How to Plan a Fun Family Vacation on a Budget

Modern day life is busy, busy, as parents shuffle between work and keeping up with domestic chores and responsibilities, and kids juggle equally frantic schedules packed with school, homework, sports and leisure activities. As the weeks fly by, it can be difficult to find time to sit and eat together, never mind actually communicate or have fun. This all makes taking the time to enjoy a family vacation pretty essential, although when budgets are tight that may seem like a frivolous spend.

The best route is to compromise and plan a shorter vacation on a budget. Children need quality time with parents who can relax and escape the pressures of everyday life more than they need fancy hotel stays in exotic destinations; in the end, the most lasting memories will be of the fun, laughter, and adventures you experienced together.

Here are some essential tips covering how to plan a great holiday without breaking the bank.

Plan Ahead
Look for good prices on domestic flights or discounts for advanced car rentals. Consider all possible travel options if the price is right, as a train or bus trip or even a combination of several things can be turned into a cost-effective adventure.

Choose Accommodation Close to Free or Cheap Attractions
National Parks provide easy access to nature for a reasonable entry fee, so choosing one as the base area for your vacation makes sense. For example, search online for budget friendly Bryce Canyon hotels and you will find something affordable close to Bryce Canyon National Park. There may also be options for camping, which will reduce the costs further still. Most areas have several free or cheap entertainment possibilities, details of which can be found online quite easily.

Make a Food Plan
Part of the fun of being away from home is not having to shop for, prepare and cook food, or tidy up afterward. But eating three meals a day in diners and restaurants can soon stretch your budget to an uncomfortable point. Ease the strain by making a few plans ahead of time, for example, if your motel offers breakfast make the most of it; it is, after all, the most important meal of the day.

Agree to snack on store-bought fruit or other healthy food at lunchtime and check out sites like Groupon or look for discount coupons and promotions for possible evening meals. (Many places offer 2-for-1 or ‘early bird’ specials, but having a few details of recommended budget food places is wise, just in case.

Create a Project
Planning an interesting project that everyone can contribute to while away on vacation is a good way to channel children’s interest into a low-cost activity. Choose a topic or theme that suits both the interests and ages of your children, for example, a photography project with a focus on one thing, such as trees or clouds.
At the end of the day a vacation is about spending time with those you love, and giving your kids undivided attention in a relaxed environment is worth more to them than any amount of money.

Image via Getty Images

Mamasita Amber
Mama of three children and proud new mama of a standard poodle named Prince Miguel.

21 Responses to “How to Plan a Fun Family Vacation on a Budget

    robin masshole mommy
    4 years ago

    These are all great tips. I am always looking to save money when we travel.

  • Great tips – as the kids get older, we end up spending more and more while away on trips. Sometimes I really do very little thinking ahead about what to do during the evening time and we end up randomly spending money.

  • LOVE the food idea! I feel like food expenses are one of the biggest on family vacations. Eating at the hotel when you can is one of the quickest ways to save $$.

  • Loving your main idea of compromise. It does not have be an “all or nothing” trip. It can be shorter (like you said) and you can find budget ideas to make it work!

  • Love these tips! I’m always looking for ways to travel and save money. We do budget trips all the time, and it totally doesn’t have to be an all or nothing trip. We went a few weeks ago for a mini getaway and only did a couple of things in that area. It’s a reason to go back one day!

  • I like the ideas of planning ahead and making a food plan! Great tips.

  • Love the tips. I also think vacationing at a place where the main activity is free is helpful such as beach or hiking.

  • Great tips! Our food savings was like this: breakfast in the room, a nice lunch out and then pizza or hamburgers from a local joint for dinner. We ate the fancy places at lunch, that way the menu was a bit cheaper and we didn’t have to dress up as much.

  • We are trying to figure out where to go this summer for our family vacation. I want a spot, my son wants another spot, my husband wants an altogether different spot – so o one can agree right now!

  • I try to majorly plan when I go on a trip too! Food I feel like can end up being one of the biggest expenses.

  • I think the key to any good vacation is to plan ahead and find the best deals. Even if you aren’t on a budget, you shouldn’t spend all your money when you can find specials on accommodation and travel.

  • I have found that planning ahead is the biggest help! My husband is so last minute on everything that I end up doing all of the planning. Having an idea on food is great too. I know we try to take sandwich stuff with us so we aren’t eating out for every meal.

  • Visiting a national park would be such a great vacation, and so affordable! I would love to visit the Grand Canyon someday!

  • This is so helpful to me right now. I’ve been dying to go on vacation, on a budget. I completely agree that planning ahead is the way to go. It’s when you wait till the very last minute that you end up spending money you don’t want to. Great tips!

  • You are so right. Planning ahead is super important for saving money. This way you can have a budget and not go over.

  • These are awesome tips. It’s a great idea to plan things ahead of time as it definitely saves money and the last minute chaos

    Reesa Lewandowski
    4 years ago

    I always find getting somewhere can be the hardest part. There is so many places that offer free and very cheap things to do!

    4 years ago

    We have such a big family doing everything on a budget is necessary. So this is very helpful. Would love to take a vacation as a family!

  • Nothing beats the quality time spent on a family vacation! And we all love to save money right? 🙂

  • I really like the project idea. That is something I haven’t thought of when planning our family travel!

  • We are going on a family vacation in two months. This post will help me save some money. Thanks for sharing this post with us. Enjoyed reading.

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