Guest Blogger, Alexis Hall, shares great tips on how the most frugal among us can make vacations happen!
Traveling as a couple is expensive enough. But when you add kids into the mix, affording a vacation often seems impossible. However, you don’t have to travel to an exotic destination or buy tickets to Disneyland to make a family vacation worthwhile. Use these tips to plan a vacation you’ll love on a budget you can afford.
Choose a Destination Within Driving Distance
Flying adds thousands of dollars to your travel costs. While it’s possible to fly kids under the age of 2 for free as lap children (with the exception of international flights), the discomfort may not be worth the cost savings. Instead of overspending or suffering through an uncomfortable flight, choose a destination you can drive to. A location six to eight hours away is the perfect distance to feel like you’re far away while staying within a day’s drive.
Find Your Own Adventure
Guided tours, amusement parks, and other popular tourist attractions are convenient but costly. To keep daily travel costs low, opt for off-the-beaten-path activities like going on nature hikes, attending local festivals, and strolling through historic neighborhoods. You’ll also find lower prices on dining and souvenirs when you get outside the main tourist areas.
Shop Secondhand for Travel Essentials
A new cooler, swimsuits for the kids, travel toys, hiking boots — going on vacation can mean buying a lot of new gear. Before paying full-price at retail stores, check yard sales, thrift stores, and secondhand websites for the things you need. You can pay a fraction of the price when you find clothing and other travel essentials through the secondhand economy.
Opt for a Vacation Rental
Some resorts cater to families, with tons of kid-friendly activities and even on-site childcare. However, these resorts are expensive — price tags of $100 to $200 per person per night aren’t unusual — and mainstream hotels leave a lot to be desired.
Instead of a hotel, book a vacation rental for your family trip. You’ll have more space, so there’s no need to book multiple rooms or pay extra for a suite. Most vacation rentals also include full kitchens, so you can prepare family-friendly meals at your home base rather than eating out multiple times a day. If you’re worried about what these perks will cost you, don’t be. On average, vacation rental costs are comparable to hotels.
Lighten Your Itinerary
Packing as many attractions and activities into your day as possible is a recipe for tired, cranky kids. It also drives up spending on admission and travel costs. Instead of trying to do everything, pick one or two activities per day and learn to enjoy the slower pace of a family vacation.
Be prepared with low-key entertainment options for relaxing at your vacation rental. Backyard toys and packable games like Bananagrams are a great way to spend an evening indoors with the kids. When you need some downtime, keep the kids busy with a small, portable streaming device that you can plug into a TV or computer. There are a few media streamer options on the market, so do some research to find the right one and load it up with the free apps needed to watch your favorite TV programs and movies. Just watch out for data overages — if you’re not staying somewhere with WiFi, you may want to buy extra cellular data for your trip.
Family vacations are about bonding with your children and discovering new places together, not exotic destinations and extravagant experiences. Instead of worrying about how you’ll afford a flashy vacation, focus on creating a memorable experience that fits your budget.
Ms. Hall is a single mom to three kids. She works as a nurse and enjoys providing support and advice to single parent families in her spare time.
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