You want to take your crew on a family vacation, but vacations can be EXPENSIVE! Just thinking about the costs of travel, lodging, and food while you’re traveling can cause increased anxiety for even the most well-off families. And that’s not to mention the cost of souvenirs and experiences you’ll have to pay for wherever you go. You need some money-saving hacks to help you save where you need to and spend where you will enjoy it the most.
No matter how much fun you have, opening that credit card bill after a family vacation can make you wish you’d never went anywhere at all. Trust me, I’ve been there before. More than once we’ve paid for outrageous airline tickets, overpriced hotel rooms, and food or activities that were totally not worth it.
After years of spending too much on travel, and wondering where all the money went, I began to get serious about saving money while CONTINUING to take amazing family vacations. And after tons of research and practice, I’m ready to share my money-saving vacation hacks with you!
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1. Do Your Research
Before you go on any trip, you should always research the place you plan to visit. Check the rates and reviews for everything you’ll need as you travel and while you’re there. If you know the cost of things beforehand, you can plan accordingly. That way, you don’t have a big surprise when you get the bill!
2. Use Your Membership Perks
If you have airline miles, credit card travel perks, or a hotel reward program membership, now might be the time to cash in and lower your vacation costs. By traveling with the same airline as much as possible, you can eventually use your miles to pay for all or part of ticket costs.Faithbox
If you are disciplined and can pay it off each month, you can use a credit card with travel rewards and pay yourself back with your points acquired. In the case that you can’t or don’t pay it off each month, then I don’t recommend using a credit card at all! The less debt you carry, the better.
3. Buy a Package
Buying more than one part of your trip from the same company can help you save a LOT of money! With our recent Yellowstone trip, we booked both our flight and rental car through Allegiant. Allegiant is an economic airline anyway, and by getting our rental through them was another money-saving hack. When visiting Hawaii, we also purchased our airline tickets and rental car together. This is a great way to save on vacation costs.
When we were in Italy a few years ago, we booked our flight and hotel through Tripmasters. Their website is very user-friendly and flexible, allowing you to customize the trip based on your unique needs. They also have an awesome feature where you can check how changing your travel dates will raise or lower the price of your vacation! By booking through Tripmasters, we were able to have an affordable Italian vacation.
4. Pay Ahead of Time
There are a few benefits for paying ahead of time for parts of your vacation. First off, you can save money and reduce hidden fees when you pay for vacation costs upfront. Some airlines and hotels will give you a discount when you pay in one lump sum.
Secondly, when you pay ahead of time, you don’t have that “surprise” bill when your vacation is over. You also don’t have to worry about interest rates, because you’ve already paid! Taking a summer vacation, and continuing to pay the credit card bill for months is never fun.
5. Pack Light
Most airlines charge you for every bag you check on the flight. By packing light, you have fewer bags to check at the airport. Even if you’re driving to your destination, packing light can help you save time, gas, and energy.
For our last few family vacations, we have started packing less luggage than before. Instead of packing more clothes, we stayed in locations that allowed us to do laundry during our time there. Two of our Airbnb locations on our visit to Yellowstone had a washer and dryer on-site, which saved even more money!
You’re not going to see these people again, so who cares if you wear the same clothes more than once?
6. Use Airbnb
Surprisingly, Airbnb can be a cheaper option for you and your family on vacation. Most hotels only allow for a certain number of guests, and they have limited room styles. Many Airbnb’s offer homes for rent at affordable prices for a family.
There are definitely some expensive Airbnb options, so you’ll have to do your research in order to save money. By refining your search, you can find some great places to stay with this service.
On our last family vacation, we stayed in the most awesome barn that had been converted into a gorgeous living space! Not only was it beautiful, but the daily rate was amazing too. Our family had tons of room to spread out and relax, and we would’ve never found it without this great Airbnb.
Camping, if you do it right, can be an extremely successful money-saving hack vacation with your family. Pitching a tent in a cheap campsite is a great way to stay close to the action without spending a ton of money on accommodations. You can also find some inexpensive sites to park your camper and enjoy your relaxing vacation without wasting money on expensive hotels. Can you hear the crickets and smell the campfire? And what about those mouth-watering s’mores?
