It’s hard to overstate the benefits of taking a family vacation.
In today’s chaotic world, it can be difficult finding quality time to spend with our families. Vacations offer a chance to slow down and connect with our loved ones in a relaxed setting. This can help cement relationships and create enduring bonds. They help create lasting memories and provide a break from the demands of day-to-day life.
Additionally, traveling to new places can be educational for both kids and adults alike. A family vacation can help kids learn about different parts of the world. Seeing new things and experiencing different cultures can open up their minds and help them better appreciate both the similarities and differences between people from all over. It can also teach them important skills like flexibility and adaptability, which always come in handy in life.
And, of course, family vacations are just plain fun!
Two of the biggest obstacles to setting out on a family vacation are time and money. We can’t create more time for you, but we can help with the money issue! Keep reading to learn strategies for saving money on vacation and making the most of your vacation dollars.
Saving Money On Vacation: Advance Is Key!
The most important step when it comes to saving money is planning ahead. This can allow you to save up for a certain trip and make sure that you have enough spending money for dinners and the activities that you really want to do.
Make sure you are following these steps in order to plan an affordable vacation for you and your family. This can provide you with a great sense of relief by the time that you arrive at the destination, and it is certainly worth being as prepared as possible.
Work Out Your Travel Budget
The first step in your vacation planning should be working out your total travel budget. You need to either figure out how much you have to spend or how much you can save up to spend. Setting a total figure will help determine things like where to go, how to get there, and what to do once you’re there.
A total budget of $5,000 will naturally allow different options from one to $500. Knowing your total budget will help you figure out things like whether you can stay in full-service hotels or what are your transportation options.
You should then break your budget into categories that track the typical major travel expenses: accommodations; transportation; food; activities; shopping. Make sure you allow plenty of spare money for unexpected purchases while you are on your vacation, or for the occasional splurge.
It is easy to lose track of your spending when you are on vacation, which is why it can be useful if you aim to pay for most of your vacation at the start. This can allow you to rest easy knowing that the majority of your vacation costs have been dealt with.
If you aim to pay for deposits, and accommodation fees ahead of time, then you may find yourself saving money by the time your vacation starts. Not only will this allow you to set specific savings goals in the build-up to it, but you can often obtain discounted rates if you’re willing to pay in advance. you can often obtain discounted rates if you’re willing to pay in advance.
Saving Money On Vacation While You’re On It
When the time comes to head out on your family vacation, it’s important to continue saving money wherever possible. These are some ways that you can keep an eye on your spending habits on vacation.
Cut Back On Food Spending
When you’re eating every meal outside of your home and regular routines, that can add up pretty quickly. So, take your own pre-packed lunch/snacks/drinks wherever possible. It can be a useful way of cutting down on the amount spent on food each day, especially if your kids are picky eaters or if they like to have regular snacks.
Growing bodies need to be fueled more frequently, and it is worth stocking up on convenient cereal bars, dried fruit, and other snack foods that you know they like. Even though this is a pretty small thing to do in terms of expenses, it can be a highly effective way to save a little money.
Additionally, you could head to the local grocery store once you have arrived at your destination, and get everything you need to prepare sandwiches, your kids’ favorite snacks, cereal, and anything else you might need.
Pay Only In Cash
Cash can provide a better visual for you and your family members to see how much or little you have to spend during the trip. In comparison to credit cards, cash can be used by anybody in your group.
This can allow children to see how money really works, and even engage them by counting the amount needed together. Make sure you take out the correct currency and are realistic about the total costs.
Take Advantage Of Free Experiences
You don’t have to spend money in order to create memorable experiences for your children. Make the most out of free public parks and beaches that are free to access. These can be great ways to spend several hours without breaking the bank.
There is also a range of free or discounted activities for families with children. Consider looking into this ahead of time and finding unique free experiences in the area that you are traveling to.
Some of the most common activities that are free or only ask for a donation are museums. It is easy to find such museums in larger cities like Washington D.C., New York, and other places around the world. You could prepare a small scavenger hunt and attach it to a clipboard before taking your children there to keep them engaged and encourage them to learn along the way.
Set A Budget For Souvenirs
You may want to purchase a gift for somebody who is house-sitting for you or doing you some kind of favor, but each souvenir is pretty pricey. With some advanced planning, you can find lots of free or almost free souvenirs.
