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Family Travel Budgets

Updated on March 1, 2015

Finding the Funds - The Budget Traveler

From flights around the world to the state next door, finding the money for a family trip can be a challenge. But vacations with the ones we love are a needed respite in a busy world. The new economy means we need to approach the same goals a little differently than we used to - with travel budgets.

In the old days, credit cards were normally used to finance travel. That wasn't a problem because the cash kept rolling in. But these days, finding overtime hours at the standard day job isn't as easy as it used to be. Plus, the rules of the new economy dictate that we approach travel spending in a safer and more fiscally responsible manner. The budget traveler can still find the funds to travel and enjoy a family trip, without returning to bills that would now make produce tears. Let's explore some budget travel tips that result in a well-deserved family trip.

Budget Travel Tips - Consider A Vacation Bank Account

The budget traveler can set up a savings account just for vacation travel. But before setting up this account, it's important to have a separate emergency account for the unexpected established. I mean, what would happen if someone returned from an excellent vacation and found out the job they relied upon no longer existed because the building had been blown away in a hurricane or tornado or just a victim of a bad economy? Believe it or not, that can happen in some states. But even if such a dire situation isn't realistic for some, it doesn't mean an ample emergency savings should not be available. So, before planning a vacation, have an emergency savings set aside.

One means to of travel budget is this long term approach of just saving up for the trip - budgeting for it. Most banking institutions and credit unions will allow members to open up a separate account. This savings account that is set up would be for the specific intent of family travel. Sometimes, the institution will have a special name for it. Some banks call it a holiday account, with the original intent of the account as a means to set aside funds for Christmas gifts. Why not use this account instead as the gift to yourself and your family of travel? When the account is set up, be sure to set up an automated debit from the account the work paycheck is deposited into. If the annual family trip costs about $2,500 a year, this is a weekly amount of $48 a week. Adjust this weekly deposit for more or less, depending on the kind of travel planned. While this is time consuming to set up, after that initial hour of time invested, the money will just "be there" the next time the desire to leave town occurs.

If finding another $48 a week is a challenge, consider changing some habits. To afford travel, instead of buying a daily cup of coffee or tea, buy a coffee maker and a travel mug and brew it at home. Instead of eating out for lunch every day, make a bagged lunch and go out once a week instead or only when work purposes require it. One thing I do when I want to dine out with friends, is to eat dinner at home before I go. That's right! When I get to the restaurant and my friends order their meal, I just order a small salad with a glass of wine. I spend about one-third of what I would have spent on dinner but I still enjoy a fun time with friends. This is the classic example of the budget traveler in action.

The family that plays together stays together.  Family travel is possible.
The family that plays together stays together. Family travel is possible. | Source

Trip Budget - A Second Job Is Possible!

In our family, a trip for the family of four runs $2000-3000 on average for 4-7 days, depending on the destination and the means taken to get there (car, train, or plane). So, consider a second job as a possible means to finance travel. While people claim it's difficult to get a job in today's economy, I refute that. As a travel writer, I'm on the road 4-6 months a year. When I return, I'm on the hunt for work, in a hurry! Believe it or not, traveling is less expensive than living in my home state of California! So, as soon as I arrive back in town, I'm searching for that second job. It takes me, on average, two to three weeks to land that second job. So, don't believe the hype! Believe in yourself and take your job hunt seriously enough to invest six to eight hours a day devoted to it, every day.

Part-time work doesn't pay as much as a day job. Accept that as part of the process. Earning $10 per hour, 250 hours need to be dedicated to this work for a $2500 trip, which breaks down to 12.5 weeks of a 20-hour a week second job. This means, in about three months, enough funds will be set aside for the planned family vacation. If there are two adults in the family and each adult takes an extra job, then each need only work an added 10 hours a week. Perhaps one parent can work a weekend job and the other parent can work after their day job, allowing the children an available parent at all the normal times a parent would have been available.

Credit Cards for an Emergency Family Trip?

I don't condone the use of credit cards for regular family travel. It's not a financially responsible thing to do. However, in the case of an unexpected situation where a relative is ill or a new baby was born early, you may wish to bend this rule and pull out the emergency credit card. Again, being financially responsible means you will have a credit card available that isn't maxed out. So, this scenario is an option for the financially sound. If you are charging your card up to the limit just to make ends meet, then you really aren't in the position to travel. However, there is some wiggle room for families that are cash strapped but do have an available credit card to use.

Many years ago, an elderly relative of my then-husband was ill. We didn't have the means to visit that relative as a family. My ex-spouse did not want to go, if the whole family wasn't able to go. Though I also cared about this family member, I insisted he go without us because we could charge his airline ticket to a credit card and pay cash for the car rental. We arranged a family member's home as the place for him to stay, avoiding hotel and some meal costs. That elderly family member my ex-husband visited happened to pass away. Because of the meaningful relationship they had shared, this ended up being an extremely important trip to him. In that case, the credit card was worth using. So, be reasonable when the unexpected happens.