Even though camping is super fun, and can be cheap, it might cost more than you think it will. Camping is becoming a more popular activity for a lot of people. Because of this, campgrounds are beginning to raise their rates. For several years in a row, we camped near King’s Island (an amusement park in southern Ohio) with friends so we could visit the park together and stay nearby. Because of its amenities and fantastic location, their rates had almost doubled by the third year we booked a campsite!
If you choose to purchase a camper, then that adds many more $$ to your camping adventures. We have a beautiful trailer that sleeps 10, has a slide-out, has AC, an entertainment system, and even a bathroom! We love “glamping” in it, but what we don’t love is the monthly payment we are making on it. Paying it off is the next item on our debt snowball (check out Dave Ramsey to learn more) which is good, but it will still take us several months to pay it off.
8. Bring or Cook Your Own Food
Eating out three meals a day can drive your vacation spending through the roof! Bringing or cooking your own food is not only a great way to save money, but it’s also more healthy too.
Whenever we go on vacation with my family, we usually rent a house with a kitchen. Each family takes turns cooking at least one dinner. It’s a fun way to share the work and save some money.
On our last family road trip, we bought a cheap cooler, filled it with drinks and snacks, and took it with us to each destination. This cooler helped us save tons of money on our vacation. It also helped us keep moving and be able to see and do more!
Now don’t get me wrong, I love eating out while on vacation! I’m just saying that you don’t need to spend mucho dinero eating every meal out while on vacation. When you use these money-saving hacks to spend less on your cheaper meals, you can afford to spend more on a few nice dinners!
9. Use Public Transportation for Money-Saving Hacks
When your family vacation takes you to a city, there’s usually an affordable public transportation option available. Subway systems, bus routes, and trains can save you a lot of money. The high prices of gas alone can make public transportation worth it. Limited parking options and high rates can eat a huge hole in your family vacation budget.
On our trip to Washington DC several years ago, we bought family metro passes and utilized them throughout our visit. We even stayed in a campground that had a bus stop inside its gates. We used this perk and rode to the metro station each day.
In Rome, we also bought metro passes and used these to get around the city during most of our trip. We also bought train tickets and visited Anzio for the day. Anzio is a small beach town outside of Rome. Renting a car large enough for our family would have cost many more euro than the train ride did.
10. Splurge on What’s Important, Save on What’s Not
This is my favorite money-saving hack that will also allow you to have an amazing vacation!
As a family, you need to decide what you really want to get out of your vacation. After you pinpoint what’s important, and what’s not, you’re ready to plan an affordable but spectacular trip.
Is a four-star hotel important to you? Then you should spend more money on the hotel, and use some money-saving hacks to eating cheaper meals or finding an affordable way to get there. Are you a foodie? Then spend a little more on nice dinners, and get a cheaper hotel. Is there a once-in-a-lifetime experience you want to splurge on? Put that in your budget, then look for ways to cut costs with your travel.
A few years ago, my family went on a parasailing adventure during a visit to Panama City Beach in Florida. We had saved money on our accommodations and travel and used those savings to pay for it. Parasailing was a major highlight of that vacation!
Last year, we were able to take a whale-watching tour in the Pacific Northwest with my husband’s family. It was a large part of our vacation budget, but having the boat to ourselves (minus the crew) was an experience we will relive for years to come! The expense was totally worth it.
If you’re like me, then you have had tons of times in your life that you’ve overspent on a vacation. While writing this post, all of the money-saving hacks listed are ones that I’ve messed up in the past. And guess what? It’s okay!
We can’t go back and unspend (not sure if that’s a word) the money we laid down for that way overpriced hotel a few years ago, but we can do better now! We can’t get our money back on those enormous dinners every night, but we can pack a cooler on our next vacation.
The point is to take the time to plan, decide what’s important, and actively look for other ways to save money while you travel! If you use these money-saving hacks, then you can have an amazing family vacation and avoid the worry of spending too much.
If you still need help planning, then be sure to sign up for my Vacation Planning Freebie. It is guaranteed to help you take the stress off of planning your next vacation destination!
Thanks for reading,