Finding ideas for cheap family vacations that are both fun and budget-friendly can be quite a challenge…but it’s not impossible.
It just takes some time, creativity, and motivation to draft the plan and assemble the itinerary.
And once you find and experience these affordable getaways, you’ll often wonder why you stressed about the original higher-dollar vacation to begin with.
Simplicity can often lead to more family fun bonding time and some terrific memories. Thinking back, it makes me laugh remembering the kid’s impression when they realized our cabin in Yellowstone had no TV, internet, or private bathroom…that was their favorite lodging on the Yellowstone vacation, by the way (the $70/night at Roosevelt Lodge…not the $220/night splurge at Old Faithful Inn?!).
Here are some cheap family vacation ideas that don’t skimp a bit on fun-value and have been some of our family’s favorite things to do:
Don’t let the stay pre-fix fool you. These vacations can take you on some great road trips and turn out to be a blast! We had a family vote night where everyone threw 3-5 ideas into a hat. We read them out and voted on the top themes. These included a trip to see a Triple A baseball game with ice cream and fireworks afterwards; a day to the local state park for picnic and paddle boat rentals; a night at the bowling alley (bowl by the hour); a day at the neighborhood pool with pizza and a movie afterwards; make your own Sundae night; game night; and much more. String together a week of these and you’ve got yourself a fun, cheap family vacation that is wallet-friendly.
The top 2 costs of many vacations are airfare & rental car. When we’ve driven to Disney World instead of flying, we’ve saved $1,000-$1,500! Plus, we’ve gotten many other adventures as we stopped along the way (South of the Border, St. Augustine, Cape Canaveral, etc..). I know that a lot of people can’t imagine driving that many hours with their kids in the car…try it and you might plan a follow-on road trip with all of the money that you saved!
When our family of 6 eats out, the tab can be pretty steep. So what we typically do is pack our breakfast and lunch and do a fun dinner out. We also limit soda to 1 or 2 nights per week and drink water the rest of the time. Aside from being a healthier option, water is much better for you, too! Planning ahead; carrying water bottles; and buying a loaf of bread and peanut butter here and there has saved us over $100 per day in food costs and lets us spend that money on longer vacations and nice sit-down restaurant dinners…well worth it!
The most expensive time to go on vacation in usually the months of July, August, and the weeks around Easter and Christmas. These are the peak vacation times, and when the Demand of vacationers exceeds the Supply of accommodations. Try the week after school lets out or a week in the fall or winter. Talk it over with your kid’s school and see if they would allow the absence. We’ve rented beachfront homes that were 1/3 the rental cost that they would have been if we rented 2 weeks earlier. Not only will this tactic make for a cheap family vacation, it will also make for more manageable crowds!
Lodging, airfare, rental cars, eating out…these are what drives vacation costs sky high. But a little searching and cost comparisons can literally save you thousands of dollars on your vacation. Sometimes all you need to do is ASK. For example, in talking to a rental car agency I discovered that if I was a AAA member I could save more than 4x the cost of membership from the rental cost. My wife and I have also found coupon codes online that have cut lodging costs in HALF. Shop around, ask for discounts, search for codes…it’s worth the time and effort!
You need not sacrifice the quality of your excursion to have a cheap family vacation. I used to think that packing food defeated the purpose of a vacation…until our 4 boys grew up and started eating twice as much as my wife &me!
To be honest, I think our family feels better and has more fun when eating out is a periodic treat rather than a thrice-a-day event.