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How To Plan A Budget-Friendly Family Vacation

It’s always time for a vacation and having kids doesn’t mean they have be a stretch on your wallet. No matter what type of family fun you’re looking for, there are some great ways to save money. If frugal family fun is your goal, then these tips will help steer you in the right direction. Your whole family deserves a trip and you can make memories that will last forever.

Set A Budget From The Start

Step #1 of planning a vacation is setting a budget. This helps determine your location and how long you’ll be vacationing. Obviously, longer vacations can equate to more money spent. Like most expenditures, how much you spend on travel is highly personal. To be fiscally responsible, start putting money aside each month and save towards your end goal: your vacation dates. On average, our family spends 5% of our yearly income on travel.

Enjoy The Splendor Of National Parks

Luckily, some of the most beautiful destinations are the most budget-friendly family vacation options. National Parks captivate visitors of all ages. Be inspired by Yellowstone’s geysers or take in the breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon. They offer lodging options that range from campsites to inns. Look for senior discounts if you’re planning a multi-generational family vacation.

Avoid Popular Tourist Destinations

Popular tourist attractions and cities can add to your overall cost. Travelers find that food, lodging and attraction prices are much more costly in popular tourist destinations. Instead, search for destinations that are slightly off the beaten path. In many cases, like Florida, beaches and attractions are located within a few hours of each other. So you’ll save money if you stay a bit further away.

Book Your Vacation During Low Seasons

Every destination has a “high season” when they’re busy and “low season” when they’re less busy. You can pinch a penny when avoid the high peak seasons. Hotel and flights tend to be cheaper. This is a great way to experience popular family travel destinations without the crowds too. For us, it means that sometimes we’re pulling our kids out of school to travel on obscure dates. If you can swing that, do it!

Use Coupon Website To Save On Food

There are some great coupon websites that allow you to purchase vouchers for a variety of things from restaurant gift cards, to local and nearby businesses. While you are planning the details of your upcoming adventure type in the zip code of your destination and see what kinds of deals pop up. You will be able to plan your cheapest meals and even find fun, nearby and affordable places to check out.

Make It A Road Trip

Unless you have airline points to spend, it’s almost always cheaper to travel, as a family, by car. You can also avoid having to rent a vehicle at your destination. Plan your route ahead of time and look for some fun stops along the way. If you’ve got young kids, it’s great because you can travel at your own pace. Take some snacks and entertainment for the car to ensure the journey is part of the vacation!

Consider Renting A House vs. Traditional Hotels

Larger families need more space than a traditional hotel room and booking multiple rooms can quickly increase the cost of your vacation. An alternative and economical option is renting a house. Services, like Airbnb, make it easy to search for exactly what you’re looking for. You book, pay and communicate directly with the owner of the property. Renting a home with a full kitchen can also help you save money on eating out. Score a unique place to stay and experience a destination like a local.

Pay For Everything Ahead Of Time

An awesome way that families have been saving money is booking all-inclusive vacations. The catch is having to pay for everything upfront. Many travelers find that it’s less stressful when they’re vacationing. Traditionally, your room, food, amenities and activities are included. There are many all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and cruises are a popular option.

Buyer beware though, avoid the “add-ons” that aren’t included. They can easily break your budget. Instead, after you’ve paid for the inclusive part of your vacation, consider making sub-category budgets that you can save for.

Go Local For A Staycation

Taking a staycation is always a great option if you can’t afford to go away. Vacationing in a local spot—less than a day’s drive away—will help you save on gas, mileage, and an extra night at a hotel.

Our family find this fun and less stressful. I love to explore the quirky parts of my state and the best small towns. Ask yourself: What attraction do people come to see when they visit your state? Where do your friends vacation in your state? Historical landmarks, natural attractions, national monuments and state parks are a great option.  There are treasures right around the corner from home, just waiting to be explored.

As a bonus, you can score in-state resident discounts. Check out your local visitors bureau or historical society for plenty of ideas for awesome things to do in your neck of the woods.

Connect With Nature And Try Camping

Camp spots are traditionally free to $50 per night, making it an excellent budget-friendly family vacation option. It may not be for everyone, but it’s far cheaper than paying for hotel. Many campgrounds offer nice clean bathrooms and showers. If you’re new to camping, test it out ahead of time at a local campground. If you’re not a fan, just pack up and head home. It’s definitely an adventure, but campers love it.

Always Check For Discounts

Many travelers are entitled to discounts and you just need to research as part of your planing. AAA members, service members and veterans might qualify for discounts. Even some historical sites offer educator discounts. You might be surprised at just how much you can save. It just takes a little effort to uncover these discounts – call ahead, look online and connect with the local visitors bureau.

Getaway Quickly With A Last-Minute Vacation

If your family has a flexible schedule, look at last-minute vacation deals. It’s great if you’re adventurous and you’re not in love with a particular destination. Cruises and resorts are known for offering last-minute vacation packages. I suggest following several of your bucket-list family travel destinations on social media. Many times, these offers happen so quickly that they aren’t even published to websites. Sometimes, it’s as easy as calling to book.

Wherever your family vacation takes you, know that you’re investing in a lifetime of memories. That’s a priceless opportunity that the whole family can appreciate.

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