Now that summertime is nearly here, a lot of families are making plans to get out of town and take a much-needed vacation. But in some cases, the high costs of a trip can negate your attempted escape from stress. Although more than half of Millennials and Gen Xers report that cost can be a barrier to leisure travel, you don’t have to be thwarted by the idea of a hefty price tag. You’ll just need to be a little cleverer when you’re planning your getaway. Here are five tips to keep costs low while still getting the chance to enjoy a fantastic family vacation.
- Pick the right place: Sure, going to Disneyland or some exotic island resort might appeal to everyone in your family. But when you realize how much that trip could cost, you might need to go back to the drawing board. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable destinations to visit. Instead of going to Los Angeles, book a trip to San Diego instead — which is known for its many family-friendly attractions that offer significant discounts. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania offers plenty of affordable activities for families and reasonable accommodations. Or if your family is into camping, look for cities near National Parks to get the best of both worlds at a decent price. You’ll probably find that going to a less popular beach town will save you money and make the experience even more special. Don’t feel pressure to book what’s considered by some to be the best of the best; the destination might not actually matter as much as your ability to make fun memories there.
- Get the timing right: Keep in mind that taking a vacation in the summertime will probably come with higher costs as it is. More families are opting to take vacations during this season because their kids are already out of school — plus, there are summer weddings and other events to contend with. Still, timing may matter a lot. Flying as soon as school lets out or right before it starts up again may result in higher costs. You’ll probably find it’s less expensive to travel to warmer locations (like California, Las Vegas, Florida, or even New York City) during a heat wave, simply because everyone wants to get out. Don’t be dissuaded by this; as long as you’re prepared, you can have fun as a family regardless of the temperature. Plus, it’ll help you to compare flight costs and being fairly flexible with your travel days, if you can. This could help you save quite a bit on airfare, meaning you’ll have more money to spend on the experience itself.
- Be conscious of baggage: Commercial airlines carried more than 3.8 billion passengers throughout 2016, many of whom don’t like to pack lightly. But depending on your airline, that could have a huge impact on your budget. If you book with a notoriously cheap airline, keep in mind that you could end up paying much more for checked or even carry-on baggage, particularly if you wait until the last minute. While there are a couple of airlines that still let you check bags for free, the majority will charge you at least $25 to bring extra luggage. You’ll usually save the most money by paying these fees when you book your actual tickets — but if you think you can be a bit more innovative with your packing, you could save a substantial amount by fitting everything you can in your carry-ons.
- Get creative with meals: In resort towns or bustling metropolises, you could end up spending a lot more than you planned just on food and necessities you forgot to bring with you. If possible, try to eat at least one meal a day that’s either prepared in your room’s kitchen or that’s included in the cost of your room. Eating out for every single meal will add up quickly. Even buying some food items at a local grocery store and keeping them in a mini-fridge for a lunchtime picnic could save you a good amount. In the end, your kids will probably value the unique experiences you share a lot more than having a fancy breakfast or overpriced lunch in a restaurant.
- Avoid tourist traps: For some, this might go without saying… but remember that they’re called tourist traps for a reason! This doesn’t mean you’ll have to avoid all of a destination’s major sites; it simply means you’ll need to do some research to decide which ones are really worth it and which ones are a bit of a disappointment. Don’t be afraid to skip something if it’s too out of the way or too expensive. You may have a lot more fun doing something unique and affordable instead of waiting in line for an over-hyped attraction. Review sites (especially ones geared towards families) can tell you a lot about what you can expect and whether it’s worth the cost of admission.
Before you book your family vacation this summer, keep these tips in mind. They may help you save a bundle and make some amazing memories in the process.