Getting the best deals cheapest on flights, hotels, rental cars for family trips + trip itinerary for LDS church history sites

25 July 2018

Hello! I wanted to share some tips for finding the best deals on car rentals, flighs, hotels, etc. We just returned from our trip back East and I’ve had some requests to share what we did. I’ll start with some money saving tips and then if you are interested in our itinerary, I’ll share that after.

church history sites

1. First up, flights! Flights are usually the most expensive part of the trip so this is where I begin and then make the itinerary from the best locations and prices you can find. My favorite flight tool is Google Flights. We ended up flying one-way from Salt Lake to Cleveland on Delta and then flew back one way from Long Island to Salt Lake on Southwest. Just enter your airports, and then when you click on the date, a drop down calendar will appear and you can see when the least expensive flights are! So, so helpful. Then, you can sort by stops, price, length of travel, etc. When we went in July we got the non-stop flight on Delta for $100  and were able to get 3 of the tickets with Skymiles we had saved. Please note: Southwest and some other discount carriers don’t show up on Google Flights, so check them independently, especially on their sales.

google flights

Another favorite feature is the price tracker! Under your flight option is  a little box that says flight tracker, you can slide the circle to the right and it will send you emails when the price goes down! I’ve got some destinations in Europe on my flight tracker and crossing my fingers.

flight tracker

Another tip: If you can decide this summer where you want to go next summer and which airline you want take and then sign up for their credit card – we signed up for the Southwest Visa in January for our return flights and were able to get 4 of them for free since you get 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1000 in the first 3 months (if you are a new cardholder).

rental van

2. Let’s look at rental cars: My all-time favorite for car rentals is Costco travel if you are a Costco member. It was initially $800 for the week one way rental for a minivan from Cleveland to Long Island Airport but I did some more checking and Hertz was actually much cheaper at $550– you can sign up for their Gold Program for free and for this particular trip it was less expensive. I would reserve at Costco (you can cancel anytime before the day of your rental) and then keep checking back there (prices go up and down!) and a few other places. In our case, checking around definitely paid off and the Hertz Gold let us choose our van when we got to the airport, they originally had the Dodge Caravan for us but let us take the Chrysler Town & Country with more room + TV’s!

3. Hotels! My favorite tool for hotels is GOOGLE! Just google where you want a hotel: so I typed in Cleveland hotels in the Google search box. Then, click anywhere on the map that pops up and it will open up.

google hotel search

Then, at the top you can modify it by your date,  number of guests, I also check the boxes for free breakfast and pool and then you just click around the map to see what your best options are by price and reviews. I go directly to the hotel’s website, I don’t use the 3rd party ones that come up. It is a dream to search for hotels, especially if you are planning a road trip and you can quickly find hotels along your route! Then, at the hotel’s website you can see what beds are available – we always go for rooms with 2 beds and a pull-out couch for our family.

google hotels

For part of the trip, we visited some of our church history sites – we wanted to share our roots and heritage of our beliefs with our kids. Here is our itinerary for those that were interested. I got some ideas that friends that had been and looked at some LDS church history tours by John Bytheway and Hank Smith to get an idea of the routes they took and then modified it for our family. We had been to NYC a couple of times before but the boys had tickets to the Yankees-Mets game so we needed to be there on the weekend for that. We also didn’t include D.C. on this trip because we had been there before but we had never been to Philadelphia so that was a must for us. I think it’s good to see some different itineraries and decide what’s best for your family! Our weather was a dream – high 70’s, low 80’s with low humidity so that was so pleasant but our friends that went out a few weeks before hit a heat wave with heat indexes in the hundreds, and right now they are having rain and flooding so be prepared for anything! All of the hotels we stayed at had pools, great breakfasts, and many had the evening receptions (light dinners) included

Day 1 (Sat) Fly into Cleveland 10 p.m., get rental car, we stayed at Residence Inn


Day 2 (Sun) Kirtland:

LDS Visitors’ Center – take the free tour, it includes:

Newell K. Whitney home

Newell K. Whitney store



and then you can drive to

Morley Farm

John Johnson Farm

Back to same hotel from 1st night

niagara falls

Day 3 (Mon) : Drive to Niagara Falls (3 hours)

Go to Cave of the Winds – you can walk right down in to the Falls! My kids loved it.

