By following the suggestions below, you can save hundreds of dollars on your next family vacation. And with such savings, you might just be able to go on two vacations this year! (Perhaps one without the kids.)
1. Go on a road trip. If you have the extra time, traveling by car is often the cheaper way to travel. Compare the price of gas, distance you are traveling, and possible overnight stay to the cost of round-trip tickets for your family and a rental car when you land. You may be surprised at the savings and the sights you see along the way.
2. Save money on meals. If traveling by car, pack lunch and snacks for everyone. My family stops at rest areas and picnics. Most rest stops have a playground to run out some of the sillies before getting back in the car. And look for hotels that offer free meals. Many have deals where kids eat free or breakfast is included with your stay. During your trip, try to make lunch your big meal of the day. Not only is it cheaper, it is also healthier not to go to bed with such a large meal in your stomach.
3. Rent a home. Visit sites like Vacation Rental by Owner or Airbnb to find a house in the area you are visiting. Typically, the cost per night is less than a hotel and you have more room to spread out. Some homes allow dogs so you don’t have to leave your pets at home (and pay for a pet sitter). If you are vacationing with friends or family, rent a house big enough for everyone and share the cost. By having a full kitchen, you can prepare your own meals instead of eating out at restaurants for every meal. If you don’t want to spend your vacation cooking, try crock-pot meals and let dinner cook while you are away.
4. Souvenirs. Kids naturally want to take something home as a reminder of their vacation. In high tourist areas, like New York City or Orlando, look for T-shirt vendors advertising cheap shirts or hats. Unless you have a collection, stay away from expensive key chains or backscratchers that will just end up in the bottom of your closet. Consider making a souvenir at home from the things collected on your family trip.
5. Use coupons. Look for local coupon books, coupon codes, or online deals in the area you are traveling to. In addition, The Entertainment® Book is a great resource! If traveling to the US, many large cities like Chicago, Boston, and Atlanta offer CityPASS. These passes offer a discount to a combination of must-see attractions over a nine-day period. Not only do you save money, but you have the convenience of purchasing all your tickets at once.
6. Look for free things to do. No matter where you are traveling, you can find something to do that is free. A quick online search can bring up a variety of activities, from zoos to factory tours to free admission museum days. Don’t limit yourself to your destination area only. If you have access to a car on vacation, consider driving off the beaten path of tourism. You may be surprised at the interesting attractions you will find for free.
The parent’s guide to road-trip survival tips:
Pam is a freelance journalist, and a mother of three. Her family loves the flexibility of road trips and traveling outside of the box to save money.
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