Family travel can be very expensive especially in the summertime. But the kids are out of school and this is the best time for many families to go on adventures! So obviously you need some money-saving tips for your summer travel. If you plan ahead and are creative you can have a fun, frugal family vacation without breaking the bank.
Here are some money-saving tips for an unforgettable vacation even on a tight budget.
1. Choose a Fun and Affordable Destination Early
Do your research on where you want to travel. Choose a destination that is kid-friendly and has something for everyone in the family. With a little planning, you can choose an affordable family destination. Here are 22 ideas for places to travel with toddlers.
2. Transportation – Plan How You will Get There?
2. Choose a transportation method – flight, drive, bus, train – and plan out a travel route early. The best time to get plane tickets is about 2-4 months in advance – sometimes longer.
We take lots of road trips because this is the most cost-effective transportation with a large family. Make sure to include plenty of ideas of places to stop and integrant things to do. Remember it’s about the journey, not just the destination.
3. Check for Discounts
Look for discounts and freebies such as meals included with hotel rooms, family entrance fees, free days, and coupons. In fact, we try to include If you have a 4th grader, Every Kid in a Park pass gives the whole car-free entrance into national parks. (The deal gets sweeter the more people you have in the car)
4. Reserve Early and Cancel Later
3. Reserve accommodations as soon as you you know your travel plans. Many hotels and booking sites offer free cancellation or changes in reservations. Read the cancelation policy and then reserve as soon as possible. Our favorite site for reserving hotels, B&B and private rentals is Booking.com.
5. Get Creative with Accommodations
Hotels are generally the go-to solution for accommodations but a little creativity and you can save a lot of money and add interest and excitement to your vacation. You can read more about what we have to say about the secrets to getting the best accommodations for a family.
6. Search for Deals on Hotels
Hotels are sometimes the most expensive way to stay overnight but the most straightforward option. If you plan ahead and scour the internet you may find a good deal on a hotel. With our family of 8 we try to stay in hotels with suites – Homewood suites or the Marriott Suites are good options. We get an extra room and a kitchenette. They also frequently have extra free meals and snacks in the morning and night.
7. Try Camping and Glamping
Campgrounds at many National Parks have tent camping, cabins, yurts, and other accommodations. Don’t forget to check nearby state parks. For example, Dead Horse Point State Park is a perfect location for touring Arches National Park, Canyonlands, and Moab. Another time we stayed in a cabin at Yellowstone on a road trip one time.
8. Consider an Apartment or Condo
AirBNB and VRBO are two of our favorite sites to search for house or apartment rentals. We meet great people and save money over hotel rooms. With a family it is so nice to have all a house or apartment has to offer. We generally cook breakfast, pack a lunch for the day’s adventure and then eat dinner back at the apartment.
9. Rent an RV
On a recent trip to Canada, we rented an RV. They had a half-price sale and some extras included. A week in an RV saved money over a van rental and hotel rooms. Plus we didn’t have to drag everything in and out of a hotel room every time. Check out our Best Tips for Your First RV Trip with Young Kids
10. Stay Where Summer is Off-Season
If your a little flexible try timing travel on weekdays and off-peak times you can snag a good deal. Even in the summer, some places are offseason. For example, we have enjoyed many multigenerational gatherings at Colorado ski areas in the summer.
11. Consider All Your Transportation Options
Flying can be very expensive. I plan for tickets far ahead and scan the internet for cheap flights. Check nearby cities. A recent trip to upstate New York was much cheaper to fly into Toronto than Buffalo. We added a Canada side trip in. Win, win!
12. Summer is for Road Trips
A road trip can save on expensive airfare especially in the summer. Road trips take a little planning but can be a great experience for the whole family. And you can go at your own pace!
Driving is easier without worrying about winter storms too (If you happen to plan a winter or spring road trip, we got you covered with these winter road trip safety tips.)
Believe it or not, even the times when everyone is losing their mind – your family will look back on that and laugh. Here are some of our best tips for road trips with little kids.
13. Bring Your Own Food
Whether on a road trip, boat or flying, I am always dragging a cooler along. Well, making my husband drag a cooler along. (He is a good sport.)
Food is a major vacation expense, so bringing food is a great money-saving strategy. For inflight snacks or on a road trip grocery shop and cook ahead of time. Otherwise, locate the nearest grocery store to your destination and plan to shop when you arrive. I include a meal plan for every trip. You can grab my free tip planning toolkit here.
14. Embrace the Fun of Picnics
Plan picnic lunches during your trip and let everyone play outside. Picnics are so versatile. You can picnic right in the middle of an airport, on the tailgate of the car, at the beach or at a rest stop off the highway.
When we are driving the last thing I want to do is get out of the car and sit in a restaurant. I want to get everyone out and let them run.
15. Cook in Your Hotel Room
Food is expensive and eating out really adds up! Bring your own food for truly frugal family travel. Cook in your hotel room or other accommodation. Bring a cooler of food or use the fridge. (Yep, I drag a cooler into every hotel room we stay).
As long as you have an outlet and sink you can figure out a way to cook. You can bring a crockpot, insta-pot or electric skillet. I also pack a small kitchen kit with a knife, cutting board, serving spoon, trash bag, sponge soap and some other necessities. With just a few items and food you can make one-pot meals such as chili, stir fry or stew. Hot dogs, microwave vegetable bags, bacon and burritos work well too.
16. Be Wise about Eating Out
Eating out is expensive but it is all part of the experience of traveling. So if you are frugal with your food budget and follow the tips above to save money on food, you will have some extra money to eat out. Of course, choose a kid-friendly restaurant and be careful to watch the prices.
If you do eat out you look for kids to eat free or split meals between kids. Also, avoid the kid’s menu and have kids share adult portions. I either don’t let the waiter put the kid’s menu on the table or like in the case of Mc Donalds, I know what want the kids ahead of time.
Pro Tip: Order one large item at the drive-through and ask for an extra empty package. For example, order large drinks and ask at the window for a couple of extra small water cups. Or Large Fries and a couple of the small paper fry cups.
17. Find Free Things to Do
Plan your travel entertainment by bringing along games and finding free things to do at your destination. Make travel fun by packing games and have some ideas ready. We generally include free and cheap activities in all of our Destination Guides. For example – 100+ Free Things to do in Colorado
Travel is such a great bonding adventure for your family and a memorable experience for kids! Don’t stay home because you think travel has to be only for the elite! Plan ahead for frugal travel with your family this summer!
What is your favorite money-saving tip for frugal family travel?