budget friendly family vacations

Family Travel on a Budget Tips

Looking to travel the world with your family affordably? 

Or perhaps you want an affordable way to travel around your country? 

If either sounds like you, you’ve come to the right place! 

Traveling together as a family can be both rewarding and enjoyable. 

However, it can also be expensive and stressful if you’re not careful or intentional. 

Luckily, you’re in the right place, and if you implement all these tips, you’ll be able to travel together as a family on a budget! 

Let’s start this blog post with my top 8 tips for planning an affordable family vacation. 

budget family vacations

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8 Tips For Planning Affordable Family Vacations

Tip #1 – Create A Realistic Travel Budget

I know, I know… creating budgets isn’t the most fun thing to do. 

But trust me, setting a budget in advance can help you plan a trip that is attainable for your family and won’t put you into debt. 

Not only does this help you stay within your spending limits, but it also encourages you to get creative with how to save more money on your trip so you can do more awesome things together as a family! 

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To make a realistic vacation budget, make sure you’ve included money for the following: 

  • Transportation costs, including airfare, gas, local transportation, etc.
  • Accommodations
  • Food and drinks
  • Activities and entertainment
  • Miscellaneous 

If you’re looking for a ready-made vacation budget, here’s a vacation planner spreadsheet with an extensive budget, packing list, and itinerary list.

family travel on a budget

Tip #2 – Choose Your Destination Wisely

There’s no avoiding it; certain areas tend to be more expensive than others. 

For example, if you want a beach vacation, a trip to Mexico may be more affordable than a trip to Hawaii. 

You’ll often find the top tourist areas are more expensive, which can be unfortunate if the spot you want to go to is a hot spot for tourists!

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If your dream vacation destination is expensive, and you don’t want to budge on this, you’ll have to find other ways to save money while you travel. 

However, if your heart is not set on one particular location, visiting lesser-known tourist spots will give you the most bang for your buck. 

Most major cities and even small towns will have plenty for you to do, and they can be much more affordable than spots like New York City, Los Angeles, etc. 

Tip #3 – Plan Longer Stays

A common misconception for new travelers is that the more time you spend somewhere, the more money you’re likely to spend. 

After all, you have to sleep somewhere, and you gotta eat! 

But this is a myth, especially if you know how to travel on a budget. 

For starters, you’ll often find one of the most significant travel expenses is getting to your destination. 

And since you only have to do this once at the start of your trip and once at the end, it doesn’t matter how long the journey in between is. 

You’ll often find that the longer you stay somewhere, the more potential cost savings there are on accommodations, activities, etc. 

Plus, if you can learn how to eat while you travel for reasonably close to what you’d spend at home, then you won’t be spending that much more money. 

Tip #4 – Don’t Travel During Peak Times

When you’ve got young kids, you might feel restricted to travel during their school holidays, which can include spring break, winter break, a long weekend, or even the summer months. 

The problem is a lot of travel will cost more during these times because this is when everyone else is traveling too. 

If you plan to travel during the off-peak months, this can help you save a considerable amount of money. 

Depending on where you’re going, the best time to travel is usually during the weekdays, spring and fall months, or while other kids are in school. 

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Some families will homeschool their children so that they can travel year-round without being impacted by these peak travel times. 

However, if this isn’t an option for you, consider talking to your child’s school to find out what they can do to get ahead, what support they might need upon return, etc. 

Tip #5 – Find Deals For Specific Attractions

When you have young kids, you can only do so much hiking and sightseeing before they go crazy. 

Most young kids want to go to amusement parks, water parks, movie theaters, etc. (And understandably so!) 

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Unfortunately, these things can cost a lot more money than sightseeing would. 

The good news is you can often find deals for specific attractions that can help you save a large chunk of change when traveling. 

For starters, you can look for package deals to book multiple attraction tickets in one go for a discounted rate.

You can also look online for discounts or special offers from the attractions themselves. 

To take full advantage of online discounts and offers, consider setting up price alerts to your email so you know when a deal is coming up.

Another strategy is to join the email list of the company offering the attraction as they might send out discounts occasionally. 

By doing this, you can plan ahead and be prepared to book your tickets at the right time. 