Consider setting your kids a challenge to find something free from each place you visit. This could be a pebble from the beach, travel brochures, or a leaf native to the area. You can use these to create a scrapbook that documents your trip. Another idea of a challenge you can set is giving your children a recycled jar each and asking them to fill it with small amounts of things from the area.
Cut Back On Transport Costs
A lot of people believe that you need to travel internationally in order for a trip to qualify as a vacation. However, there is nothing wrong with exploring the local attractions that are closer to you.
Plan a day trip to somewhere that you have always wanted to explore as a family, or to a highly recommended interactive experience. These can be effective ways of reducing travel costs overall.
Another way of saving money while traveling as a family is to rent a stroller and walk more places than you would regularly. Taxis and transport can add a lot to the total costs on vacation, especially if you are less familiar with the area or how to get about.
It could be worth looking at maps of the area to see what attractions you can walk to, and planning your days accordingly.
Make sure you are looking into the average costs of vehicle hire and public transport for a particular city or destination. This can allow you to make the best decision and get the most cost-effective method of transportation.
Plan Your Meals
Make sure you are thinking about what you are going to eat for each meal ahead of time. Avoid dining out every day if possible. This can be highly expensive, especially if you are taking your children to a restaurant.
This could involve preparing some food from your accommodation, or booking a hotel that has breakfast included in the price of the room.
Bring Reusable Water Bottles
You will be surprised by how much money several bottles of water each day will cost on a vacation. Try to check if the tap water is safe to drink when you are planning your trip, and bring a reusable water bottle for each member of your family that will be coming on your vacation. Alternatively, if tap water isn’t your thing, you can also find portable water bottles with their own built-in filters.
Encourage everybody to keep their water bottle close to them at all times so that they are taking regular sips during their vacation. Ideally, you will be able to find relatively cheap reusable water bottles for your family. That way, it isn’t as substantial of a loss if the bottle is misplaced or goes missing.
Walk As Much As Possible
Set your kids a challenge to do the most steps in a day, this can be monitored by using cheap step trackers that they can wear on their wrists. This is a useful way of keeping active children entertained and more motivated to walk when needed.
If you are visiting a city with subway stops and buses, it can be tempting to spend a little cash to get around easily. However, these are likely to be surprisingly expensive when you are paying for everybody in your group.
Consider walking as much as possible to save a little money and get your daily steps in on vacation.
Check Community Calendars For Events
Another way of saving money on vacation while keeping your family entertained is to check community calendars for events happening around the time you will be in the area. Some of these are likely to be free or require small entry fees.
It is definitely worth looking online before heading on your vacation so that you can plan unique events and activities. Certain areas will have farmers’ markets or family fun days occasionally, and it can be useful to research this. Look for free festivals, carnivals, and fairs.
Family Vacation Ideas
We have outlined some of the most popular and exciting vacation ideas below.
Some of these trips are easy for those that want to save money, while others need a little more creativity. If you are looking for a challenge or want to try something new, then it could be worth searching for some of the vacation ideas listed below.
Camping is a great way to spend more quality time with your family and connect with nature. It is also very affordable because the cost of supplies, tents, or even cabin hire is much lower than that of a hotel.
Camping can also allow you to teach your children valuable lessons such as survival skills, fishing, building a fire, and more. Stripping things back to basics allows your family to appreciate one another and get creative with how to spend their time.
Additionally, you can set up camp anywhere as long as you have the right permit. This means that you don’t need to travel far away to experience something new and create valuable memories for your family.
Another vacation idea that is perfect for families on a budget is to plan a staycation. These can happen from local hotels in the area you live in, or even from home. The idea is to get into the vacation mindset and give yourself time to reset.
If your budget is tight, a staycation could be a great compromise. Plan a day when you head on a different hiking route together, followed by a picnic.
Set out a tray of new foods for everybody to try from the international section of the supermarket, or explore your hometown as you have never seen it before with the help of a checklist or scavenger hunt.
Cruises are another great way to make your money stretch further on a family vacation. Shorter trips like 3-day long vacations are ideal and affordable, and most cruises visit multiple destinations in one trip.
There is a range of child and family-friendly suites on many cruises, as well as activities for children. For the major cruise lines, the basic cruise fare will include meals and some assortment of free recreational activities and entertainment. The range of options will vary across cruise lines and ships. Some have elaborate water parks, miniature golf ranges, sports decks, and other games and programmed activities across the ship.
