sure to sign up for gas rewards so you're collecting points on the drive.

When your trip is planned, it's time to get packing! Don't miss these tips and tricks that will save you time and space.