Are you guilty of going on vacation without a clear budget, charging every expense, and thinking the entire time “how are we going to be able to pay for all of this?” I know my family has been guilty of this on more than one vacation. Even when we have a pretty good idea of how much we want to spend, we would often end up paying far more than we envisioned.
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Let’s face it. Family vacations can cost a lot of money. The money spent on travel can very easily be one of the biggest household expenses of the year, exceeding even your Christmas budget. That’s why it’s so important to think about the anticipated expenses before the start of your vacation.
That’s why I’ve come up with these 7 smart tips to help you save money on your next family vacation.
1. Create a Vacation Budget
You always want to start with the end in mind. That’s why having a budget is crucial when it comes to family vacation. One way we save for vacation is by determining the year before how much we want to spend on our vacations for the entire year.
Then each month we put away a set amount in a separate vacation savings account. We love Capital One 360 for this purpose since it allows you to create up to 25 separate savings accounts. We have several savings accounts for large budget items, like property taxes and Christmas.
For each vacation planned during the year, create a budget. By creating a budget for lodging, transportation, food, entertainment, and spending money, you’re much more likely to stay within your means on your family vacation.
You can download this simple vacation budget planner to help you plan your budget:
Don’t forget to add in things like hotel tax and parking fees. These forgotten items often add up quickly and can put you way over your budget.
2. Search Out Free Local Events
Another great way to save on family vacation is to search out free local events. Take a look in the local paper or local websites for free concerts or movies in the park.
Free local events are not only a smart way to save money, but they are also a great way to learn more about the city or town you are visiting.
3. Go for a Hike or Visit a National Park
Get out in nature. Exploring nature is always a great budget-friendly and kid-friendly activity. Visit a local park or beach.
National Parks are also an inexpensive way to spend the day and experience the beauty of God’s handiwork. You can download the Student Conservation Association’s Park in Your Pocket at this site. This pocket-sized guide is an easy way to search for nearby National Parks. They also have a mobile version if you prefer.
If you’re vacationing the week of August 25-28, the National Park Service is waiving entrance fees so go for a hike or go camping for a night.
4. Don’t Forget About Free Museum Days
Many museums offer a free museum day at least once a month. Check out their websites to find out if you’re traveling on a free museum day.
If you’re a Bank of America and Merrill Lunch customer, take advantage of their free museum day. They offer these free museum days on the first full weekend of every month.
5. Eat Breakfast In and Pack a Lunch
Another big budget-killer is eating out. The best way to save money on food when on vacation is to get a hotel with a kitchen so you can prepare and store food.
A general rule of thumb should be to eat in or pack a meal at least two times a day on your vacation. You can save big by eating breakfast at the hotel and packing a lunch and snacks for the day.
Then you won’t feel so guilty for splurging at a nice restaurant for dinner at least once or twice on your vacation. After all, in my opinion at least, eating great food is a huge part of the vacation experience!
6. Get Discounts on Restaurants
And when you are deciding on a restaurant for dinner, why not save by using a coupon or a discounted gift card?
If you’re a member of Costco, go to the local Costco store and buy some restaurant gift cards. You can usually save 20% or more on a restaurant bill by using these gift cards.
Another source I love for saving on restaurant bills is restaurant.com. Download their mobile app so you can quickly search for deals near your vacation spot.
7. Choose an Affordable Place to Stay
Finally, the biggest way to save on your family vacation is by deciding on an affordable place to stay.
You really have three choices when it comes to lodging: an expensive resort, a chain hotel, or a vacation home rental. My favorite of these three by far is a vacation home rental. You can rent a house or condo through a site like Airbnb.com or VRBO.com.
You can save a lot of money when you rent a house or condo on your vacation, especially if you’re planning on vacationing for a week or more. There’s usually a discount for staying at least seven nights.
Plus, there are many other benefits to staying at a house or condo, like a kitchen, space to let the kids run free, and no parking fees!
By planning ahead, you can enjoy your vacation with your family without the stress of worrying about how you’re going to pay for all of this when you return. Don’t forget to download the free family vacation budget printable below to help you plan your budget.
I’d love to hear your tips for saving money on family vacations in the comments section below.