Family vacations often result in some of the best memories and a great time to bond, but trying to travel on a budget and plan an unforgettable family getaway creates enough pressure on its own. Couple it with attempts to keep costs down to make it kid and budget-friendly and it gets even harder.
Fortunately, no matter your clan size, you can travel far and spend less. Here are 12 tips to help you make the most of your family vacation without breaking the bank:
Plan in Advance
Start planning your trip well in advance allows you to take advantage of early booking discounts and find the best deals on accommodation, transportation, and activities. The sooner you book, the more likely you are to plan the perfect vacation with a reasonable budget. Last-minute booking prices for airfare and hotels can be steep. And reservations for museums, parks, and other entertainment can fill up fast.
Set a Realistic Budget
Ever gone on a family outing and been shocked by the bill? You’re not alone. Setting a travel budget ahead of time can help you plan for more family fun without breaking the bank. Determine how much you can afford to spend on your family trip. Break down your budget into categories such as accommodation, transportation, meals, and activities.
Travel During Off-Peak Seasons
Selecting when you travel is just as important as where. That’s because most destinations are more expensive during peak travel times, whether you’re paying in cash or points. Peak travel periods in some destinations usually include holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as spring and summer school vacations. Consider going during the shoulder seasons or off-peak times to get better deals.
If school or work schedules don’t allow flexibility to travel during off-peak seasons, you can still save money by choosing the right day to travel. Sometimes, shifting your travel dates by a day or two can result in significant cost savings on flights and accommodation.
Consider Alternative Accommodations
When talking about alternative lodging we mean anything that’s not hotels. This includes vacation rentals, guest houses, homes and apartments, villas, basically, everything else that doesn’t fit under the umbrella of traditional, organized, short-term lodging. Websites like Airbnb, Booking.com, and Hostelworld offer a range of affordable choices.
Costs for dining out every day can add up fast. Save money on meals by packing snacks and simple meals for the family. This can be especially helpful during travel or when exploring a new destination. Also, to save on meals, plan to prepare and eat one or two meals every day at your accommodation, especially if your room has a kitchen. Stock up on groceries and snacks at the supermarket.
Alternatively, explore the street food scene or go to local markets instead of dining out at a sit-down restaurant. You’ll likely find more unique foods from stalls and carts.
RELATED: How to Budget For Dining Out
Free and Low-Cost Activities
Planning activities can be trickier for a group than for a solo traveler, but it’s possible to keep every family member happy. I always consider the ages and interests of my children before picking a destination and choosing activities.
Research free or low-cost activities at your destination. Many cities offer parks, museums with free entry days, and cultural events that can be enjoyed without spending a lot.
Consider Transportation Costs
Airfare aside, if you want to save on transportation, consider all of your options once you arrive. For example, if you’re staying in a walkable city or small town, renting a car might be a waste of money. Utilize public transportation instead of renting a car or relying on taxis. Public transport is often more budget-friendly and can provide a local experience.
Travel Rewards and Loyalty Programs
Take advantage of travel rewards and loyalty programs offered by airlines, hotels, and credit cards. Accumulated points or miles can significantly reduce travel expenses. Travel credit cards let cardholders earn rewards on everyday and travel-related purchases, which then might be redeemed to lower the cost of flights, accommodations and beyond.
Avoid excess baggage fees by packing light. Make a packing list a few days before the trip. I always allow myself time to add or cross off items. Stick to your list! Find out if there is a washer/dryer where you are going – if there is an opportunity to wash my clothes I always pack less. If there isn’t a washer/dryer, you can hand-wash swimsuits, underwear, socks, and small items.
Stay Connected with Wi-Fi
Instead of incurring high data roaming charges, use Wi-Fi whenever possible. Download maps and important information before your trip to reduce reliance on data.
Look for Discounts and Coupons
Search for discounts and coupons for attractions, restaurants, and activities at your destination. Websites and apps often provide promotional codes or special offers that can save you money.
Planning a budget-friendly family trip can feel like a lot of work. But if you start far enough in advance and follow the tips of those who have done it before, you’ll be able to travel on a budget with your loved ones and enjoy all that your destination has to offer.
Remember, the key to successful budget family travel is careful planning, flexibility, and being resourceful when it comes to finding cost-saving opportunities.