Cheap Family Vacations
In this article I’m going to share 17 top tips for how you can plan awesome but cheap family vacations.
Taking family vacations can be a wonderful way to spend quality time together and strengthen family relationships. And you don’t have to spend a ton of money to do it! You can save money on the travel, the accommodations, the food, the entertainment and activities, and more! Read on to learn 17 tips to have fun but cheap family vacations!
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17 Tips to Plan Fun and Cheap Family Vacations
With so many fun things to do and so many places to go, it is very easy to completely blow your budget on a fun family vacation. But you don’t have to! You can have a cheap but awesome family vacation by following the money-saving tips below!
Top Tip: We are big fans of Airbnb to save money on family vacations! To receive $40 off your first Airbnb stay, sign up here!
1. Plan a staycation.
One of the very best ways to save money on family vacations is to stay close to home. By planning a staycation, you save the biggest expenses of travel and accommodations. You can also eat many of your meals at home, as well, so you can save a ton of money on food too!
You can find 57 awesome ideas for your family staycation here!
2. Choose a location you can drive to.
Another way to plan cheap family vacations, if you don’t want to plan a staycation, is to choose a place that you can drive to.
Especially if you have a few kiddos like we do, you will save a lot of money by staying somewhere close enough that you don’t have to fly to. Even if you choose a place farther away where you have to stay somewhere overnight (or to save even more money you could alternate drivers and drive through the night if you can do so safely), you will generally spend less than you would flying everyone to your destination. Not to mention, you will likely save money on your transportation because you won’t have to rent a car.
3. Price compare.
This may go without saying, but as with everything you do that costs. be sure to price compare to save money. Price compare on your lodgings, your airfare, car rentals, theme parks and similar attractions, souvenirs, and other significant expenses.
4. Stay at places through Airbnb, Booking.com, and VRBO.
To save money on your vacation lodging, check out places like Airbnb, Booking.com, VRBO, and HomeAway. We have been staying at Airbnb locations for the last four or five years, and it has been great! If you haven’t tried Airbnb yet, you should give them a try. I talk about some of the awesome benefits of vacations with Airbnb in my Airbnb review here. You can receive $40 off your first Airbnb stay by signing up here!
At the last Airbnb place we stayed, we were in a nice three-bedroom home in a gated community with a pool, hot tub, small playground, and other amenities, and we spent less than we would have if we had stayed in an inexpensive three-star hotel. It was a nice area of town where we felt safe, and our host as well as the neighbors in the community were friendly and kind.
By staying at places through Airbnb and services like them, not only can you save money on the accommodations themselves, but because you generally have a kitchen available, you can save a bunch of money by not having to eat out as much. (Or at all, if you choose—on this most recent trip we ate all of our meals at the home where we stayed or as picnics at the parks we visited.) You can also save money if you fly by packing fewer clothes and bringing carry-on luggage if your place has a washer and dryer.
Note: To receive $40 off your first Airbnb rental, sign up here!
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5. Go to less popular destinations.
Another way that you can enjoy cheap family vacations is to travel to destinations that are not as popular. So, if you want to go on a beach vacation, go to a nice but lesser-known beach. Go to a nice state park instead of a national park. Go to a lesser-known tropical island. Go to smaller or less popular theme parks and other paid attractions.
Not only will you save money by going to less popular destinations, but you will avoid the big crowds, as well. Double win!
6. Travel during the shoulder or off-peak season.
In addition to traveling to less popular destinations, another way to save money on family vacations is to travel during the shoulder or off season.
I know that if your children have a traditional school schedule it is harder to travel off season, but if you can do it, you could save a lot of money. If your children are young, particularly, you might consider letting them miss a few days of school and having them make up the work. (Or even plan ahead and have them do the work beforehand.)
If your children have year-round school, traveling during the shoulder or off-season is easier.
7. Look into bundling your deals through sites like Kayak, Expedia, and Priceline.
If you do decide to fly to your destination, compare prices when you bundle airfare, lodging, and even car rentals. Check out websites like Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline, and Booking.com. Also call travel agents and find out what kind of deals they can get, as well. Also call major airlines and see what deals they offer; sometimes they will even better deals than the major travel booking websites.
So first search online and even call places separately, and then check sites like those above to see if you can save by purchasing a package deal, check with a few travel agents in your area, and then call the airlines as a final possibility. This will take a little time, but if you can save a few hundred bucks, it is time well spent.