Tip #6 – Get Off The Beaten Track

There’s something to be said for getting off the beaten track. 

You’re likely to find more authentic experiences, and you’ll often find there are more budget-friendly options too. 

If you’re traveling to a large city, for example, instead of staying in the heart of the city, why not stay in a smaller town or suburb where you can find more affordable accommodations? 

You’ll still be close to all the big attractions, but you won’t have to pay as much for a place to stay. 

The same goes for food and activities too. 

Look for local markets and cafes where the locals go, rather than touristy spots that are more expensive. 

Tip #7 – Take Advantage Of Free Activities

Most cities will offer a plethora of free activities that you can enjoy with your family. 

These could include visiting historic sites, the beach or lake, or even exploring a nature reserve. 

Not only will these activities be free, but they offer you the unique opportunity to meet locals, find out about hidden gems, and even get insider tips on more affordable options for things like dining and entertainment. 

So include some free activities in your travel plans – you never know what kind of unexpected and wonderful experiences await! 

Tip #8 – Travel Light

How often have you come home from a vacation only to realize you didn’t even use half of what you had packed? 

Don’t worry – this has happened to me plenty of times too! 

Packing for every circumstance can cost you much more money in the long run.

For starters, if you’re flying to your destination, you may have to pay to check your luggage, which is very costly. 

Even if you’re not flying, the more stuff you bring, the bigger vehicle you will need or the heavier your car will be, resulting in more gas being used. 

Chances are good that if you did forget something, you could find it at your destination, so travel light and only bring the essentials. 

Now that I’ve shared some tips on planning a budget-friendly vacation let’s look at ways you can save money on some of the most expensive aspects of traveling as a family. 

How To Save Money On Transportation

As I said above, getting to and from your destination will be one of the biggest expenses on your travel budget. 

So, how can you save money on transportation? 

Choose A Budget Airline

If you’re flying, consider finding cheap flights with a budget airline like Spirit or Frontier

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They offer cheaper fares and usually fewer amenities, but if you want to get from one place to another, this can be a great way to save money. 

Drive A Small Car

Consider driving a small car if you’re planning a family road trip. 

Doing this will help reduce the amount of gas you’ll need, not to mention the smaller car will be more efficient when it comes to parking fees. 

In addition to getting to and from your final destination, you may also need local transportation. 

Here are the best ways you can save yourself some money! 

Use Public Transportation

Sure, tourist transportation systems can offer nice amenities, but they can also be pricey. 

family budget friendly vacations

If you’re willing to take the bus or train (or even walk!), then this can be a great way to save money while also getting around. 

Ride-Sharing Apps

If public transportation or walking isn’t an option, consider ride-sharing apps like Uber or Lyft

While these options are more expensive than the above option, it still beats the cost of having a rental car. 

In addition, you can often find promotional codes and discounts online that you can use to save even more money on your rides. 

Rent Bikes

Finally, if you’re traveling to a destination where biking is an option, consider renting bikes! 

Not only will this make traveling to the area more affordable, but you’ll get the opportunity to see things you may not have otherwise seen or experienced. 

So, if you’re planning a family trip on a budget, consider these tips and ideas for saving money on transportation. 

How To Save Money On Accommodations

The next considerable expense while you’re traveling will be the accommodations. A hotel room, while convenient and full of amenities, can be costly, especially for families. 

Instead, you could opt for one of these affordable lodging options!

AirBnb or Rental Home

Airbnb is a great way to book homes and apartments that are often much cheaper than hotels. 

So, not only will you save some money, but you’ll also get more space and privacy than you would at a hotel. 

best family vacations on a budget

Another benefit to having your own vacation home is the kitchen, which makes it possible to cook your food and saves you money during your travels. 

House Sitting

Another option is to look for a house sitting opportunity. 

This involves exchanging your services (house-sitting, pet-sitting, etc.) for a free place to stay. 

It’s an excellent option for those willing to put in the effort, as it can save you considerable money. 

Camping

Finally, if you’re not afraid of roughing it, why not consider camping? 

Campgrounds are often much cheaper than hotels, plus you get to enjoy the great outdoors and make some wonderful memories with your family. 