My one and only exception to the credit card rule is if you know how to use a credit card responsibly. For example, if you absolutely know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will most definitely pay off that credit card within 30 days, you STILL don't use it for vacations! However, you can use it for everyday expenses and pay it off interest-free while accumulating travel points that will lead to discounts towards travel. You will want to research which credit cards are worth doing this with. Not all credit cards are created equally. This tactic does not require as much saving or a second job but it is only for the most disciplined credit card user.

Having a credit card is not pure evil. But, having one doesn't mean it should be used to pay for travel. On the other hand, it can be a safe financial back up plan in case of emergency when you are traveling. Consider some credit card travel tips below.

Credit Cards & Travel Tips

Budget Travel Tip - Sell Something to Finance Your Vacation!

You may not be as patient as Job and want to wait a year to save up the funds in your bank account. You may already work 60 hours a week at your day job and think of the idea of a low-paying second job as torture. The good news is there is usually something you can sell! A good garage sale can bring in $300-500 dollars. Some folks go around collecting free things listed on Craigslist. Then, they turn around and sell them at a garage sale. Do one person a favor by getting rid of their unwanted items and do your family a favor by getting the money together for a great family time. Have another car just collecting dust in the driveway? Sell it! Or, sell old jewelry online. Get an appraisal for that diamond ring that retails for $5000 and sell it for a quick $2000 for that guy who wants to ask for his girl's hand in marriage and presto! You are on your way to a great travel spot.

Once The Money Is Set Aside, Consider Pocket Friendly Destinations

Once at least $2000 for a family of four is placed in the travel budget, there are some travel destinations that may be a surprise in terms of their affordability. Check out these links of sites that may be of interest - that hover around the $2000 budget for an average of five days of travel.

How To Compare Travel Fare - Low Cost Airfare - This is usually a separate cost and, because there is so much to know about getting a deal for air travel.

Top 10 Affordable Travel Resorts - For $100 per person (most with kids clubs included), including all three meals a day, and everything included, check out this website at Budget Travel for beach resort destinations.

Top 10 Family Destinations - If resorts aren't a fit, here are some alternate choices that keep the budget in mind at these popular destinations on (starts on page 2 and see page 3 of their article for details), listing both city and country locations.

A mini-vaca could be just what the doctor ordered!
A mini-vaca could be just what the doctor ordered! | Source

Budget Travelers - Remember to Take Advantage of Discounts

My article on low-cost air travel outlines some discounts found when booking airline tickets. However, there some great deals on hotels, restaurants, and auto rentals through your banking rewards card, work travel perks (ask about it!), or the good old stand-bys of auto club cards, such as AAA, and special clubs such as AARP. Consider home exchange websites, where one person (or family) gets a free place to stay in exchange for swapping their home with another vacationing family who wants to travel to the area the first person is from. If it's normal to get two adjoining hotel rooms, consider saving money otherwise spent at the hotel by going to a site such as Home Away to get an entire home for about the same rate spent on two rooms at the hotel.

In Efforts to Save, Don't Fall For Travel Scams!

Here are a few scams out there to watch out for:

  • travel "clubs" offering discounts (stick with the ones that are reputable, like AAA)
  • becoming a travel agent to get travel discounts (they want people to pay for that travel agent school or for a "small fee")
  • timeshares that are usually scams and cost more in the long-term (some up to $50,000 and never seem to have the destination choice available when desired!)

Always read the fine print and watch for hidden fees! Airline discounted tickets may have steep baggage handling fees. Unless preparing to fly without bags, it may cost more than just paying another airline for their standard airfare (and the airline included the baggage for free). So, buyer beware. Read what is and is not paid for and then read it again!

Budget Traveling - Travel Options

If interested in budgeting for travel - or looking for a free deal - instead of working while traveling, consider these topics:

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    • Li Galo profile imageAUTHOR

      Li Galo 

      7 years ago from Mainly the USA but Sometimes Abroad

      I appreciate your feedback, savingkathy and CZCZCZ. Thanks!

    • CZCZCZ profile image


      8 years ago from Oregon

      Excellent information. Enjoyed reading through this hub. We are constantly looking for ways to add a few extra dollars at the end of every month to the travel fund, some months are easier than others, but a little savings for travel is always part of the savings budget.

    • savingkathy profile image

      Kathy Sima 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great hub! I appreciate all of the tips you've shared for how to budget for a family vacation. I used to have a vacation account setup, which came in very handy. I think it's time to get that going again!

    • Li Galo profile imageAUTHOR

      Li Galo 

      8 years ago from Mainly the USA but Sometimes Abroad

      Thanks, Millionaire Tips and Maddie Ruud :)

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 

      8 years ago from Oakland, CA

      I love the idea of a vacation bank account! Cutting out unnecessary expenses by making your own coffee and sack lunch at home (and saving that money instead) can really go a long way toward that extra spending money you might need on your trip. Great tips for all travel enthusiasts.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      8 years ago from USA

      You've provided so much information about how to save enough money to go on a vacation, and how to vacation cheaply. I really appreciate all the advice - makes me look forward to actually taking a vacation!


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