Are you planning a family vacation and wondering how to travel cheap? You want to have a great trip but you also don’t want to break the bank. I have found traveling on a budget with family can be easier than you think.
Our family loves to travel and figuring out ways to budget travel has allowed us to travel even more. The family bonding and fun your family has together on vacation just can’t be duplicated at home. So, let’s figure out how to travel on a budget and still have fun. I created some easy money saving tips to help you save money and not feel like you are missing out on a fabulous vacation.
How to Travel Cheap on Family Vacation
Travel on a Budget – Hotel Deals
Best Travel Times
To get the best bang for your buck, travel at off peak times to get lower rates on hotels and airlines. If you don’t want to go at off peak times when the weather might not be the best, try looking for deals in what the Travel Industry calls it Shoulder Seasons. These are the travel seasons between peak and off-peak seasons, which typically are April through May and in the Fall after the kids go back to school. These are great options because the weather is still good but rates are lower than peak season.
Hotel Deals with Younger kids
If you have younger children not in school yet, try traveling during the school year or during the week. Rates tend to go up during the summer, spring break, Thanksgiving break, and winter break. Take advantage of the time before they start school by traveling during the school year for off peak rates, especially if you are headed to a more family friendly location such as Disney, Waterparks Resorts, and other family amusement areas.
Do your research and check travel websites to find the best deal. If you are flexible on the hotel check out booking.com (our favorite) or one of the many other travel sites and see which hotel can give you the best deal. I like using Booking.com because you can search a large number of hotels and see which ones have the best price and most ammenities. I also like to use Groupon for hotel stays or activities because you will often get something extra, like kids’ activities or a spa day.
Also, check out the website of the hotels and go under specials. A lot of times, the hotels will offer package deals for families. These might include breakfast or an activity at the hotel which is a great money saver.
Rent a Condo or House
Have you ever looked into renting a condo or house while on vacation? Often, you can rent a condo for the same price as a hotel room. Some of the big benefits include getting a kitchen to make meals, extra space for the kids, and all the amenities of the condo building or association, such as a pool. My family really likes having a kitchen to make breakfast in the morning or a quick dinner. It’s also a big plus to have more than one bedroom so the family can spread out.
If you choose to do this, make sure the owner has pictures up on the website so you can see if the place is up to date. Also check reviews on the rental unit to make sure you are getting what is listed. Type the location into Google to find the most reviews on a location. I also recommend going through an Owner rental website so you can contact someone if you have any issues. Ones we have liked are VRBO.com , Airbnb.com and Homeaway.com.
Share a Vacation Rental
Looking to get a bigger or nicer rental unit and save some money? Consider going on vacation with family or friends and splitting the cost of the rental condo or house. This way you can save some money and have great company to enjoy your vacation with.
Kids Stay Free and Eat Free
Many resorts, especially all-inclusive resorts, will have Kids Stay Free and Eat Free specials. Take advantage of these great deals. You will save on food and hotel so all you are paying for is the kid’s airplane tickets.
Driving vs. Flying
If you really want to save money traveling with kids, drive to your destination. You will save the cost of plane tickets for each family member plus the car rental fee.
I also find a great bonus to driving is you can bring with everything you need and not have to buy stuff on vacation. We like to drive on beach vacations because you can bring along chairs, umbrellas, sand toys, coolers and more. Save money by bringing all the toys you need and packing food from home. This can be a huge game changer in saving money on vacation.
Related Article – 15 Best Road Trip Games & Activites from Dollar Tree
Trip Cost Calculator
Find out the full cost of your upcoming vacation with my free Trip Cost Calculator. Use this easy tool to help build your travel budget and get a better idea of how much you need to save for vacation. You can adjust each travel item cost until you find a total amount that you can afford. Then build your dream vacation around your personal travel budget.
Travel on a Budget – Free Travel Apps
Don’t spend money on travel apps to help you find the best travel route, lowest gas prices, places to eat along your route, and last minute hotel deals. Use a free travel app! The question is which free travel app will help you the most. Well, I already did the research for you and tested out the best free apps available. Check out my list of 5 Free Travel Apps for Road Trips to know which I recommend for your family vacation.
Money Saving Tips – Meals
Have breakfast in your hotel room. This is one of my biggest easy money saving tips. Why spend all that money on breakfast when you can eat something quick in your room.
Most hotel rooms now have mini refrigerators and microwaves so take advantage of them. Bring along some bagels, cream cheese, fruit, yougurt drinks and breakfast is served. It’s also a great time saver to feed the kids while you’re getting ready in the morning so you can head out early to all the local attractions.
