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How to Have Great Family Vacations - on a Budget!

Updated on March 6, 2012

Great Family Vacations

Our family's vacation to Destin, Florida.
Our family's vacation to Destin, Florida. | Source

How to Save Money on a Family Vacation

Due to the decline of the economy and gas prices being at an all time high, you may be wondering if it is even possible to take a family vacation this year. Most families living on a budget are always on the lookout for any way to save a dollar and vacations are no exception to this rule.


So can you still have great family vacations on a budget? Yes, you can. It may not be the ultimate dream vacation you had in mind, but there are ways to cut down the expenses while still creating a fun filled trip that your family will remember for years to come.


If you are looking for ways to save money on your future travel expenses, read below to find some tips and advice on how to have great family vacations on a budget.


Family Friendly Restaurants

Dining at restaurants where kids eat free is a great way to save money!
Dining at restaurants where kids eat free is a great way to save money! | Source

How to Save Money on Food Expenses

One of the biggest expenses of a family vacation is food. Feeding a family of four or more can be quite expensive when you are traveling. To help cut down on the cost of food, here are some tips and advice that our family uses to save money.

  • Pack lots of snacks and a cooler full of drinks for the road trip. Bring a picnic lunch and eat outside at a park or rest stop if the weather permits. If you have these food and drink items handy, you can avoid spending money at restaurants and gas stations along the way.
  • Bring as much nonperishable food items from home as possible. Pack up the cereal, canned goods, chips, cookies, etc. Often times, grocery stores at popular vacation sites charge more for their products. You may have to pick up milk, bread, and other needed items, but you will save a ton of money by already having a good stockpile of food to prepare meals for your family.
  • Always eat breakfast and lunch in the room. If you have a full kitchen in your room, you can even make dinner a couple of nights on vacation. Order pizza one night and eat dinner by the pool. By not going out to eat three times a day, you will be able to save all kinds of money on food expenses.
  • Check out the family friendly restaurants in the area. Search for coupons or any other discounts on the Internet that will save you money on dinner. Try to find restaurants where kids eat free. If you can find these kind of deals beforehand, going out to eat won't put so much of a strain on your budget.


Save Money on Lodging

Our family's condo on the beach we shared with my parents and sister.
Our family's condo on the beach we shared with my parents and sister. | Source

How to Save Money on Lodging Expenses

The largest expense of any family vacation is going to be the cost of lodging. Be sure to make out a budget for your trip to see exactly what you can afford to spend on a hotel, condo, or rental house. To help you save money, here are some tips and advice to help you find places that fit your budget and overall cut down on the cost of lodging expenses.

  • Figure out the off season travel time for your destination and schedule your vacation accordingly. Often times, hotels and other accommodations offer better deals during these months to fill up their vacancies. Don't stop at the Internet searches. Place a phone call to see if they can offer you a better deal or any other discounts than what they state on their website.

  • Check discount travel websites or consult a travel agent for special discount packages. Search popular websites such as Kayak, Priceline, Expedia, and Groupon Getaways to see what kind of deals they are running for your scheduled week of vacation. Consult with a travel agent who may be able to provide a huge discount on an all inclusive family resort.

  • Shorten your vacation time. Instead of the standard week vacation, shorten your travel time to 3-5 days. By decreasing the number of nights, you will be able to significantly decrease your lodging expenses. As an added bonus, you will be able to relax at home with the family before you have to go back to work.

  • Invite family members or friends to vacation with you to split the lodging costs. This idea works best when you are renting a condo or house for vacation. By having another family join in the fun, you can ensure to drastically cut down the lodging expenses. As the old saying goes, the more, the merrier!

  • Forget the lodging and go camping. The best way to completely cut out lodging expenses is to grab the tents and sleeping bags and enjoy what nature has to offer. If you don't own any camping gear, ask family members or friends if they have any that you can borrow for the trip. Visit your local national park or campground for more family friendly accommodations.


Travel Tips for Affordable Family Vacations Video

How to Save Money on Gas and Travel Expenses

The third largest expense to a family vacation is the cost of gas and travel expenses. With gas being at an all time high, you will be paying more at the pump which puts even more of a strain on your already stretched to the max budget. To help cut these kind of expenses, here are some useful tips and advice to save money when traveling.

  • Vacation closer to home. Although that trip to the beach eight hours away is your usual destination, check out some popular vacation spots a little closer to home. Try some hot spots with lots of kid friendly attractions in your own home state. By cutting down the mileage of your trip, you can ensure to save loads of money from not spending it at the gas station.
  • Carpool with another family if possible. If you have more than one family traveling together, try to see if renting a van would be more economical for the trip. Splitting the rental fee and cost of gas could potentially cut travel expenses for all families involved.
  • Stay home and take mini trips to the local attractions to save on gas and travel expenses. Look for family fun activities in your immediate area. Maybe you haven't visited the local zoo or history museum in awhile. Plan a couple of outings that the whole family will enjoy. Also be sure to look for free attractions such as national parks. Pack a picnic lunch and go for a nature hike for some family fun without the admission fee.


