How to Budget for Family Travel Around Big Life Events

You're probably already schlepping kids far and wide for weddings and the like. Here's how—and why—to turn it into a vacation to save major travel money.

Happy little Asian girl with sunglasses smiling joyfully and enjoying family bonding time with mother, having fun in the swimming pool on Summer vacations
Photo: Getty/d3sign.

Have you ever heard of "2-for-1" travel? Probably not, because I made it up several years ago; my family has long planned to budget for our travel around significant life events.

Here's how it works—and why this is the best way to get the most bang for your travel buck, especially if you have kids you're already schlepping far and wide for those weddings.

Why Traveling Around Big Life Events is Worth It

Most of us have had to travel around some big event, likely a wedding, at some point. But weddings aren't the only life events for which many of us feel semi-obligated to travel—perhaps you're flying to your sibling's college graduation, a dear friend's bachelorette, or even Grandma's 90th birthday extravaganza. Regardless of the location, for me, there are always things I'd like to see or do in a new town or country—and often, that one wedding may be the perfect reason to plan an extra trip around it. Here's how.

When my family was planning to attend a friend's wedding in New York, for example, we tacked on a whole week in the city to explore my former home together (and take my husband to his first Broadway show). After another wedding in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, we took full advantage of the discounted hotel rate to stay there for much longer than most other wedding guests. Since then, we've made a point of planning our vacations around life-event trips we were planning to take anyway.

One year, we went to Chicago, my husband's hometown, to spend the holidays with family and tacked on some additional time in the city—including getting tickets to the Hamilton musical shortly after the show came to the Windy City. We joined my brother in New Orleans for his 25th birthday, and spent a week riding all of the roller coasters at Universal theme parks in Orlando when my husband already had to travel there for work. When we had a family reunion near South Beach, we added on a fantastic long weekend staying in a fancy hotel, just us.

Traveling around one or two already-planned life events has made our travels so much more enjoyable. It's not just about picking a place you want to go and finding what is to do there. Instead, we let what we want to do direct us on where to go.

Plus, having this travel mentality has meant that we are more flexible with where we go, and this has added a great sense of adventure to our travel experiences. We always end up going somewhere unexpected and exploring something we would have never thought of on our own.

How to Budget for this "2-for-1" Travel Experience

However, the best part about traveling around big life events is that it is always guaranteed to save us money. Why? Because we were already planning to spend on those flights to the wedding/work conference/family reunion by itself. Tacking a vacation on the end saves us an extra trip—and the cost of a second set of plane tickets for the whole family. Throughout the years, this has done wonders for our travel budget and has made it much easier (and much cheaper) to go places.

Since learning about how "2-for-1" travel works, I've convinced several friends and family members that this is the best (and cheapest!) way to see new places. In fact, some friends who live far away have now used this same logic to visit us—simply adding a detour to an already-planned event trip in the vicinity.

When, because of his work trip nearby in Florida, my husband's best friend was able to attend the housewarming party at our first home, that was pretty magical. When my college best friend and his boyfriend flew out for our baby shower, they combined it with their planned anniversary vacation, taking advantage of the sunny mid-winter beach weather.

Another friend who has long embraced traveling around significant life events (because she agrees that it's a great way to save money on something you would have done anyway) came for the baby shower all the way from Copenhagen. She paired her long trip with a visit to see her mom and some cousins she hadn't seen in ages. To this day, she tells me that it was one of the smartest things she's done, especially since she was unable to come back to the U.S. and see her family for the next two years due to the pandemic.

As for my family, we are currently eyeing our next "2-for-1" trip—as soon as our toddler is vaccinated. We don't yet know what next big life event will prompt us to find plane tickets or where we'll go, but I can't wait to find out. With any luck, this will mean our family will get to see so much more of the world in the long run, thanks to the money we'll save on each combo-trip.

Updated by Irina Gonzalez
Was this page helpful?
Related Articles