Going on vacation as a family is a big deal. Paying for gas, food, and activities away from home for a few days or longer can add up to thousands of dollars. Over the years, we’ve found some tricks for how to make family vacation affordable. Plus, not emptying the savings account makes the trip much more enjoyable, too!
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How to make family vacation affordable
Whether you’re taking little kids, vacationing as a couple, or even going on a trip by yourself, here are some of the best hacks for making vacation more affordable.
1. Save for vacation all year round
Don’t let the expenses of vacation sneak up on you on the month you’re planning to get out of town. Instead, each month, take a little bit out of your budget to store away for your next vacation, even if you don’t know when it will be.
When you do decide when and where you’ll go, you’ll have a nice little pile of cash waiting. If you plan your trip a couple of months in advance, you can use those months before your trip to save a little more if you need.
For example, if in June you play a vacation for August, sit down (in June) and try to get an idea of how much you’ll need for the trip. Take into account travel expenses, food, accommodation, and activities. Then, see what you have in your vacation fund. If you’re short by, say, $400, make sure you save $200 for each of the next two months until your trip.
2. Pack your own food
Eating out for every meal is one of the biggest (and easiest) expenses to avoid on vacation (and at home!). If you have the ability to bring food with you, do it.
Plan a grocery trip a couple of days before you go on vacation to load up with any snacks or meals you can take along with you. If you’re going to be traveling for a long time, simply purchasing your snacks at the grocery store instead of at the gas station or airport can save you a lot!
If you’re driving and have the ability to bring food for after you arrive, you can also save a lot of money this way, and avoid having to cook as much on vacation.
Earlier this year, we took an 8-hour road trip and stayed at a BNB with a kitchen. Before the trip, we made 9″x13″ pans of baked spaghetti, pork and bean casserole, breakfast casserole, and another baked breakfast dish. In order to avoid bringing a sizable cooler to fit it all, we froze all of the pans overnight before we left. Then, we put them in a large, insulated fabric bag. They stayed frozen all day while we were traveling, were easy to fit in the car, and the bag folded up when it was empty on the way home.
Before the trip, we also made sandwiches for the drive there, as well as some healthy, homemade snacks like oat and apple muffins, dehydrated fruit, and no-bake date bars.
3. Go grocery shopping when you arrive
If you have the ability to get to a grocery store at your vacation destination, this is another great way to save. Run to the store when you arrive for ingredients to make some of your own meals. Choose meals that have a minimal number of ingredients or that share many of the same ingredients, such as burgers and tacos (you’ll need lettuce, tomato, and ground meat for both!).
Purchasing meat, cheese, and bread for sandwiches also makes for cheap and easy meals on the go. Even if you don’t want to cook or don’t have access to a kitchen, buying pre-made deli foods at the grocery store is often much less expensive than eating out.
4. Hunt for lodging as far in advance as possible
Booking a hotel, BNB, or even a camping spot is usually less expensive when you book it in advance. Oftentimes, accommodations even come with free cancellation up to the day before, so there may be nothing to lose if you have to cancel.
Start looking for a place to stay as soon as possible in order to secure the best price. Additionally, consider expanding your radius when searching for lodging. If you’re visiting a popular tourist destination, you may be able to save a lot by booking a place that’s 30 minutes away from the city. If you have a vehicle on your trip, this could save you a lot (and may even provide a more peaceful place to stay!).
5. Plan your activities in advance
Creating your itinerary before you leave for vacation gives you the opportunity to search for any deals or specials on any activities or restaurants you might be visiting. In addition, if you have little kids, you probably know that it can be tough to plan activities on the fly. Looking up what you want to do in advance will give you time to think it over, see how much you’ll need to spend, and take advantage of any deals.
6. Vacation with friends to cut the costs
Vacationing with friends is another great way to save money on vacation. Drive together if you can to cut gas costs in half. Book a slightly larger place to stay and split the lodging cost. Pick a night for each family to cook dinner and save on groceries.
7. Avoid tourist traps
You can save a lot of money by avoiding major tourist traps that are probably more hyped up than they should be, anyway. Popular tourist activities usually charge extravagant prices simply because they can. If you’re able, dig around online before you go and find activities that might be lesser-known but are still fun for the family. If you’re staying at a BNB, ask your host about their favorite spots.
On our trip this spring, we had heard about a popular farmers market that we wanted to try out. We drove 40 minutes to get there, only to drive around in circles (with tired kids) because there was no place to park. Even if we did find a spot, everything was paid parking only, and by the time we drove around for awhile, the kids were already exhausted and late for their naps. Instead, we found a different market that was lesser-known but still had wonderful vendors, was much less busy, and had free parking right outside.
8. Consider a staycation
Lodging and travel expenses are often the most expensive part of a trip. If you really want to save money, consider taking some time off work and planning a staycation in your own area.
Set aside the days you want to use for your staycation, put your computer away, and enjoy your own town or state with your family. Even taking day trips that are an hour or so away can be way cheaper than leaving the state and can still be a blast. Go to the zoo, visit the best parks nearby, visit the aquarium, try out new restaurants, go to a water park, and have a pizza party at home! Compared to the cost of vacationing, you can splurge on fun activities near your home and still spend significantly less. Plus, you can enjoy the comfort of sleeping in your own bed!
How to make family vacation affordable
Family vacations can be such memorable times that build family culture and strengthen your relationships with one another. Spending focused time with your family is important, but you don’t have to break the bank to do it. Enjoy vacationing with your family while keeping it affordable, too!
Remember these tips for how to make family vacation affordable to help you out.
- Save for vacation all year round
- Pack your own food
- Go grocery shopping when you arrive
- Hunt for lodging as far in advance as possible
- Plan your activities in advance
- Vacation with friends to cut the costs
- Avoid tourist traps
- Consider a staycation
Feel free to save the pin below to save money on your next family vacation!
Meggie Farmer says
Such great tips!! I grew up following the guidelines with my parents and we still do a lot of this today!! It doesn’t have to cost a lot to have a great vacation!
So true! I grew up very similarly and I feel like the more trips we take, the more tricks we learn! Haha.
Awesome tips for creating beautiful memories!
Great tips! I think we’ve used them all in years passed and they definitely help keep your costs low!
Great tips!!!! That’s how my mom used to plan a vacation for the family, and we always had a great time. Thank you so much for sharing!!!