An even better option is finding a hotel that serves free breakfast in the morning. This saves you money and the kids will love picking out the food they like.
Lunch / Snacks
Pack a picnic for the day. Many attractions now provide picnic benches for families to have lunch. Pack something special in the lunch that the kids really like to make them feel like it’s special and not just their regular school lunch.
Bring along fun and filling snacks for the family to eat while visiting tourist sites. Hungry kids tend to get crabby which can put a damper on the trip. Avoid this and save money by bringing your own snacks instead of buying snacks at expensive tourist locations.
For the hotel room, I like to bring microwave popcorn for the family. It’s easy to throw in a suit case and a quick snack to settle them down with a movie or after late night swimming in the hotel.
Water bottles can get expensive, especially at hotels. I suggest bringing along a case of water, juice boxes, and maybe even a bottle of wine for the adults.
Order Pizza In
Save money on eating dinner out by ordering a pizza to your hotel room one night. You have your own drinks already so the expense is a lot less than dinner out at a restaurant. Most pizza restaurants will even bring napkins and paper plates if you ask.
My family really likes to do this when we have a hotel with a pool. The kids would rather eat quick and go swimming then sit at a long dinner in a restaurant. It’s a win-win, the kids are happy and you save money.
Don’t have a car to pick up food for breakfast or lunch in your room? No problem, try out one of the many grocery store delivery services to help you. Here are a few to try – Insta Cart, Shipt and even Target will now deliver your groceries. Just order online and you’re set.
Travel on a Budget – Travel Games
Keeping the kids busy and happy will make the trip easier for everyone. I like to bring several different travel activities to play with in the car, for airplane rides, or in the hotel. I save money buying games by shopping at Dollar Tree. Load up on activities before you go so that you don’t have to buy anything at the expensive hotel shops. Want some ideas of what your kids will love at Dollar Tree? Take a look at my 15 Best Road Trip Games for Kids at the Dollar Tree
I also found some economical travel games and gadgets on Amazon if you don’t have time to run to Dollar Tree before your trip. Get some fun travel game ideas reading 11 Amazon Road Trip Games & Travel Accessories for Kids
Travel on a Budget – Free Family Activities
Before you head out on vacation, do some research of free activities in the city you are going to visit. You would be surprised how many fun free things there are to do even at popular tourist destinations. Look for some of these fun family friendly activity ideas.
Look up the town’s or city’s website and see what local free events they have going on while you are visiting. There are often free concerts or movies in the park, community events for kids, and local festivals – all fun events you won’t have to pay for. You will be amazed at how much you find even in more expensive touristy areas. A great example is our family’s vacations to Naples, Florida. It’s a pretty expensive area but we were still able to find fun free activities for the whole family. Take a look at my article on 10 Free Things to Do in Naples to get an idea of what you can find.
Local Parks, Forest Preserves and State Parks
Spend a couple of hours in the outdoors on local hiking trails or discovering the areas cool playgrounds. Save money on lunch by packing a picnic to eat at the park.
Museums Free Days
Most museums offer some type of free day or discounted day. Look on their websites to see when they are or just Google the museum name and free days. If you are visiting during the week, you will find more options than on busy weekends.
Here is an example of Chicago Museum Free Days
Smaller towns often have small free museums to showcase their town history. It’s a great way for kids to learn more about the history of the city you’re visiting, plus its another fun free outing.
Museum Reciprocal Programs
Do you have a membership to a local museum, zoo, or aquarium? Check and see if your pass is reciprocal to museums in other cities. Often you can get in free or with a discount to sister museums. Another option when on vacation is to buy a membership at a museum you are visiting if they have reciprocal memberships to a museum in the town you live in. Both ways can save you some money and give your family extra museums to visit.
Related Article – Best Chicago Museums and Attractions with Kids
Travel on a Budget – Use a Packing List
It’s so hard to remember everything you need to pack for vacation, especially when you are packing for a whole family. The problem is forgetting things at home means you have to spend money on things you could have brought from home for free. To fix this, I created an easy packing list I use for my family trips that I think will help you too. Click here to download my free Family Vacation Packing List and never forget anything again!
Did you get inspired by these Budget Travel Money Saving Tips? I hope you found a few great ways to save money on your next family vacation. It is definitely a lot more fun to travel if you are not stressed about money. Let me know in the comments which ideas you liked and any great money saving tips your family likes to use. I love to hear from my readers!
Don’t forget to try out my Trip Cost Calculator too to get your personalized travel budget!
After all the stress of vacation planning and saving money, do you need a laugh? Follow me on Facebook for daily parenting jokes to make you smile. Check out my Instagram and Twitter too for great family travel ideas, parenting tips and easy family meals.