Ahh, summer vacation. As a kid, nothing could be sweeter than the sound of those two words. As an adult, not much has changed! We all work hard, and we deserve to play hard, too. But how do you make family travel affordable?
With a big family, the price tag can creep up easily. But fun family travel doesn’t have to be out of reach. Kids and parents can enjoy recreation and bonding without spending the kids’ college fund.
Summer’s just around the corner! Look no further; we’ve got 9 cheap vacation ideas for you to explore.
Take a Staycation (Keep Local)
Making memories as a family doesn’t require traveling thousands of miles to faraway lands. Take a “staycation” instead. Chances are, there are plenty of fun activities within a couple hours’ drive from where you live.
Staycations save you money because you don’t buy pricey airline tickets and don’t spend much on gas to drive there. If it’s close enough, you could go out for fun daytime adventures, then return home at night. This can free up funds for a splurge on a nicer restaurant or tickets to an attraction your kids have been begging to see.
Don’t forget to check out sightseeing passes for big cities! If you live in or near one of these cities, these babies give you access to many attractions for one flat price (for example, the New York City Pass includes admission to over 100 tours and attractions!). When you look at the cost of admission for individual attractions and compare that to the cost of an all-inclusive pass, the value can be awesome!
If you’re only going to visit one or two of the attractions, a pass might not be worth it. But if you plan to hit a lot of popular sites, sightseeing passes can be big money-savers.
Find Online Coupons
Whatever kind of trip you’re taking, you’ll want to search the web for travel deals. There are tons of discounts available for savvy travelers and all you need is a quick search to find great deals in your area (or the area you’re traveling to).
Amusement parks, zoos, and museums can be great entertainment for the whole family but can come with a high admission price. Save money by checking out Groupon and other discount sites. Be sure to try a broader search of coupons available for your travel destination. It could give you inspiration for new ideas you might never have thought of!
Groupon, Travelzoo, and LivingSocial are great places to find sweet discounts on the hottest hotels, restaurants, and attractions. Use the resources right at your fingertips to plan ahead for a great and inexpensive vacation!
Use Points and Miles
Speaking of discounts, it’s hard to find a better deal than getting something for free, right? Credit card points and miles are a great way to get exactly that.
The best travel credit cards all earn points and miles that can help you save big bucks on travel expenses. Whether you need to book flights, hotels, or both, points and miles can help you do it for less – sometimes for free!
In some cases, you can even book tours or activities using your points. Now that’s what I call traveling smart!
Use Work Perks
Many professions offer extra bonuses to people in their fields. For example, military personnel and educators can often receive discounts off all kinds of products. These might be discounts on AAA membership, free museum admission, deals at restaurant or hotel chains, and more.
Be sure to check into whether your profession could save you some big bucks on your next family vacay. While taking a break from work, you can also take advantage of the benefits of your career!
Mother Nature has carved out some pretty fabulous vacation spots around the world. Why not use your next family vacation to see more of nature? There are tons of local, state, and national parks, many of which can be free or super-cheap to visit!
Tucked-away natural areas near you could boast some of the prettiest scenery. Hiking is a fun activity that requires almost zero extra money and no special training or equipment. All you need is basic attire, bottled water, and some homemade trail mix. Oh, and don’t forget your camera!
Fitting right into the concept of embracing nature, don’t forget about camping! It’s definitely a way for families to get in that much-needed rest and relaxation without the hefty price tag of hotel stays and restaurant dining.
Camping saves you money for a lot of obvious reasons. Most campsites are very inexpensive to reserve a spot, and many are even free! Plus, you can bring your own food to cook right over your campfire. Entertainment is built right into the camp experience: fishing, hiking, building a fire, putting up a tent, roasting marshmallows, and more. Forests, lakes, and mountains can be a fabulous backdrop for family fun.
Not everyone is a big fan of critters and dirt, but if you’re up for an outdoor adventure, camping might be just the right frugal vacation for you and your family!
While it isn’t always possible due to work constraints and/or kids’ school schedules, traveling at off-peak times is usually worth big savings. Even traveling midweek can help you find cheaper airfare and hotel rates. Check a variety of dates if you’re flexible so you can pick the most economical travel days that work for you.
Try Alternative Lodging
Airbnb and vrbo.com are a couple of alternative lodging sources that could save you some real bucks. Depending on the type of travel experience you’re looking for, renting out a home or condo through a venue like Airbnb could provide just the right thing! Plus, if it has a kitchen, you can save big by making your own meals.
Rather than a stuffy hotel room, you can enjoy more spacious living quarters with unique features. Chances are, you could score a much cheaper rate, too, especially if you’re booking for a full week in one place.
Stay With Friends or Family
Do you have a cousin (or brother, or uncle, or friend) who lives near your vacation destination? Maybe they’d love to host your family. Think about where you have family or friends you don’t see very often. If it’s a place you’d enjoy visiting and they don’t mind your crew crashing for a few days, it might be a good choice for frugal travel.
Crashing with someone you know can save you a lot of dough! Even if it’s just for one night while you’re en route to the beach, why not pocket the money you’d have spent on a hotel? Plus, you get the bonus of time with loved ones–perfect for a family vacation!
Family Travel Is Possible
As you can see, being part of a family doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an awesome vacation. Travel as a family is totally affordable with these 9 ideas! Get creative and enjoy your summer!
Kate Underwood is a freelance writer and staff writer for Club Thrifty, a website dedicated to helping people dream big, spend less, and travel more.