Adoption travel is often one of the biggest categories of the total cost of adoption, thanks to multiple or extended trips to an international destination, or the wait for termination of birth parent rights in a domestic adoption. But families can save hundreds of dollars on travel costs.
- Limit the number of travelers. It’s fun to have siblings and grandparents along to meet the newest member of the family, but each additional person will add thousands of dollars to the cost of the trip. “We cut costs on our Russian adoption by having only one parent (my husband) fly over the first trip to meet our son,” says Kim Tennison. “I joined him on the second trip to bring our son home.”
- Take advantage of frequent-flyer and hotel-rewards programs. Even infrequent travelers can get enough points to cover their adoption travel. Friends and family members can donate their miles to your account, and you may earn points through a rewards card that offers miles based on your credit-card purchases. “First—we got a credit card that allowed us to earn airline miles,” says Cindy Swatek. “We put everything on the credit card—groceries, stamps, our son’s monthly preschool fees—and have already earned one ticket! This is only practical if you pay it off each month, though.”
- Research adoption fares. Some airlines, like Delta/KLM, offer discounts on fares for adoption travel. These special fares require no advance notice and they allow travelers to change flights at no cost. “We took advantage of ‘Special Delivery’ fares for our international adoption,” says Melinda Caldwell. “We saved a great deal and felt very comfortable with the additional bonus of no penalties for changes or cancellations.”
- Use a travel agency that specializes in adoption travel. “Most agencies with this specialization have adoption contract fares with specific carriers and can offer huge discounts not normally offered to the general public,” says Susan Parr. “They also understand the family’s needs, and can make sure, for instance, that a family is getting an airfare that can either be changed without a penalty or for a small penalty.”
- Ask airlines and hotels about group discounts. If you’re bringing several family members or your agency is sending several families at one time, look into group rates through the airlines and hotel chains. You may be able to save significantly.
- Travel modestly. No one relishes the thought of 13 hours in coach, but the comforts of business — or first-class — may not be worth doubling or tripling the cost of airfare. At hotels, skip the suites for more modest accommodations, or consider staying at residence inns, which offer kitchen facilities in each room where you can prepare your own meals. “We found a corporate apartment in the city where we stayed,” says L.P. “It saved us hundreds of dollars versus a hotel, and it was furnished down to the silverware, dishes, pots, and pans.”
Barbara Calhoun had her adoption agency arrange for her to stay with a local family during her second trip to Moscow for her Russian adoption. “I wish that we had stayed with our family both trips, not just because it’s less expensive, but because we had such a grand time with great people. It was like visiting with distant relatives rather than being alone in a foreign land.”
- Eat affordably during adoption travel. Pack some simple foods and snacks, or ask the hotel staff to direct you to the nearest supermarket, where you can pick up easy-to-prepare fare. Find out if your hotel offers a free breakfast buffet or other meal plan to its guests. “We stayed at a Marriott Residence Inn, which provided complimentary breakfast and hearty hors d’oeuvres, usually with a light entrée, in the afternoon—so all we had to do for meals was grab a sandwich for lunch,” says Margaret Hart.
- Consider making, rather than buying, gifts. “I crafted special gifts,” says Janice Reagan. “I knitted shawls for my son’s foster mother, and decorated picture frames for the agency. My handcrafted gifts were treasured by the recipients.”