Like other vacations, you can save money on cruises by doing your research and looking for savings online. Booking sites will have their own recommendations for the cheapest time to book, but it could also be worth looking out for last-minute deals.
Although almost everything you need is built into the cruise fare, there are usually many opportunities for upcharges and extra purchases. This range can be very expensive, and any onboard shopping will also often have premium rates. Fortunately, these charges are optional and you control how much, if any, you purchase.
Theme Park Attractions
If you want to keep older and younger children entertained and encourage them to have fun, you could try to incorporate a theme park trip into your family vacation. Alternatively, you could make a theme park your ultimate destination and build a vacation around that. There are an enormous variety of theme parks available in most states, each with varying price points.
Older children will want to try out the extreme rides, while younger children would be more suitable for the enthusiastic characters. Make sure you arrange a day out as a family to a theme park as part of your vacation.
If you are visiting a warmer area, then it could be fun to book a trip to a local water park. These are great ways of keeping children entertained, as well as older kids.
If you live further away from a particular theme park and want to make it the main attraction of your family vacation, you will usually save money if you choose accommodations that are not affiliated with the theme park itself. Try to find an affordable vacation rental that isn’t too far away from the attractions. Also, many theme parks offer free or highly discounted prices for visitors that return the following day. Such information will be posted online. And, when you’re online, see if you can obtain discounted tickets if you buy them in advance. (If you are a member of AAA, that organization also offers its members year-round discounted tickets to several major theme parks. Depending on which theme park you are planning to visit, it may be worth getting a membership.)
When it comes to booking your visit, it could also be worth taking note of the busier times of the year. Then, you can make a plan to book during the off-season for a reduction in ticket prices. You can also avoid the stress of large crowds in this way.
The food and other experiences are highly tempting once you are in the theme park, but they tend to have high price tags. You can save money by taking advantage of the park’s in/out privileges and eating outside the park. Pack a picnic lunch full of everybody’s favorites that you can enjoy during the day.
Likewise, it is also worth bringing refillable water bottles with you when you visit a theme park. You will be surprised by how much money is spent on bottled water and other drinks.
Beach vacations can be very affordable. Try to find a good deal on accommodation near a beach, and schedule some fun activities that are suitable for the whole family.
For example, older kids might enjoy surf lessons, paddle boarding, or kayaking. You can show smaller children rock pools, build sandcastles with them, or introduce their toes to the ocean.
This may seem like an excuse to spend more money, but a slight change in perspective can make a big difference in the overall costs of a city break. Cities have a wide selection of museums, parks, and other free or affordable places to visit.
It could be worth planning a city break as a family if there is somewhere in particular that you and your family are interested in exploring. Consider looking for interactive science and art exhibitions that are affordable for families and great for children of all ages.
A city break could be a great way of planning a cheap day trip as a family. Whether you want to set aside a day to properly explore the closest city to your home base, or if you are looking for a way to split up a larger vacation. City breaks are highly versatile and do not need to be highly expensive.
If you have kids that are more active and that like longer hikes, you could plan to visit a national park on your family vacation. This could be a great way of teaching your children about species of flowers and how insects such as bees and butterflies are an important part of any ecosystem. Most of the National Parks have some activities geared specifically toward kids, and you should also look into the Junior Ranger program.
You can see if there are any national parks close to your vacation destination, as it could be a great and affordable way to spend quality time together as a family.
The beauty of road trips is that they are some of the most flexible vacations that can be as long or short as you like. Consider arranging an RV rental for convenient accommodation and sleeping arrangements on the road.
This can also be ideal for children because there is plenty of space for toys, home comforts, and their favorite snacks. Road trips allow you to spend more time together as a family and have the added bonus of being able to bring your dog with you if you like.
Another option to create some great family memories is a ski break. Although these tend to be the more expensive option, it is certainly worth saving up for a skiing vacation. They can be highly adventurous, and it is easy to enroll anybody who needs it into skiing or snowboarding lessons.
While ski breaks aren’t always considered cheap options, there are plenty of coupons, online deals, and other strategies that can help make a ski trip more affordable.
Like other trips, booking in advance can lead to significant savings. Ski vacations don’t always need to be weeks long in order to make memories. It is also worth noting that you don’t need to get everybody kitted out in branded ski clothing. As long as you can find high-quality layers, you could source cheap thermals at any second-hand store or in most supermarkets.