Drive to hotel (1.5 hrs) Rochester/Henrietta Homewood Suites eat dinner at hotel at evening reception

Swim at hotel

sacred grove walking

Day 4 (Tues)

Go to Palmyra (about 20 minute drive)

put down blankets on chairs for the pageant that night

Hill Cumorah & Visitor Center

Sacred Grove

Smith Farm

Get lunch at the Chill & Grill – the ice cream portions are HUGE but so good! Kid size is like 3 scoops! We liked the burgers too.

Martin Harris farm

Grandin Press

Palmyra Cemetery

Back to hotel for swimming, naps,  complimentary dinner at hotel

7-8 pm head back to Hill Cumorah Pageant!

Drive back to hotel (same as Night 3)

IAWL museum

Day 5 (Wed)

Drive to Seneca Falls (50 minutes)

Go to It’s a Wonderful Life museum

Walk across the bridge

sauders country store

Get lunch at Sauder’s Country Store – EVERYTHING here is sooo good and homemade.

Drive to Priesthood Restoration Site (2 hrs 15 min)

Joseph and Emma Smith Home

Isaac Hale Home

Susquehannah River


Drive to Scranton (45 minutes) – we stayed at Springhill Suites. Get pictures at the Welcome to Scranton sign (they had to move it inside a mall since it was creating so much congestion at the off ramp – go to Steamtown Mall and park near Boscov’s and go up to the second level, it’s in a little alcove near the top of the escalator)

rocky steps

Day 6 (Thurs) – get an early start, many of these attractions close by 5 p.m.

Drive to Philadelphia (2.5 hrs)

Run up Rocky Steps and get a picture by the statue (we just parked on the street in a neighborhood close by)

Get Philly Cheesesteaks for lunch – Jim’s on South St for a fun experience, or grab something closer if time is limited

Park at PPA Autopark at Independence Hall (this was least expensive)

Go to Independence Hall (reserve free tickets for this ahead of time!)

See Liberty Bell (free)

More options we didn’t make it to – we should have payed closer attention to their closing times in our planning Sad smile

National Constitution Center

Ben Franklin Museum

Drive to Homewood Suites in Hamilton, NJ – eat complimentary dinner at hotel at evening reception, swim, ping pong, basketball, golf all at hotel!

survivor treetime square

Day 7 (Fri)

drive to New York! (1 hr-1.5 hrs depending on traffic)

Parked at Battery Parking Garage on Greenwich St. (this was least expensive and you can park yourself, you don’t need to reserve)

Go to 9/11 museum (plan on at least 2 hours, I would definitely watch one of the videos – we watched America Under Attack) They did an amazing job with this place.

Grab a slice at Steve’s Pizza, just a quick walk

We checked into hotel – Homewood Suites Manhattan (we loved this hotel because it had a little kitchen, 2 queens, and a sofa bed, short walk to Times Square and subways, and a GREAT free hot breakfast. Crazy for NYC!!)

Boys went to Yankees batting practice and Yankees-Mets game, girls  to Times Square, eat Carmines (make reservations well in advance!) and then Anastasia on Broadway

nyc hotel

Day 8 (Sat)

Bike Ride in Central Park (plan on at least an hour-2 hrs)

Drove to Long Island Airport to fly back on Southwest and return rental car (traffic was awful, so glad we budgeted at least an hour and a half for this) Long Island Airport is a dream once you get there! So small, clean, and quiet!

I hope this has helped – happy trip planning! Let me know if you have any questions ~


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