8. Stay at places that have a kitchenette or at least a microwave and fridge.
Paying for food while traveling can be a huge expense, especially if you feel compelled to eat out much or all of the time because you don’t have a place to prepare and cook meals. At all of the Airbnb locations we have stayed at, there has been a way to prepare food (even if it was only a little kitchenette in one of them), and so we have not had to go out to eat for our meals.
In fact, come to think of it, we haven’t gone out to eat for a full meal while staying at any of them; we have just gone out for dessert or Slurpees or things like that. 🙂 This has got to have saved us at least another $100 on food (and of course the potential savings is much more; that’s if we would have eaten at really inexpensive restaurants) by not having to eat out for our meals!
9. Set up price alerts.
For many of the major travel websites such as Kayak, Hotels.com, and Airfare Watchdog, you can set up price alerts. That way, when an amazing deal comes along or when an offer is within your price range, you can snag it.
10. Pack light.
As I mentioned above, especially if you are flying, pack light. That way you won’t have to pay the cost of additional carry-on luggage. If you can stay at a place that has an on-site washer and dryer so you can pack only enough clothes for half your stay and wash them once during your trip, all the better.
11. Look at flying during the week rather than on weekends.
You can often save money by planning to either depart or return during the week rather than on a weekend—and you can likely save even more if you can do both!
12. Consider cruising.
Cruising can be a great way to have cheap family vacations! Because everything is covered in one price (food, accommodations, and on-boat entertainment), and because of the many cruises that are available, you can get a steal of a deal to certain locations and at certain times of the year. For a short cruise of three or four days you can sometimes find deals for around $200. Pretty amazing! Check out sites like Priceline, VacationsToGo.com, and Expedia. Also check with travel agents and with the major cruiselines themselves to price compare and find the best offers.
If you can drive to the departure location, you will save eve more by not having to fly.
13. Go camping.
Another tip for planning cheap family vacations is to go camping! My husband and I are both big fans of outdoor activities, so we do a fair amount of camping and other outdoor activities. (We don’t do quite as much of it as we did before we had young kiddos, though; but when they are older I’m sure we’ll get back to doing more of it. :))
Though it costs a fair amount to get camping gear if you don’t have any, once you have the equipment and supplies, camping can be cheap or even virtually free, except for a little gas money. There are many places you can camp for free, but you can also tent camp at many nice campgrounds with bathrooms and showers for around $20 or $30 a night.
14. Enjoy free and cheap entertainment.
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time on activities that are free or cheap. Theme parks are fun, but so are hiking, biking, swimming in lakes, jumping waves, hunting for seashells, and doing many, many other things that you can enjoy for little or no money.
If you love being in the water, pick up a couple of inflatable kayaks or an inflatable paddle board off Craigslist or your local online classifieds, and take them with you to enjoy some time on the lake. Or if you have room, take your bikes and enjoy biking around the city you visit. Or rent bikes there. Look into renting canoes or paddle boats. Or if you love to just enjoy being in the outdoors, go on walking tours of your chosen destinations.
If you know that there are theme parks and other paid attractions that you want to visit, then look for discount tickets, coupons, and so forth online before you go and at local discount joints when you get there.
15. Take the bus or train instead of renting a car or taking taxis.
If you are flying or taking a train or doing something similar to reach your destination, then look into saving money by using public transportation such as buses and trains once you arrive to get around the city or area you are visiting.
16. Look into services like Uber and Lyft.
Another way to save money getting around in your destination city is to use car-rental services like Uber and Lyft instead of taxis. They are more convenient than public transportation but will still save you money. And if you can use them occasionally instead of renting a car for the whole time of your stay, you can save a good amount of money that way, as well.
17. Hunt for last-minute deals.
Finally, you can sometimes find awesome cheap family vacation deals by booking last-minute deals. Hotels, cruise ships, and airlines don’t make any money on a room or a seat if it’s empty, so they may sharply discount rates as dates get closer.
Are you ready to start saving money on your lodgings for your family vacations? Sign up with Airbnb to receive $40 off your first Airbnb stay!
With these top travel tips you can plan awesome but cheap family vacations! Remember to price compare, and to look for deals on every aspect of your vacation, from the travel itself to accommodations to food and entertainment and more. Whatever your destination and whatever your plans, you can find tons of ways to save money by hunting around online and keeping your eyes and ears open for deals.
How do you find ways to save money on family vacations? What are your favorite destinations for cheap family vacations? Leave a comment and let me know! I would love to hear your tips!
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