How To Save Money On Food

When you’re traveling, food is one of those things that can make or break your budget. 

Eating out three times a day and getting desserts and treats while out and about can get costly quickly. 

However, if you’re willing to eat how you would at home, or at least close to it, you can rest easy knowing you won’t spend much more on food than you would at home. 

That said, here are some of my favorite ways to save money on food while traveling. 

Find A Hotel With Free Breakfast

If you’ve opted to stay in a hotel, do yourself a favor and find one that at least serves a complimentary continental breakfast. 

Sure, the food at these places isn’t fancy, but a free meal is a free meal! 

Doing this can also help balance the extra cost of a hotel room if your family wants to stay in one. 

Get Food From The Grocery Store

Even if you don’t have a kitchen in which to prepare food, most grocery stores have a prepared food section filled with salads, sandwiches, and snacks that are much cheaper than eating out!

If you’re looking for an easy lunch idea, you can grab this food in the morning before you head out for the day.

Alternatively, grab this food for dinner and go enjoy a family picnic instead!  

While at the grocery store, consider getting some snacks and drinks to have on hand, so you won’t be tempted to buy them while you’re out and about. 

Cook Your Meals

If you’re equipped to, you might also consider cooking your meals. 

And I know, you might think it’s not a vacation if you have to cook dinner. 

I hear you!

But this is unquestionably a great way to save money during your travels. 

To make it easier on yourself, consider sticking to meals that are quick to cook and even easier to clean up afterward. 

And don’t shoulder this responsibility by yourself. 

Since this is a family vacation, everyone should get to enjoy themselves, and this might mean dividing up the cooking and cleaning responsibilities so that it doesn’t fall solely on your shoulders! 

To make the meal planning process easier, you can use a meal planner spreadsheet.

budget family travel

Carry A Water Bottle At All Times

Finally, ensure you always have a water bottle on you. 

While you’re out site seeing and adventuring, people will get thirsty.

You can save yourself a lot of money simply by having water ready for everyone to drink as needed. 

Low-Cost Activities To Enjoy While Traveling

So far, we’ve covered how to save money on transportation, accommodations, etc. 

But, let’s face it, traveling is about much more than where you sleep and how you get there. 

You’re traveling to make memories with your family, to see things you’ve never had the chance to see before. 

But activities can also add up quickly, especially for larger families. 

$10 per person for something might not seem like that big of a deal until you have four of you going and you do several activities throughout the trip.  

Suddenly, you’ve blinked and spent a few hundred dollars just on doing stuff. 

So, how can you keep everyone busy and entertained without spending a small fortune? 

Free Museums

All over the United States, you can find a variety of free museums that offer excellent educational and entertaining activities for the whole family. 

Research ahead of time to see if there are any free museums near your destination. 

It’s a great way to have fun without spending much money! 

Go Hiking

Hiking is another great way to explore the area and have fun together as a family. 

It’s usually free, depending on where you’re heading, and you don’t need any special equipment. 

So, grab your sneakers and a water bottle and hit the trails! 

Visit Parks & Playgrounds

Another great way to have fun without spending much money is to visit local parks or playgrounds. 

Most of these are free and allow your kids to run around and get some energy out. 

Visit National Parks

While most national parks usually have an entrance fee, they are generally very affordable, or you can get passes online for a good deal. 

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The nice thing about national parks is they can keep you and your family busy for an entire day. 

Before heading out on your trip, research what national parks are in the area, the best ways to get to them, and all the activities you can do there. 

Sightseeing

Every city or town has something unique to offer in terms of sites. 

So, plan a day or two during your travels to walk around the city and take in the sights. 

It’s a great way to experience a place without spending money! 

Splash Parks

If you’re traveling during the summer months, and are in a place with warmer weather, consider visiting a local splash park. 

These are usually free to the public and provide hours of entertainment for your kids!

And there you have it, family travel on a budget made easy!

As I said at the beginning of this post, you don’t have to spend a small fortune or go into debt to have a nice family vacation filled with laughs and memories. 

Comment below if you have any tips to share with our community, and share this with another family you think could benefit from this list of ideas!

Happy traveling! 

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