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The beloved family vacation. Whether you plan on tossing everything into the minivan and trekking across the country or hopping on a plane to your favorite destination, it is going to cost you money. But, you can still have fun with the family, without going broke. 

Family Vacation Costs

According to CreditDonkey, the average family vacation runs more than $1,400 per person. That runs more than $4,000 for a family of four. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that expensive. There are ways to vacation without spending a small fortune.

By using a few simple tricks, you can give your family the vacation they want, all without blowing the budget. From simple tips such as when to travel and even what to pack, you can have a great time without going broke.

Travel off-season and get a better price.

There are peak travel times when you will pay more money for your trip. These include spring break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Travel destinations know this is when families frequently travel, so they have premium pricing. If you can, plan to visit during other times of the year.

You may not want to take the kids out of school, but it may not be a bad idea. If they can afford to miss a day or two of school, plan your trip in the off-season in mid to late September, October, early December, or January. You can usually find a better deal during these times.

Take advantage of your credit card rewards.

There are plenty of credit cards available that have great perks, such as cash back or airline miles. Save these and use them during vacation time!

Check the terms of your rewards to see if there are additional perks available. You may find you can get a discounted hotel stay, lower rental car rates, or discounted airfare. This is also a great opportunity to use your cashback. Don’t spend it or use it on your monthly bill. Save it and use it during your vacation.

In the months leading up to the trip, use your credit cards in the right locations. For example, if you earn extra rewards when dining out, make sure you use that card for all of your meals. Reviewing all of the perks and using the right card at the right location can help you rack up those rewards even more quickly.

Sign up for money saving offers.

Make sure you get on the newsletter or rewards programs offered by countless retailers. Check out restaurants, hotels, venues, airlines, and rental car companies to see what they offer.

It may not be clear that they have a program, so if you aren’t sure – just ask! You may see a special offer in your inbox for signing up. This can easily build up rewards that you can use during your family vacation, saving you money.

Do your research to save a bundle.

Take the time to look for discount offers online before you travel. A few simple searches might help you find a discount admission to the venue you plan to visit. Check out the current promotions page on the attraction’s site and you might find a special offer that you would not know about otherwise.

If you don’t see an offer on the company’s website, pop over to Groupon. There are many discounts to restaurants and attractions in cities all over the country. Plus, you can even buy them on the spot!

When we went to Orlando a couple of years ago, we stumbled upon a museum our kids wanted to visit. One quick search and I was able to buy a Groupon and that saved us 45% off the cost of admission.

Skip the rental car.

Depending on the size of vehicle you need and the length of time, you might find that renting a car is not the smartest investment. Instead, grab a Lyft or Uber from the hotel to your daily destination. It can be a simple way to save if you don’t plan on doing much driving on your family vacation.

For example, if the vehicle you need will run $75 a day, you may be able to run 2 Uber trips for just $20 each. That is a savings of $35 just in vehicle rentals, not including possibly having to pay for parking and gas. Make sure you calculate the number of trips and average destination costs before you go this route.

Stock up your backpack.

If you have visited any popular attractions, you know the cost of food and water is outlandish. Don’t buy it there – bring it with you instead. Fill water bottles and bring along snacks for the kids, so you have something to give to them when they get hungry.

However, before you go and buy five boxes of granola bars, make sure you check the rules at the park or attraction. Some will allow you to bring in just about anything, while others have restrictions. You don’t want to have to throw something out because it is not permitted.

Plan your stay where breakfast is free.

Many hotels offer free breakfast to their guests. Use this to your advantage on your family vacation. Not only will you save money, but you will also know that the kids will have a full stomach before you head out on your adventure.

If your hotel does not have this availability, see if you can get a small fridge in your room and pick up your breakfast foods and eat in the room. Chances are the cost of the refrigerator and those few breakfast items will be much less than what you would pay for breakfast out several days in a row.

Skip the hotel.

If you plan to travel to a destination where friends or family live, see if you can’t bunk with them for a few days. You’ll get the chance to visit with them while saving a lot of money on your hotel costs. As a thank you for their hospitality, take them out to dinner one night or get them something for their home. 

Grab a CityPASS or PogoPass for big savings.

Another way you can save big money is by purchasing a CityPASS or PogoPASS for the city you will visit. These passes put several attractions together in a single bundle that you buy. This can often be much more cost effective than buying them individually.

Take a look at each site to find to see the included cities. For example, you will find Phoenix on PogoPASS, but not CityPass. Once you know where you will go and the attractions you will see on your family vacation, consider a pass.

Don’t buy souvenirs at the attraction.

You may be tempted to pick up a little something to remember your trip. But, if you buy them in the gift shop at the attraction, you will pay top dollar. Instead, look for free or inexpensive ways to remember your trip.

If you visit the beach, grab some seashells. Grab some postcards or a small figurine that is both easy to travel with and budget-friendly. Check out big box stores close to your destination for tees and other apparel items.

If your kids are young, shop before you go on your family vacation! Pick up small items that mention the destination and give them to the kids when you arrive. They’ll get something new and you won’t pay premium prices.

Whatever you do, try to pass on the big, bulky items because you have to get them home! They may not only take up space in your suitcase, but they also result in a heavier bag that will cost more at the airport.

Tracie Fobes is the owner of the popular money-saving blog, Penny Pinchin’ Mom. She and her husband worked together to pay off $37,000 of debt in two years – all on a single family income. She now teaches families how to budget, save money and live the financial life they want.

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