How to Enjoy A Family Vacation on a Budget This Year

By Kara Reynolds | Jul 18, 2019

Whether you work full time or stay home to raise your family, it’s impossible not to catch yourself daydreaming about going on vacation. It’s so much fun to get away with the people you love most, but that’s difficult to do when you’re dealing with a tight budget. Most families work around a budget that provides everything they need with little left over for things like big trips. Sometimes, my family takes a trip to the movie theater or a eats out as an occasional treat, but vacations cost way more to splurge on. It doesn’t have to feel like it’ll take a few years to afford one vacation. Instead, read these tips on how to come up with family summer vacation ideas on a budget this year. Make your fun getaway trip a reality, without breaking the bank.

Go Camping

Camping is one of the most affordable family activities you can do. Some like to camp in style with a rented RV, but you can always set up a big tent and rent out a small campsite. When I take my family camping, we always take advantage of the free activities like swimming, hiking or fishing. For a few extra dollars, we can even rent a canoe and picnic on the lake. Take a look at the price of campsites around your home. They’re not going to be anywhere close to staying in a hotel room at a tourist destination, plus you’ll save money on gas since you won’t have to drive far.

Set Activity Budgets

Imagine that you’ve found a great place to take your family to, but you’re worried that you’ll overspend on your activities while you’re there. It’s so easy to forget how much you’ve spent during the day when you’re busy getting from one event to another. Before I even leave home on a trip, I set an activity budget so I know what our daily limit is. It really helps prioritize which things you do while you’re there, while still leaving money for food and gas. You can make these tiny activity budgets even bigger if you make cheap and delicious meals away from home. Many condos, cabins or homes can be found on rental sites for a fraction of the cost of hotel rooms, allowing you to cook the food your family loves and normally affords.

Take a Road Trip

Many people fly on planes every year to visit their dream vacation spot, but it’s okay if you can’t afford to fly with every member of your family. Airports can get hectic for families anyway. I know I’d have to figure out how to keep my kids entertained in the terminal. My oldest loves trying mindfulness activities, but it’s always good to have a backup plan or two, which is difficult with one carry on bag per person. Save some real money by taking a road trip. You can make the destination part of the state you live in, so you don’t have to drive too far. Loading everyone up in the car is way more simple and affordable, plus there’s no waiting around to be able to leave.

Look for Off Seasons

Maybe you have the perfect budget set up for a beach trip, but you know you’ll have to stay at a hotel once you get there. I’ve found that a great way around high hotel prices is to look for off seasons and travel then. Hotels hike their rates depending on what time of year it is. Holidays and school breaks are times when rooms can cost four times more than their typical price per night. Instead, travel after holidays are over or when many travelers head home. Think of going to the beach in the fall or visiting the mountains in the summer. You can also take a look at where your friends are traveling to note where places will charge more for tourists to stay.

Carry Only Cash

Another way to keep track of how much you spend while you’re away from home is to only carry cash. You may not be used to this, since it’s pretty common to find a chip reader or scanner anywhere you go now, but it’s actually one of my favorite budgeting tips. It’s harder to hand over money than it is to swipe a card. You’ll think twice about what you’re spending your cash on. This is also the perfect way to be reminded when you’ve maxed out your budget, without giving you the option to keep on spending.

Space Things Out

When my family finally gets to go on vacation, I get this overwhelming urge to run out and do all the exciting things at once. I want to see the theme park, the historic spots and all the great restaurants. That means that sometimes our trips end up pretty busy at first with nothing to do by the time we leave. This also really throws off any budget I prepare for. Instead, it’s smarter to plan out one activity per day. That way, you know you’ll all get to see the most exciting things, but also have time to breathe and relax. Plus, you spend money more slowly and consciously.

Research Free Tours

Facilities know that people want to take tours to learn how their favorite things are made, which is why many offer them for free. Research some of the facilities in your area or where you’d like to vacation to figure out what free and educational fun is right around the corner. Living where I do, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to tour Hershey’s factory for free. We all went for a day trip on a Saturday and had a great time. Plus, did I mention the free chocolate at the end?

Have Fun With It

It doesn’t have to be hard to plan a few family summer vacation ideas on a budget. Think about what you’d like to do the most and then see if there are creative ways to make it happen. Try fun free tours with your kids, plan to carry only cash and travel during an off season. These tips have saved me big time with our family vacations, so I know they will for you too.

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