Planning a Cheap Family Vacation: Your Essential Guide
by Dana Meltzer Zepeda
Planning a cost-effective family vacation can be a formidable task. Although they say “money can’t buy happiness,” it’s hard not to wonder if that’s really true when you’re trying to arrange a fun-filled getaway on a no-frills budget. Luckily, you don’t need to spend a small fortune to make your family feel like a million bucks. There are plenty of simple ways to save big without cashing in your kids’ college funds first. Here, we share all of our insider tips and tricks for savvy travel planning on a shoestring budget, plus some of our favorite cheap family vacation destinations.
- Ways to Save Money When Planning a Family Vacation
- Ways to Save Money While on Your Trip
- 15 Destinations for Cheap Family Vacations
Ways to Save Money When Planning a Family Vacation
A lot of different factors can affect how much you pay for your family vacation. Luckily, many of these factors are within your control. With careful planning and strategic thinking, the tally for your trip might not be so scary. When you’re planning, you’ll want to think about:
Some cities have better economies than others, so one easy way to save is to consider visiting a destination where the cost of living is lower than where you live. For example, if you live in New York City, try looking at beach vacations in Wildwood, New Jersey, where a night in your average hotel room is less than the cost of dinner out in the city.
Another great way to save is to choose a family vacation destination that is within driving distance from your home. Cutting out the cost of airfare can significantly decrease the price of your overall trip, leaving more money left over to enjoy meals out and local attractions once you’ve arrived at your destination.
They say timing is everything and, in the case of planning a cheap, fun-filled family vacation this is unequivocally true. Booking your vacation during the “off” season, when resorts are less busy, can reap big rewards. Rates are lower, the pool is less crowded, and you may even be able to take advantage of special promotions.
If you pay close attention, you’ll start to notice some hotels and airlines offer the same special offers year after year. So, if you saw a Valentine’s Day special to save half off at Club Med last February, chances are they’ll run the same promotion this year. You can also do a Google search to see what deals were offered in the past and make a handy spreadsheet to keep track of them.
Most hotels and airlines offer rewards points to repeat customers. So, if your husband travels for work a lot, ask him to stay in the same hotel chain and fly the same airline every time he leaves town. All of those work trips will eventually pay off when you cash in his rewards points for free airline tickets and hotel rooms for your own family.
One great way to save is to book an all-inclusive hotel or one that comes with plenty of family-friendly amenities. These can include everything from free breakfast to cable TV to free WiFi. If you can avoid paying a premium for all of these extras, it’s easier to budget for big-ticket items like day trips and excursions.
Plenty of airlines and hotels run flash sales, which can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Keep track of these special deals by signing up to join their company newsletter or becoming a Facebook follower.
Planning an affordable family vacation has never been easier, thanks to travel sites like Expedia, Booking.com, Orbitz and Hotels.com. These popular websites provide competitive rates, customer reviews and extensive photo galleries, giving time-pressed parents the ability to book a vacation package at their own leisure without ever even having to leave home.
Ways to Save Money While on Your Trip
It’s not just flights and hotels that cost quite a bit of money — meals, activities and airline fees can really add up. Here’s how to keep those extra expenses under control.
One easy way to save money on vacation is to pack your own snacks, book a room with a kitchen or microwave and DIY a few meals. If you’re traveling to Hawaii and don’t want to spend a lot, stock up on fresh pineapple from the local farmer’s market, sashimi-grade tuna from the grocery store and individual cereal boxes from home.
One of the biggest money traps on vacation is checked baggage fees. Avoid paying extra for them by giving each kid their own carry-on, packing light and filling car seats — which can be checked for free — with diapers and baby wipes to save space in your luggage. Genius, right?
Activities and excursions
15 Destinations for Cheap Family Vacations
OK, now that you’re armed with money-saving travel tips, are you ready to get away from it all? Here are our top 15 affordable family vacation ideas to get you started.
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