Finding the funds to invest in a family vacation can be difficult, especially in a sour economy. There always seems to be something more important for your funds than a vacation – new shoes for the daredevil child, a deposit to the bookworm daughter’s college fund, or even upgrades to the house that can be enjoyed every day – rather than a short-lived family vacation. But family vacations can be vital to revitalization and bonding. When you get away from home, the distractions of the leaky faucet, flowerbeds that need weeding, and calls from your boss all slip away and allow you to focus on what matters most- your family. Traveling also enriches your lives and creates family memories that last a lifetime. Here are a few tips to help you travel with the family for less money.
1. Travel with friends. Consider vacationing with another family you enjoy spending time with to save big on vacation costs. We found a cabin in the Smokey Mountains with a home theater, full kitchen, and a hot tub for less than half of what it would cost for two families to stay in a decent hotel.
2. Off-Season trips. Summertime is the ideal time for a family vacation since kids are out of school and the weather is warm and sunny. But taking a vacation during the off season is a great way to get in a budget trip. Off-season cruises and stays during off-peak months can help save you a bundle.
3. Bring the cooler. Eating out can take a huge bite out of your vacation fund, especially if you have kids who tend to eat every 2-4 hours (like mine). To save money, we pack a cooler for on the road, and refill it once we get to our destination. We eat sandwiches for lunch instead of eating out, and occasionally eat a light breakfast from the cooler as well. Snacks and light meals are often enough to enable us to skip eating out for at least one meal a day. If you have small children, plan ahead and pack easy-to-grab snacks and refillable cups to cut down on food costs.
4. Pizza night. While it’s tempting to try to sample every nice restaurant in the area, you can save $50-$150 on substituting your evening steak and potatoes with a pizza delivered to the hotel one night during your vacation. It’s not exciting, but it’s familiar and frugal. Cooking while you are on vacation can also save you a boatload of money.
5. Talk to the locals. It pays to get to know a few locals at your favorite vacation spot. Not only can they tell you about the best places to visit, they also have access to discounts you probably don’t know about. Some areas have special tourism taxes that are higher than what the locals pay. We’ve had several vendors we frequent on vacation offer to give us the “local discount” for visiting so often and being friendly.
6. Service your vehicle. If you plan to drive on vacation, don’t skimp on vehicle maintenance before you leave. Getting a tune-up and safety check not only makes your trip safer, it improves your gas mileage, which can really add up over long distances. Also, you don’t want to spend your vacation stuck in a garage waiting for repairs and praying the mechanic is honest and the bill won’t max out your credit card.
What ways have you found to save money on vacations?