Does the thought of your next family vacation bring you out in a sweat of budgeting anxiety?
Family vacations make memories that last a lifetime but they can also be budget busters.
Find out how you can create a great family vacation without dreading your next credit card bill.
The most obvious advice is to travel off season but that’s not possible if you have kids in school.
This makes planning the most important part of any vacation, a few simple steps can make the trip so much less expensive.
1) Use the airfare email alerts on flight comparison sites to get the first notification of a seat sale.
2) Sign up for email newsletters of your favourite hotels, airlines and tour companies as they offer deals for those who can book months in advance.
3) Pair up with another family and travel together using group rates. It’s also a great way to save on babysitting if one couple wants to have dinner alone.
4) Look for a local area “Entertainment Book” that offers 2-for-1 deals on hotels, restaurants and sights.
5) Don’t forget Facebook and Twitter. Airlines and hotels often have contests and discount codes for fans, if not ask for one.
Don’t spend money in Drive Thrus, bring road trip snacks from home. Photo by Kimberly Mahr
6) Book a car rental in advance. The budget rentals are the first to be sold out, if you book in advance you’re guaranteed you’ll get the best rate and you might even get upgraded for free.
7) Fly during the week. Business travelers and vacationers usually buy weekend tickets but if you can stay another day or two you’ll save hundreds on flights.
8) When gas prices are high consider the train, you won’t have the flexibility of your own car but you’ll have more space for the kids.
Save on gas by taking the train: great views, more space and fun. Photo by Lazy_Artist
9) Consider hostels, they now offer private rooms with ensuite bathrooms which are perfect for families. It’s common for breakfast to be included and they have large kitchens for self-catered meals.
10) Ask for a discount. Call the hotel directly and see if they have any discounts or ask if they’ll match the rate of a cheaper, nearby competitor.
11) Consider renting a house. Home exchanges and vacation apartments are a great way to save money. You’ll have more space and all the facilities you need.
Vacation homes can be nicer (and cheaper) than hotels. Photo by Emma.maria
Let’s face it, most kids don’t remember where they’ve eaten but you’ll remember how much you’ve spent. Thankfully it’s an easy expense to cut with a bit of preparation.
12) Pack road trip meals and snacks fom home in a cooler. If you need to take a break from driving stop at a roadside park and eat at a picnic table.
13) Rethink the mini bar. Many hotels offer mini refrigerators and sometimes microwaves. Before you book find out what’s available and stock up on drinks and snacks from the local supermarket.
14) Find the local park and plan a picnic. A few sandwiches and juice boxes at a waterfront park with a playground is perfect for kids and your budget.
Everyone love a picnic: fresh air and cheaper than eating out. Photo by Imayellowfellow
15) Check out the tourist bureau web site. Usually local deals and discounts are advertised on this site.
16) Use your AAA membership as well as others to look for deals on local attractions.
17) Find out if you can save money by purchasing tickets in advance or online. Many amusement parks and museums offer a discount for advance booking.
Don’t fall into the gift shop trap. Give your kids a budget and let them choose what to buy. Photo by Bitterlysweet
Amusement parks can be a nightmare with kids wanting expensive souvenirs but you can get around the pricey junk you know they won’t play with after the first day:
18) Give your kids a small amount of money for souvenirs to manage on their own and to spend as they please.
19) Take a trip to the local discount store where you can find the same theme characters on clothing and toys.
What’s your favorite budget family travel tip? Share it in the comments below.
If you liked this, you might also like: The Ultimate Hotel Booking Guide: 62 Tips that will Save you Money.
Main image: Keeping things simple makes everyone happy. Photo by Chefdruck.