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How to Save Money for a Family Vacation!

You don’t think you have enough money to pay the bills much less to save money for a family vacation.  

That’s the kicker, isn’t it?  Your family desperately needs a vacation but the challenge is how to save enough money to fill your travel fund. 


The 3 simple steps to save money for  a vacation are:


1. Reduce the cost of your trip

2. Save money by reducing expenses and spending

3. Make more money 

Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor.  I just know a thing or two about debt from experience and I know a thing or two about saving money and side hustles – again from experience.

1. Reduce the cost of your trip

Family travel can range from extremely frugal to luxury.  Obviously, the less the trip costs the less money you will need to save for a vacation.  And the quicker you reach your travel savings goal! 

You can still travel in style, you will just need to be a little more creative.

While you are planning your vacation try to reduce the cost of the trip.   Download and print this extensive travel planning guide to help you through that process of planning your trip.  

Also, check out this budget travel board on Pinterest you can follow and get more ideas.



Getting to and from your destination is generally the largest expense in your travel budget, especially if you are flying.  So that’s a good place to start. 

Flying can be very expensive. The cost for a family is multiplied by 4, 5, 6, 7 depending on the size of your family.  So airline tickets become very expensive quickly.  

Some ideas to reduce the cost of transportation to your vacation destination: 

  • Go before the kids are 2 years old
  • Check for companion tickets and discounts
  • Follow Pinterest boards for ideas 
  • Choose cheap destination
  • Book 4-6 months in advance
  • Travel off-season
  • Watch for sales and discounts
  • Set airfare alerts with skyscanner
  • Check Travelocity and Google flights and then the airline’s website
  • Consider different airports
  • Be flexible on travel dates
  • Pack wisely and avoid extra baggage fees
  • Use points and miles (more on this later)

Read more about how to get the cheapest flights for your family in this post


Another Option is to drive. 

A  family can drastically reduce the time the cost of travel by driving.  For us, one plane ticket that may be only $300 becomes $1800 in travel expenses.

If we have the time to drive we take a couple weeks to do a road trip. 

When the first kids came along, I admit 5 hours was about the limit.  We have pushed that over time. 

We just completed a 20-hour drive home from the Pacific Northwest in less than 2 days. 

That was more like a mad dash – car trouble, ER visit, flat tire, lose a kid in the store – kind of a challenge I don’t want to repeat.  But it was a family adventure and the kids remember the fun of it. 

Bonus if you have a camper that is transportation, accommodation and food expenses on wheels.   

When we road trip with the camper we save money on accommodation and eating out.  

We generally eat breakfast in the camper.  Then we stop at a rest area or playground near us for a picnic lunch and running around. At dinnertime, we again stop at another playground or interesting location and run around.   We may have a picnic dinner or just warm something right in the camper.


With a family, where to sleep is the next big expense. 

For the most part, we have outgrown one hotel room.   It’s possible for a night or two but it’s getting tighter and tighter as the kids get bigger.  Plus many hotels have restrictions on the number of people.

We have a whole guide on cheap places to sleep for your family.

  • Hotels
  • Hotels with suites
  • Check for a range of plans to stay
  • AirBNB and VRBO
  • Rent apartment
  • Stay in hostels in family rooms
  • Rent a camper or tow your own – we rented one RV in Canada
  • Stay with friends – tap into your FB and social media networks


Local Transportation:

Once you are at your destination, you will still need to get around the area.   The options for local transportation will depend on where you are, the distance between activities and the number of people in your group. 

You may plan on renting a car from the airport but you should consider other creative solutions as well. 

When we flew into Toronto, the rental vans were so expensive to rent and hotels weren’t cheap either.  I found a really great deal on an RV.  We actually saved money by combining transportation and accommodation.

  • Road trip and have your car with you
  • Rent an RV
  • Public transportation
  • Stay in a central location
  • Stay at a resort
  • Reserve car early and check websites
  • Reduce car rental rate with auto slash
  • Use points or free rental coupons


Vacation Activities:

Everyone has a different travel rhythm and style. 

Our travel style is to do one or two activities that we splurge on and the rest of the time budget or mostly free things to do.

For the one or two big activities, I search Pinterest, Google and TripAdvisor

Tip: I check the bad reviews of any location first.  I want to know what people are complaining about.  If a place does not kid-friendly, that’s a deal-breaker but other things I may not mind. 

On to the cheap or free things to do.  Outdoor activities – hikes, beaches, creeks –  are always a hit with our kids.

Playgrounds – We love, love discovering playgrounds all over the world. We have found some really cool playgrounds like the Giant themed one in Dublin

You can use Google and Pinterest as well as local guides to search for free things to do at your destination.

Rewards, Points and Miles by Travel Hacking

Travel hacking is basically strategically collecting miles and points to gain free or cheap travel.  Sounds awesome right!

You will find information everywhere on the internet about how single people travel hack and get free first class flights all over the world.  My strategy is less about luxury travel and more about just getting everyone to the destination of choice and a place to sleep.

Here is a quick introduction to the travel hacking strategy:

  1. Decide where you want to travel
  2. Sign up for airline miles accounts for each family member
  3. Sign up for hotel points for the places you will stay
  4. Get the credit cards that will give you high sign up bonuses and points and miles on spending
  5. Follow the ways to earn points and miles for the above accounts
  6. Keep records of all the bonus point challenges that you complete.
  7. Keep a spreadsheet to track sign up requirements, bonuses and other points that you are to receive
  8. Search for available dates for the flights and hotels you want to stay at and book with miles.

