Family Ski Trip: 8 Ways to Save Money

Save big on your next family ski trip -- without sacrificing fun.

Family ski trips can create wonderful memories that last a lifetime, but if you aren’t careful they can create credit card bills that feel like they last a lifetime as well. Expenses such as airfare, lift tickets and ground transport can all quickly add up. Still, it is entirely possible to reduce the expense of a family ski trip by as much as 50 percent, without sacrificing the quality of your family’s pilgrimage to the powder -- here are eight ways to save.

1. Fly Into Smaller Regional Airports

You can save this way by avoiding a lengthy drive to the mountain after the flight, and potentially eliminate the need for a rental car at all. Also, with many traditional airline mileage programs, such as United, American Airlines, and Delta, a ticket into a small airport near the slopes won’t cost you any more miles than if you flew into a major airport. For example, flying into airports in Vail, Aspen and Telluride typically requires the same number of frequent flyer miles as flying into Denver. Credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the United MileagePlus Explorer and the Citi AAdvantage can all earn you miles for flights.

2. Search Flight Comparison Sites

If you don’t have any miles and points to use, then search for airfare into larger airports like Salt Lake City, which sees more competition and often competitively low prices as a result. Search sites like Kayak.com, Hipmunk.com or Travelocity.com that compare rates across airlines. I like to start searching months in advance, and then purchase when the fare drops to a price I can afford. Sites such as Airfarewatchdog.com will even allow you to set an alert for when the price of a ticket drops below whatever threshold you’ve set.

3. Minimize Baggage Fees With Airline Credit Cards

Airline baggage fees (often $25 one-way for the first checked bag) can quickly add up, especially when ski gear is involved. To minimize such fees, consider flying an airline with which you have a co-branded airline credit card; certain cards may exempt you from some baggage fees. For example, the Gold Delta Skymiles American Express Card allows up to nine people on your reservation to check a bag for free.

4. Fly JetBlue, Southwest for Waived Baggage Fees

If you don’t have any way to avoid baggage fees, then you may want to consider JetBlue or Southwest. Not only are JetBlue and Southwest famous for their nationwide fare sales, but also neither airline charges a fee for the first checked bag. Southwest even goes so far as to offer two complimentary checked bags -- just make sure they meet Southwest’s carryon baggage parameters.

5. Reserve Ski Rentals in Advance

Don’t have any ski equipment? You can save money on ski and snowboard rentals by planning ahead and reserving your equipment online. For example, Winter Park Resort in Colorado offers a 25 percent discount on equipment rentals of four days or longer when they’re booked at least 48 hours ahead of time online. You can often save an additional 20 to 30 percent by renting your ski and snowboard gear at a rental shop that is located off of the mountain. For example, many rentals at Epic Mountain Sports in Winter Park, Colorado start about 25 percent less than for similar equipment on the mountain.

15 Best Family Ski Resorts

See All Photos

Aspen Snowmass (Colorado)

The longest run on Snowmass is a whopping 5.3 miles long, while the peak called Buttermilk is lauded for having the best terrain park and pipe facilities. During the ski season, there are competitions, big-ticket concerts and lots of great dining.

Photo By: Gary Tognoni/Getty Images

Aspen Snowmass (Colorado)

Aspen has a well-earned reputation as a glitzy resort town popular with big spenders and Hollywood A-listers. There are the fancy shops on Galena Street and even Aspen Fashion Week every March. The town takes its skiing just as seriously as its style with the four peaks that make up Aspen Snowmass.

Photo By: Kanonsky/Getty Images

Beaver Creek Resort (Colorado)

There's no roughing it at Beaver Creek, a high-end Colorado ski resort in the Rocky Mountains known for its luxurious hotels, great restaurants and 1,815 acres of impeccably groomed slopes.

Beaver Creek Resort (Colorado)

Beaver Creek is family-friendly with quality ski programs and gentle runs for beginners. The other side of Beaver Creek, known as BC-EX, features extreme terrain for the most accomplished and daring skiers.

Photo By: Robert Morton/Getty Images

Heavenly Mountain Resort (California)

There aren't very many places in the world that can call themselves "heavenly" and get away with it. Lucky for us, California's Heavenly Resort lives up to its name in every way.

Heavenly Mountain Resort (California)

The crisp snow powder and rugged mountainside in Lake Tahoe are waiting to make this winter's family ski trip the best yet.

Okemo Mountain Resort (Vermont)

With more than 200 inches of average snowfall on the mountain every winter and 632 acres of winter wonderland, there's rarely a bad day at Okemo in Vermont.

Okemo Mountain Resort (Vermont)

Okemo works hard to accommodate skiers on a budget. Kids under six are always free, while older kids may ski free on select days with a paying adult. The first hour after opening is free on the slopes every day, giving skiers the opportunity to sample the snow and forgo buying a lift ticket on the rare occasion that conditions aren't ideal.

Park City Mountain Resort (Utah)

Park City Mountain Resort has all of the ingredients for a perfect family vacation. The signature kids ski school limits classes to just five children, making for lots of personalized attention. The slope's tiniest skiers can enroll in the Signature 3 Program, with just three children aged 3-1/2 to 5 years old.