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Have a Great Family Vacation on a Budget

As I have pointed out, it is possible to have a great family vacation even on a budget. Just as you do in your everyday life, make it a point to do some research and find ways that could potentially save your family money. You will find that with a little bit of effort that great deals are out there and waiting for you and your family. So what are you waiting for? Go plan a fun filled, money saving family vacation that everyone will thank you for - including your wallet!


I hope you have found some useful tips and advice on ways to help you plan a great family vacation on a budget. What other ways do you save money on family vacations? Do have any great money saving tips you want to share? Feel free to leave your comments in the section provided below! Happy travels to all!


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    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 5 years ago from San Francisco

      These are fantastic tips, especially with summer rolling around. With gas prices so high right now, I'm sure that families are going to be looking for ways to save when they travel. When we go on our trips, I often pack a lunch for the kids. Besides it being economical, it is also a lot easier. Thanks for all of the ideas!

    • ayliss08 profile image

      ayliss08 5 years ago from Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

      hey, your hub really help! I appreciate your suggestions for saving money on a family vacation. And I am sure many people will benefit from your work. Thanks, and voted up.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great tips for planning a vacation in this economy. We must stay closer to home this summer. I will be using many of your tips when planning. Great hub!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Alissa, I just have to say that this is a really excellent, helpful hub! I have 4 kids and we travel a lot for sports and visiting family. Packing your own meals and avoiding eating at restaurants (or even fast food) as often as possible can really add up. This is a timely article with Spring Break around the corner. Where ever you go, hope you and your family have fun! Best, Steph

    • alissaroberts profile image
      Author

      Alissa Roberts 5 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks Robin! These rising gas prices are really ridiculous. We always vacation with my parents in the summer but recently a friend asked us to visit them in NC. So we are currently trying to figure out how to do both on our limited budget. Fingers crossed we win the lottery! :) Appreciate you stopping by and for your comments!

    • alissaroberts profile image
      Author

      Alissa Roberts 5 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks so much ayliss08! Happy to hear that others will find the tips useful. Appreciate you reading and for the vote up!

    • alissaroberts profile image
      Author

      Alissa Roberts 5 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks Teresa! Staying closer to home will definitely help save on these crazy gas prices. Appreciate you stopping by and commenting!

    • alissaroberts profile image
      Author

      Alissa Roberts 5 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks so much Steph! We will possibly be traveling twice this summer so I was trying to think of every possible way to save money. Really appreciate your sweet comments and happy travels to you and your family as well!

    • Pannonica profile image

      Pannonica 5 years ago

      Hi Alissa

      Great hub, I always find that children never understand why we have to cut back on some expenses, like vacations (why should they!) but you have given us some very interesting ideas to use.

      Thank you

    • alissaroberts profile image
      Author

      Alissa Roberts 5 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks so much Pannonica! You bring up a good point. When I try to explain to my 6 yr old we just don't have the money for that something special. He will say why don't you swipe that card. He thinks there is an endless supply of money there. One of these days he will learn :) Appreciate you stopping by and commenting!

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great tips! So true about packing up non perishables. When my parents took us on family vacations we always did that, and old habits die hard! I can't imagine not doing that nowadays.

    • alissaroberts profile image
      Author

      Alissa Roberts 5 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks theclevercat! My mom was the same way - well I should say still is. We vacation with my family every summer and she still brings extra food to feed us even though I bring my own stockpile. Appreciate you reading and commenting!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Alissa,

      Thanks for publishing this very useful Hub. Even though it's just the two of us in my household, we follow all of your tips for saving money on food.

      I have an electric pot that's just for boiling water. Trader Joes rice noodle soups have been our lunches on many occasions.

    • alissaroberts profile image
      Author

      Alissa Roberts 5 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Thanks Daisy! Both my husband and I lived off of ramen noodles in our college days. They even made a comeback on our last beach trip. Appreciate you stopping by and commenting!

    • ladeda profile image

      ladeda 5 years ago

      I'm always trying to travel on a budget! Thank you for these great tips! Voted up and useful!

    • alissaroberts profile image
      Author

      Alissa Roberts 5 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Happy you found these tips useful ladeda! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Great tips for families. I think that we used every one of these when we planned our trip to Sesame Place last summer. I had even joined their email list and FB page to keep up to date on current specials. We ended up getting some great deals. Hope many others find this useful!

    • alissaroberts profile image
      Author

      Alissa Roberts 5 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Smart thinking joining the email list and FB page to get great deals on your trip! You can really save a lot of money that way. I have gotten similar deals to our local zoo and aquarium by doing that as well. Thanks so much Cara for stopping by and sharing that great tip!

    • joym7 profile image

      Joy 3 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the great info.

    • alissaroberts profile image
      Author

      Alissa Roberts 3 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Happy you found it useful joym7! Appreciate you stopping by!

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