About 162.07 million people made up the U.S. civilian labor force in 2018, yet the majority of these workers left a significant portion of their vacation days unused. If you’re reluctant to take a family trip due to money concerns, you can find ways to cut back on the costs of a vacation. Here are eight tips for saving money on your next family adventure.
1. Select Your Destination with Care
When you’re trying to decide where you’ll travel, remember that some destinations cost far more than others. For instance, instead of setting your heart on visiting a large city, consider booking a hotel in a less-expensive suburb that’s under an hour away by car. A trip to another state or even another country could save you money, even with airfare factored in, as compared to a visit to a popular amusement park resort. In any city, avoiding the major tourist draws may cut your costs dramatically, since places and events designed to attract tourists typically inflate prices on basic expenses such as food and admission. Be sure to conduct thorough research and take your time in comparing the prices of different destinations on your list.
2. Consider a Road Trip
Total sales for new cars and trucks exceeded $1 trillion in 2017. If you’re one of the many Americans with a new vehicle, you can use this asset to save money on a family vacation. Driving instead of flying can cut your travel costs by as much as half. Get a good map of the U.S. and think about how far you can comfortably drive. If you can get family or friends to put your family up for a night or two, you can save on a hotel and extend the length of your trip.
3. Time Your Vacation Wisely
If possible, try to book flights when airports are less busy, like the middle of the week or early in the morning. If you’re buying plane tickets online, use the flexible travel date search feature, which allows you to look at prices for a range of days before and after your target departure and return dates. Be sure to research the busy season associated with your destination and time your trip to coincide with slower months in order to save. While it might be more convenient to travel during holiday breaks, your family may be able to save a lot of money by scheduling your vacation during other times of the year.
4. Find Low-Cost and Free Activities
Even big cities offer free attractions if you’re willing to put in the effort to find them. Look at the tourism website for your destination, which will probably offer a long list of free (or almost free) family-friendly activities. Many parks and museums have free or low-cost admission days, and just strolling through colorful neighborhoods can be entertaining. Find out if the city you’re traveling to offers passes that will let you into a number of different attractions for one flat rate. And of course, with cities by the water, there’s always the option of going to the beach, a fun and free activity enjoyed by almost 60 million Americans in 2010.
5. Look for Travel Deals
Search for ways to save online by visiting websites such as Priceline or using apps like HotelTonight. Sign up with your email address for alerts from a particular hotel or from travel planning websites so that you’ll know immediately when deals become available. If you buy plane tickets online, you’re likely to save money on admission to your destination’s attractions. When you’re booking lodging, choose the least expensive room that will accommodate your family in the nicest hotel that’s within your budget. You might even find news of lower prices by checking out posts from hotels on social media. Don’t forget to sign up for flight alerts, which will send you a notification when airfare drops.
6. Consider Renting or Sharing a House
The increasing popularity of online housing rentals is a boon for vacationing families. It can be a challenge to share hotel rooms with children, so it’s nice to have an entire house to spread out in. Visit sites like Airbnb or homeaway.com to see how much more space you can get for the same amount you’d spend on a hotel. Larger families can save significantly by renting a house instead of booking several rooms in a hotel. You’ll also cut costs by having a full kitchen available to prepare food, as opposed to eating in restaurants at every meal. What’s more, you’ll have a free place to park. Just make sure to do your due diligence and avoid obvious scams.
You can save even more money by renting a house with friends or family. The price per family is typically less if the rental house is shared, so you could end up spending even less than you’d pay for a hotel. If you rent a house with another family, your kids will have other kids to spend time with and they’ll likely have a more enjoyable experience.
7. Sign Up for Tours or All-Inclusive Packages
For some tourists, planning a family vacation can be stressful and time-consuming, so booking a tour is an attractive alternative. Choose a family-friendly company, like Intrepid Travel or Trafalgar, and they’ll take the planning from there. You and your family can enjoy a package that covers lodging, transportation, a number of meals, and a tour led by a seasoned guide. You may very well spend less on a guided tour than you would if you paid for each feature separately.
8. Go to the Grocery Store
You can use online mapping tools to choose a hotel near a sizable supermarket or health food store. Here, you can eat for less than you would spend in a restaurant and pick up emergency snacks for the kids. Large grocery stores typically offer salad bars and buffets with hot entrees with enough variety to please everyone in your family. Another plus is that dining with help from a grocery store will probably be much quicker than waiting to be served in a restaurant, leaving more time for sightseeing. If you have access to a kitchen, you’ll be able to spend quality time together and save money by cooking at your home base. That’ll leave funds left over for other fun activities!
A family vacation is a great way to create lasting memories and enjoy each other’s company away from the stresses of everyday life. By planning ahead, searching for price deals, and being creative with lodging and amenities, you can book a relaxing, fun-filled trip without breaking the bank.