Family Travel on a Budget: How to Save Money and Still Have a Great Time

Family Travel on a Budget: How to Save Money and Still Have a Great Time

Are you itching to get out and travel with your family, but don’t want to go broke? Don’t worry—you don’t have to! Planning your trip well in advance can help you save money on everything from lodging to food to sightseeing, allowing you to have the vacation you want without going into debt in the process. Learn how to plan a great trip with your family on a budget in this helpful article on family travel on a budget.


Pick your time of travel carefully

One way you can save money while traveling with family is to pick your travel times wisely. It’s easy to plan an expensive trip when you schedule everything around peak vacation times, but it’s just as easy not to. Consider visiting during off-peak seasons or at different points in your family’s life cycle; for example, instead of summer vacations when your kids are school-aged, consider winter break or spring break for some time together without distractions. Remember that you can also incorporate cheaper travel methods like using city public transportation instead of renting a car (which includes parking fees) and staying in lodging within walking distance of attractions rather than booking flights between multiple locations.


Pack lightly

While it might seem great at first to have everything you need at your fingertips, it’s even better if you can get by with only what will fit in one bag. If you’re taking a road trip, that’s your luggage. Even if you fly, bring as few carry-on items as possible—you’ll save money (and plenty of time) by not having to stop off at every souvenir store along the way. And don’t worry about spending too much money; there are plenty of inexpensive things to do while traveling with family. Picnics, beach days and campsites are all within reach when you plan ahead.


Include the whole family

family trave

Instead of pinching pennies for just your own family, think about how your spending habits impact everyone in your family. This can help you remember that you’re part of a larger unit (rather than acting like an independent entity), which can be helpful when determining where best to cut costs. When planning family travel, everyone should be aware that he or she is making sacrifices as well as getting perks. For example, maybe Grandma takes care of Junior so Mom doesn’t have to work overtime while Dad’s out hitting golf balls at night so he can get his work done during his vacation time. Not every member of the extended family will want to make sacrifices—but it’s important to explain those choices before leaving home rather than finding out there are problems once you’ve arrived at your destination.

Seek out free entertainment options

In most cases, entertainment options are never far away. If you need ideas for how to keep your family entertained without breaking your budget, seek out free activities in your community. Libraries, parks, recreation centers and even community festivals (this varies from state-to-state) all offer free entertainment options that can be fun for everyone. When you combine free with family, everyone wins!


Shop at supermarkets instead of specialty shops

Supermarkets carry all sorts of goods, from toothpaste to packaged meals. If you don’t want to spend money at fast food restaurants or gas stations, try stopping at a supermarket or convenience store for snacks. And when it comes time to eat out, skip restaurant chains in favor of local places that may not be as expensive. Don’t take your kids out for dinner; instead plan potluck family dinners or cook big batches of food over weekends and freeze them for later consumption. You can save even more money by packing lunch every day; use reusable containers instead of plastic bags, too! Need more tips? Our best cheap travel ideas can help inspire your next trip.


Stick with public transportation when possible

Public transportation is generally less expensive than renting a car, paying for gas, parking, food and other incidentals. If you do have to rent or drive your own car while traveling, it’s important to stick with public transportation as much as possible. It can also be smart to purchase an all-day pass instead of paying per ride or take advantage of early bird specials. Researching your options ahead of time will allow you to save money on travel while still being able to explore all areas of a new city.



It’s possible to travel with kids for less than you think; all you have to do is know where (and when) to look. To save money during your family trips, learn about how each destination operates. Familiarize yourself with budget-travel apps like Hipmunk and Hopper so you can optimize your vacation search based on price. Study up on discounts—such as AAA or other membership programs—and take advantage of free activities. Finally, get familiar with transportation options ahead of time so that you can find out when family dollar closes in your next city. Some of them are truly one-of-kind experiences that will make your trip unforgettable, even if they’re pretty affordable too!




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