Photo By: Erik Isakson/Getty Images

Park City Mountain Resort (Utah)

Once the kids are worn out from their 2 75-minute sessions, it's inside for crafts, reading and playing on the indoor jungle gym. While the kids enjoy ski school, adults can explore the 3,300 acres of fun spread out over 7 snowy peaks and 9 bowls.

Photo By: By Rudi Riet from Washington, DC, United States (Eagle Race Arena at Park City Mountain Resort) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Snowshoe Mountain Resort (West Virginia)

Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia is a great option for a long weekend of family winter fun with ski school, terrain parks for practicing tricks, tubing hills and snowy adventures on snow mobiles or snowcats.

Photo By: Hero Image/Getty Images

Snowshoe Mountain Resort (West Virginia)

Skiers in the mid-Atlantic and Southern states don't need to fly out west or drive to New England for first-rate skiing.

Photo By: Gary Tognoni/Getty Images

Whiteface Lodge (New York)

As host of the 1980 winter games, the Lake Placid region has six million acres packed with facilities made for wintry fun. There's alpine skiing at Whiteface with the greatest vertical drop east of the Rockies.

Whiteface Lodge (New York)

Then the entire family can enjoy ice-skating, bob-sledding and old-fashioned toboggans. Explore the snowy acres on cross-country skis or snowshoes or hitch a ride on a fast-moving dogsledding tour.

Photo By: By Martin Bravenboer (Speed Skating in Lake Placid) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Bretton Woods (New Hampshire)

Located high in New Hampshire's White Mountains, Bretton Woods is the state's largest ski area with 101 trails and glades and four terrain parks. An unusual addition to the outdoor fun is the mountain's extensive canopy tour, made up of several treetop zip-lines and suspension bridges.

Photo By: coleong/Getty Images

6. Use Starwood Points for Your Slope-Side Hotel Room

Cash and points availability can be tight at Starwood hotels during ski season, but when it is available it is often the best overall deal. For example, a room at the all-suites Westin Resort & Spa Whistler often sells for around $400 to $500 during ski season. However, the same room can be reserved for 16,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points per night through a Starwood Preferred Guest Amex. While searching on Starwood Preferred Guest I have even seen decent sub-$200 rates, and amazing availability when staying either on points or cash and points for much of the ski season (November through April). If you don’t have access to any hotel points, then renting a house or condo on a site like VRBO can be an affordable option.

7. Snag Discounted Lift Tickets

Lift tickets at popular resorts like Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge and Whistler can be $100 or more per day. You can save money by purchasing tickets online at least a couple weeks ahead of time at the mountain of your choice. (You can also search sites such as Liftopia for discounted advance lift tickets.) Purchasing multi-day tickets will also lower the cost per day by about 10 to 20 percent when compared to buying several single-day tickets. Also, going either early or late in the season (such as November and early December, or in April) can result in savings of $10 to $40 per day on lift tickets. If you plan to ski more than four days, or are heading to the slopes on more than one trip this winter, then explore a season pass; it may be the most cost-effective option. It can also be worth a stop at a gas station or grocery store near the ski resort to see if they have coupons or discount lift tickets available for sale.

8. Or Get Lift Tickets – for Free!

Several resorts such as Beaver Creek (near Vail) and Squaw Valley (near Lake Tahoe) provide a free lift ticket if you ski the same day that you fly into the local airport. Another option: If you have children, consider skiing or snowboarding at Keystone. The ski resort, 70 miles west of Denver, offers free lift tickets to all children 12 and under when their families are staying in Keystone accommodations. This offer has no blackout dates and can result in hundreds of dollars in savings!

Keep Reading

Next Up

Best Family Ski Resorts

Plan a ski vacation at a family-friendly ski resort that caters to kids on the bunny slopes and beyond with ski school, adventure parks and plenty of smores.

5 Family Adventures in Hawaii

Put the phones down and make memories to last a lifetime with these thrilling activities on the island of Hawaii.

The Ultimate Way to See All of NYC

Get a bird's eye view of the Big Apple with this thrilling helicopter ride.

Shoulder-Season Savings in 5 Ski Resort Towns

Find out why you should head to ski resorts during shoulder season.

Best Family Hotel Rewards and Perks

Summer Hull shares her favorite hotel rewards programs and perks.

10 Wild West Family Adventures

Discover how Buffalo Bill, U.S. soldiers, railroaders and Pony Express riders opened the west.

Where to Ski in Europe

We've sussed out some lesser-known spots in the French and Swiss Alps where charm rules.

Memphis: An Insider's Guide to This Funky Southern City

Experience the city's lesser known wonders.

12 Family-Friendly NYC Restaurants

Hit up these fun, food-forward spots for good eats for the entire family.

Ski Towns for Foodies

Check out these 3 resort towns that are serving up sustainable eats and local spirits whose quality rises far above your typical ski-lodge and bar-food fare.

On TV

What's New in Interests

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss Travel Channel in your favorite social media feeds.

Food Network Restaurant Guides

Food Network shares their top places to eat across the country.