There is a whole art to travel hacking with points and miles but you can gain huge advantage from just starting small.  I have collected miles and points from credit cards, flying and sleeping at hotels, and bonuses associated with shopping or other tasks.

Also, pay attention to other benefits from the card such as Global Entry, travel credits, free lounge access, free checked bags and priority boarding.

One time, I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve when I knew we would be spending a lot of money to pay off some hospital bills.  I easily hit the spending limit and got the 80,000 miles in flexible points.  

That’s 3 tickets to see family in New York for us.  Halfway to our required 6 airline tickets.

The key to credit card travel hacking is spending money within your budget and paying it off every month. 

If you plan to buy a home or car soon, you already credit card debt, have trouble sticking to a budget, or forget to make your payments – this game is not for you yet.  Maybe never.

As you reduce the cost of your trip go back to the savings goal and update it.  Celebrate the little wins as a family together with a little happy dance or high fives.

2. Reduce Expenses to Save Money

The second way to start saving money for a family vacation is to set a budget and reduce expenses.

A budget can be painful or it can be motivating.  Either way you have to face the fire and get your budget straight. 

After that, you can focus in on a plan to save money for a family vacation.

You will need to evaluate both the set expenses, such as mortgage and the discretionary spending such as your latte or chocolate habit.  

Where do I even start?

To save money by reducing expenses and spending is easiest to start with discretionary spending.

If the money is already allocated in your budget and you’re buying expensive lunches and extra entertainment.

Go for the biggest bang for your buck.  Cut out expenses that bring you the least amount of enjoyment. 

For me cable TV was easy.  But chocolate – I’ld have to be in dire straights.  That’s the last to go. 

Little things will add up in your savings travel funds. A three dollar coffee per day is $90 per month or $1095 year towards your vacation.   My list below should get you started on some ideas.  You can find over 100 ideas that add up to $10k in 6months to save money for travel in this post. 


  • Reduce utility costs being more efficient with water, gas and electricity.
  • Lower the temperature during the winter and increase during the summer
  • Use energy efficient light bulbs new paragraph cancel your gym membership
  • Hang your clothes out to dry instead of using the dryer

Car and home:

  • Save on fuel by driving slower and combining errands
  • DIY car maintenance and repairs – youtube is a great resource for this.
  • Sell a vehicle or recreational vehicle
  • Do your own home maintenance
  • Mow your own lawn 

Grocery and Food:

  • Stop eating out – its expensive!
  • Go on picnics – seriously who wants to get kids to sit still in a restaurant
  • Freeze leftovers
  • Make cheap recipes
  • Buy stables at a discount warehouse – I love Costco and I keep a list of the best deals 
  • Buy groceries once a week or every other week
  • Garden- grow your own fruits and vegis
  • Create a weekly meal plan and stick to it
  • Shop by yourself with a full belly – don’t shop hungry
  • Cut back on drinks – wine and beer are expensive but so a is fancy rootbeer


Subscriptions and memberships:

  • Cancel newspaper and magazine subscriptions
  • Cancel Cable TV – we use a Roku and Red Box
  • Cancel premium media – pandora, amazon, itunes,
  • Call the phone and cable to reduce the cost – we do this every couple months
  • Cancel the phone  – use a wifi phone, Skype or Facebook Messenger

Save money on Gifts and Holidays

  • Give homemade gifts
  • Opt out of gift exchanges
  • Keep a detailed list and stick to the budget
  • Request money for your travel fund

Other Ideas:

  • Take a no spending day or week challenge
  • Stop shopping
  • Buy used – we love thrift shops and garage sales
  • Library
  • Pay off credit cards each month
  • Reduce insurance premiums be reviewing health, car, home and life insurance
  • Make your own cleaning supplies
  • Cut your own hair – we have six heads – that really adds up around here

Of course there are so many more ideas. I created this Money Saving board on Pinterest for more ideas as I see them.

4. Make More Money

Getting a handle on your spending habits and cutting out unnecessary spending is the best way to save money.  To really increase your travel fund you can make more money.  

Side Hustle:

One way to increase your income is to try a new side hustle. You may get a part-time job or decide to join the ranks of entrepreneurs and do something creative. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Get a second job
  • Work overtime
  • Ask for a raise
  • Tutor
  • Teach English Online
  • Freelance on places like Fiverr
  • Teach music lessons
  • Dog sitting or walking
  • House Sitting
  • Direct Sales – essential oils, candles, vitamins
  • Rent out a room, a camper, car or other space
  • Yard work, moving lawns landscaping
  • Childcare
  • Sell on Amazon or Etsy
  • Ask for money for birthdays and holidays.
  • Sell your stuff

Separate travel savings account

When you do start to accumulate extra money make sure to move it into a separate travel savings fund. You can even automate payments to these accounts. Some even have built-in encouragement for saving towards your goal. 

Don’t forget interest as part of the income either.  So look into high-interest savings accounts.  This CD latter strategy might work too.

Enjoy Your Family Vacation!

After working towards a goal of saving for your family vacation, get out there and enjoy it! 

Accomplishing a goal together will have strengthened your family bond and the whole journey will be a learning experience.  You can be really proud of each other for saving money for your vacation as a team!  

And you won’t have to worry about the financial part.

What does your family do to save money for travel?

Learn more about our family adventures!

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