Summer is approaching and most of us are looking forward to planning and going on family vacations. And while summer is a good time to travel since the kids are out of school, it can also be an expensive time to travel with prices going up during this time.
Even though prices may be higher, an enjoyable vacation doesn’t have to be expensive. You can plan fun and inexpensive family vacations on a budget. Some of our children’s most fun vacations are the simple ones like camping, swimming, hiking or going to the beach.
Below are 8 tips for planning and budgeting for family vacations. You can watch the video or read the post.
1. Research Vacation Places & Costs
Decide on your top 5-10 places you want to vacation then begin to research how much it will cost to visit to each place. Do research online and make phone calls to ask questions. Then add up all of the expenses and figure out how much money an entire trip will cost to each of your vacation spots. The expenses should include travel, housing, food, rental cars, gas, souvenirs and entertainment. You will then need to decide how much you can realistically afford to spend on a vacation and how much you are willing to spend on a vacation.
You can do fun vacations, even if it’s on a small budget. If you can’t afford a vacation this year, that’s okay. A vacation isn’t a need, it’s a want. You can still have a great summer without going into more debt. And you can start setting aside money for an upcoming vacation you want to take.
A few years ago our family decided that we really wanted to go to Disneyland. We researched how much it would cost, and then we began to plan and save for it. It took us about two years to save for it, and we were finally able to go. It turned out to be so much fun! Our kids still talk about it today. You can head over here to read all about our experience, how much money we spent, and how we were able to vacation at Disneyland on a Budget.
2. Start Saving
I highly recommend that you don’t go on a vacation until you’ve saved up money for it. Once you’ve determined which vacation spot you want to go to, and you researched how much money it will cost, figure out how much money you need to save each month to have the necessary funds for your trip. For instance, if your trip will cost $2,000 and you can afford to set aside $100 a month, then it will take 20 months until you’ve saved enough money. Sometimes it takes time to save up enough money, but it’s worth it to not go in debt and have that stress of paying off your vacation on top of all your other expenses.
For our family when we decided that we wanted to take a family vacation to Disneyland, we made it a family goal to save together. We helped our kids create Disneyland savings jars (above photo), and they did extra chores around the house to save money for Disneyland. They also had a lemonade stand and sold baked goods. The money earned went into their Disneyland savings jars. They were so excited to save that they would regularly ask us how they could earn money to go to Disneyland. Be sure to check out these 13 Tips to Help Children Save Money.
As a family, we also looked for additional ways to save money such as not eating out one week and putting that money towards the vacation or not buying clothes at the store that we didn’t need. And we looked around our house and sold items that we didn’t need and weren’t using anymore. Make sure to get the whole family involved in saving for the vacation. And as you save money, place your money in a special trip bank account or envelope.
As you get closer to your savings goal and prior to booking your vacation, search online for deals and call around to see if there are any special rates. This can save you money and may change how much money you need to actually save up for the vacation.
3. Travel During the Off Season
Tourist destinations are expensive during certain times of the year including the holiday seasons, and prices on airfare and hotels tend to go up. Try to plan trips not around the holidays and travel during the off season. Once you have decided your vacation destination, research online to find out what months are the best time to travel to your destination, as well as the least busy times when there will be fewer crowds.
4. Watch for Deals on Airfare
If possible, consider driving your own car or taking a train or bus to your vacation destination because it can save you a considerable amount of money. However, if you decide to fly, the best time to purchase your flights within the United States is 54 days before your trip according to a survey by Cheapair.com. The best day to book your trip is on a Sunday according to the Annual ARC Air Travel Outlook Report, and the cheapest days to fly are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
To find deals on flights, use a search engine such as Google Flights to give you a general idea of the price of flights. Then also use sites such as Skyscanner, AirFare Watchdog, Momondo, Hopper, Kayak, Cheapoair or Scott’s Cheap Flights to find deals on flights. Many of the travel search engines and airline sites allow you to search with a range of dates to find the best prices. But remember that every time you search for flights, the prices will increase. So make sure to delete your browser cookies as you search for flights.
A good way to find out about airfare deals is to sign up for the airfare and airline email lists from the sites listed above because they will send you sales, discounts and rewards. Sometimes when booking through the airline’s official site they have extra discounts and deals for you.
5 – Stay at Vacation Rentals
When looking to find places to stay during your vacation, look into vacation rentals rather than hotels because it can save you money. When our family booked a family vacation at DisneyWorld and a family reunion at Bear Lake, we used VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner), and there were so many options in which to choose. Another way to find deals on housing is with Airbnb where you can rent short-term lodging including cottages, apartments, homestays or hostel beds.
When shopping around for a vacation rental and if you’re traveling during the off-season and are looking to stay for more than one week, you can find deals when you book late. Owners and vacation rental sites are more willing to negotiate on rates if the housing hasn’t been rented out yet for that week. If you see a property that interests you, reach out to the owner or property manager and ask for a lower rate. The owners or property managers will be willing to negotiate a price to make sure the home doesn’t sit empty for that week. And sites like VRBO allows you to filter rentals by those offering special rates.
6 – Look for Package Deals
Vacations can be cheaper when you find package deals on transportation, housing and activities. You can sometimes save money when you book a flight and hotel online at the same time, so be sure to watch for those ways to save money. And sites such as Groupon have vacation packages that you can look into.
7 – Go on a Staycation
If a vacation to another location isn’t within your budget this year, then do a “staycation” where you go on day trips from your house to visit local attractions. Wherever you live there are activities you can do as a family that could include museums, hiking, going to the beach or pool, camping or visiting national parks. Staycations are fun and don’t have to be expensive.
If you decide on a staycation, then treat it like a vacation by doing your research to find out what activities there are to do nearby you and planning out what activities you are going to do each day. Also, look for activities that you wouldn’t normally do and incorporate it into your staycation.
For spring break this year, our family decided on a staycation rather traveling somewhere else. We did some free things such as visiting the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum and Temple Square in Salt Lake City. But then we also splurged and went to the Living Planet Aquarium, which is an activity we wouldn’t normally do, and we also went miniature golfing. We made sure to have an activity planned each, and it turned out to be such a fun week with the family.
8 – Plan Your Meals
Eating out at restaurants during your vacation will really start to add up and take a hit on your budget. To save money, go to a grocery store when you arrive at your vacation destination and purchase food, snacks and drinks to keep in your room and to take with you to your activities. If you are staying at a hotel, look for a hotel that includes free breakfast with your stay, or stay in a hotel that has a kitchen so you can make your own meals. Also, look for restaurants that offer free or discounted children’s meals, and look for the free travel guides from the hotel lobby that may have money-saving dining coupons in it.
When our family travels, we purchase food to make peanut butter and turkey sandwiches for lunches, and we pick up food for quick breakfasts (above photo) such as fruit, bagels, yogurt, cereal and milk, or oatmeal if we have a microwave where we are staying. We don’t always stay somewhere where there is a kitchen, so this way we are still saving money and not eating out for every meal.
What tips do you have to plan family vacations on a budget?
Taylor Bishop says
Thanks for going over some advice for planning a vacation. I’m glad that you mentioned it could be good to try to plan trips during the off season. Perhaps it could be good to research years in advance to get an idea of when the best time would be to go on a vacation in the future.
Lisa Park says
Yes, definitely researching in advance will help you to know when the best time to vacation at your destination of choice.