You can also save money by doing your research and looking for accommodation that includes ski lifts or equipment rentals in the cost as a package. Some resorts will also offer free or discounted activities for children below a certain age, and it is worth looking for these when you are planning a ski break that won’t break the bank.
If you have older kids, consider taking an adventure vacation. Spend time exploring somewhere from a different perspective using a zip line, and enjoy bonding with your children at the same time. This quality time will go a long way.
Trying something new can make fun memories and strengthen your bond with your kids. Consider an adventure vacation if the personalities and preferences of your family members seem to fit with this.
Head up the mountains horseback riding, or take whitewater rafting lessons together on your next family vacation.
Tips & Strategies For Saving Money On Vacation
Every family is different, which is why some vacation options will not apply to everybody. Make sure you are keeping the peace on your family vacation by following some of these strategies. Remember that it’s important that you can enjoy the trip as well.
Something that plays a significant role in finding affordable family vacations is being flexible. This includes timing, places to eat, and activities. Mid-week trips are much more affordable than weekend stays. Of course, accommodation is significantly cheaper for fewer nights.
Know Where To Look For Deals
Social media platforms are widely used by different hotel chains, airlines, and other travel companies to promote their latest deals and discounts. It could be worth following some of these on Twitter or Instagram or signing up for their weekly or monthly newsletter. These can also feature discounted prices and deals for your next trip.
Stay Outside City Centers
Another useful approach to saving money when you are vacationing is to book your hotel or other sleeping arrangements just outside the city borders. If you are planning a city visit, this can allow you to get a better night’s rest because of the quieter area that you will be staying in.
It is worth spending the extra money on transport to and from the city center during your trip, because you will appreciate the ability to relax in a peaceful environment further from the hustle and bustle.
Book In Advance
Make sure you are booking in plenty of time so that you can save money. Accommodation can be far cheaper when it is booked in advance, and it is certainly worth keeping this in mind when you are planning your family vacation.
Children Benefit From Deals
Many brands and companies will offer families with children discounted prices if they are under a certain age, or if they can prove their achievements.
This is a great way of encouraging your child’s achievements through positive reinforcement. Showing them how their efforts can pay off over time will make them more likely to keep working hard and performing well in the future.
Consider A House Swap
Did you know that you can switch places with another family for the duration of your trip? If you can find a group that is planning a trip to your area for the same amount of time as your trip, then you could swap houses so that neither of you needs to pay for a hotel. There are several home exchange websites dedicated to the purpose of connecting travelers.
The added bonus is that you won’t need to arrange a house sitter during your vacation. Take a look at the different home exchange sites for more information.
Rent Your House Out While You Are Away
Alternatively, you can rent out your home during your vacation as a way of saving money on the overall cost. Earn a little extra money using house sitting apps or accommodation sites. People who are planning to visit the area can rent your house and pay for the privilege.
Make sure you are locking away your personal belongings before heading out on your vacation. It could also be worth having a family member or close friend house any pets during your vacation.
That way, you will have peace of mind knowing that you aren’t relying on strangers staying in your house to feed them.
Explore Local Experiences
If you want to create a memorable experience, then it could be useful to avoid some of the more popular tourist attractions. These tend to charge high amounts for entry and photo opportunities because of how popular they are.
Try to save a little money by pretending to be a local from the area. Explore hidden restaurants and smaller points of interest without breaking the bank. This can provide a much deeper cultural experience and save a little money along the way.
Find Accommodations With A Kitchen
You can save a huge amount of money when you book accommodation with a functioning kitchen. This is because it is far easier to prepare meals using supermarket ingredients that are ready to heat up or cook in the oven when there is a working kitchen.
When accommodation has a kitchen, it can make your trip much cheaper. This is because you can purchase food in the local supermarket and cook it for yourself. It is considerably cheaper than eating in restaurants every night, and it could be an ideal option for children who need a break to chill out a little after a busy day.
Make sure you look through the additional features of accommodation when you are booking a trip. This can allow you to filter your search and find the right fit for you and your family.
You can plan an affordable vacation with your family. Whether you want to try something new with your older children or spend quality time together surrounded by the natural wilderness, family vacations are essential bonding opportunities for you and your children.
Make the most out of the time together by following a relatively flexible schedule and saving as much money as possible. Consider some of the tips listed above for saving money on vacation, and make your next family vacation a memorable one.