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Family Vacation Planning Tips for Cheap Adventures

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Original post: 6/11/22; Updated post: 4/19/23

Family vacations are a lot of fun and a great way to get away with the people you love. The best memories are the ones of going to a new place, packing up the car or heading to the airport, and spending quality time with family. After all, experiences often make us happier than possessions.

Family vacations allow you to unplug from the real world, share experiences, and come closer together. However, planning a vacation is a lot of stress especially if you have kids. You have to find a way to keep them entertained while enjoying the vacation yourself.

Figuring out travel plans can be time consuming – are you going to drive or fly? Wherever you stay has to be clean and family friendly. What are you going to do when you get to the destination?

Everyone would love to be on vacation all the time, but it has become very expensive for families to travel. Hotel and flight prices have skyrocketed. You have to budget in gas, groceries, eating out, adventurous activities, and purchases made on the trip. All these expenses add up and can blow your bank account through the roof quickly.

Spring break and summer is the only time to travel with kids, without taking them out of school to do so. Hospitality and travel industries know everyone travels during these times so they can charge higher prices.

Summer is right around the corner, so it is time to start planning those family vacations. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to save money while still having an amazing experience. In this article, we have provided tips to save money on your family vacations.

#1 Timing is Key

If you try to book your vacations last minute, then prices will be very high. Most schools provide when their breaks are, so use this information to your advantage. Plan ahead months and maybe years in advance to lock in those low prices.

There are last minute deals that can save money, but most times they are out of peak seasons and somewhere undesirable. If your kids are not in school yet or they have graduated already, try to plan outside of the prime vacation seasons, when costs are lower and less packed.

#2 Know where to look for deals and coupons

Look for deals online for hotels and flights. There are apps out there that might have different prices for the same hotel so check all booking site options. Using a flight tracking service is another way to save on a major expense. When you start to plan in advance, set notifications when prices are lower.

If you are a last-minute planner, look for hotel deals two weeks before. A lot of times house rentals will lower their prices if no one has booked it by that date. Also just ask the homeowners about renting the house at a reduced, the worst they can say is no.

Wherever your destination is, look for coupons and deals in that area. There might be family discounts for attractions you want to visit. Public transportation may have discounted passes online and look for any place where kids can go for free. Local restaurants could have kids eat free nights and public attractions may be free for kids too.

#3 Be Flexible

Make sure to look around and take advantage of any deal you can find. This might mean you have to be flexible. For travel dates, a day or two difference could mean saving a lot of money on lodging and flights. Consider allowing your kids to miss a day of school if it means substantial savings. If possible, try to plan to travel in the offseason. In this day of online classes and remote work, it is a good opportunity to travel when costs will be lower. It does not matter where you do your online classes or work, why not do them on vacation?

It can be hard to resist tourist hotspots, but if you go somewhere less popular, it could save a ton of money. Going somewhere different does not mean it will not be as fun. There are a ton of hidden spots out there that offer fun things to do. With some research, you could find a really cool destination that can save the bank. There will also be the luxury of avoiding the crowd and all the stress that comes with it.

#4 Budget

One of the most important steps to planning a family vacation is budgeting. Sit down with your partner and establish how much you can spend. Once you have a ballpark number, then try to fit everything under it. Vacations can dent the wallet if you do not have a plan. They are an easy way to impulse spend and feel like you have unlimited money since you are on vacation.

Have the discipline to stick with your budget and do not be afraid to tell your kids no. Budgeting will help you in the long run and racking up credit card debt for a vacation is not ideal.

#5 Travel

Flying is the easiest and quickest option. Just pack a suitcase, drop it off, and enjoy the flight. With that comes a hefty price. Not every family can afford to buy a round-trip ticket, especially larger families. If you do decide to fly, pack light to avoid paying for extra baggage. This will also make it easier to travel if you are hitting multiple spots in one trip. Save up on flight rewards to get discounted or even free flights! If you save them for the big family vacation, that cuts a major expense that allows you to splurge elsewhere.

Road trips are not for everyone, mainly if you have kids. It is more cost-efficient than flying because you only have to pay for gas and food along the way. There are many fun places to stop along the way to make it even more of an adventure. To keep kids entertained on the way, car games, music, movies, reading, and phone games are effective ways to do so. Driving also saves transportation costs when you are at your destination.

Speaking of long drives, add The Modern Husbands Podcast to your car ride listening!

Rental cars can add a large expense to a family vacation budget. These rental agencies tax you with fees, insurance, and prepaid gas options. If you decide to fly and have to rent a car, do so away from the airport. They will be cheaper for sure. Consider public transportation like trains, subways, busses, or Ubers. These services may offer discounts and you can avoid renting a car and parking fees.

#6 Manage Expectations

Staying in fancy hotels is nice, but for most families, it is not realistic. Think about what you really want to get out of a family vacation. For a lot of vacations, you hardly spend any time in the physical place you are staying in. You are mostly out doing things to make it a memorable time. Kids are relatively easy to please and will enjoy any vacation you take them on.

Change the way you vacation. Every time there is a break from school or work, you do not have to go on a large trip. Travel less frequently, but when you do, stay longer, and go all out. The best trips are the ones you put a lot of effort into planning and saving up for.

On the contrary, family vacations do not have to be this big event. Taking day trips or weekend trips are just as valuable and can still be a good time. You do not have to work about lodging or airfare. Just get in the car and experience somewhere new. There are a ton of national parks and places to get outdoors that do not cost a pretty penny.

Consider staying with friends and family. You are killing two birds with one stone. You cut the cost of lodging while reconnecting with important people in your life.

Final Words

There are many ways to save money and make sure that family vacations can still happen. Figure out what you really want to do on the trip and eliminate any other expenses. Shop around when booking flights or lodging because you would be surprised how different some prices may be. Take advantage of any deals that may interest your family. Regardless of where you go, vacations are about making memories with family. Go out, explore, and have a fun time!


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Lowery, G. (2010, March 31). Cornell Chronicle. Glee from Buying Objects Wanes, While Joy of Buying Experiences Keeps Growing. Retrieved February 17, 2022, from


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