It’s likely that you — and everyone in your family — are overdue for a getaway.
That being said, the pandemic likely drained (or is about to drain) any vacation savings you might’ve had tucked away. And you’re not alone. Economists are saying that many working and middle-class households’ “excess savings” could be wholly exhausted by early next year. This probably solidifies a no-go for flashy vacations.
But there are ways to make getaways financially possible, while still being fun for the whole fam. Let’s dive into how to plan family trips on a budget.
Choose your trip based on amenities, not location
Have you and the kids always dreamed of lying on Maui’s famous beaches? Or maybe you and your partner love the thought of club-hopping on Miami’s Ocean Drive. Or maybe you have a high schooler with a budding love for musical theater and, by association, New York City.
You might not be able to afford to go to these specific destinations right now, but you can go somewhere that has similar amenities. Choose a closer destination that’s a bit less popular (which means the accommodations and activities will be less pricey) but that still offers what you want: tranquil beaches, bumping nightlife, great theater.
Sometimes these getaways are the best because there are fewer tourists and annoying tourist traps!
Get creative with transport
This year, you might not fly. Instead, you can save some money by driving or renting a van for your family. This can shave hundreds of dollars off your expenses. Ditto for overnight accommodations. Instead of hotels, try camping in cabins at state parks for a few nights. Or stay with a relative en route who’d love to have you visit!
Pack snacks and drinks
Stop at grocery stores along your drive and stock up on granola bars, fruit snacks, bottled water and other nonperishables to tuck away in the car — this will eliminate the need to pay inflated prices for snacks at hotels or roadside gas stations. And everyone will have the treats they want when they want them! Leave your precious vacation-food budget dollars for the delicious local cuisine at your destination.
You can save even more when you download our app for some pretty sweet cash back offers on the go (no printer needed).
Plan out activities ahead of time
Get online and research your destination. Many museums, water parks, zoos, aquariums, historical sites, amusement parks and other attractions offer discounts if you buy your tickets ahead of time. Do this to save a few dollars and have a game plan for a couple (or all) of your vacation days. Win-win!
You might also discover that some places offer lower rates on slow-traffic days (usually weekdays) to get more visitors. If your schedule allows it, plan to visit during these off-peak times to avoid crowds and higher rates.
Give the kids a budget
We like the idea of breaking down your overall vacation budget even further: food, housing, activities and souvenirs. Set an amount for each area, and stick to it! But parents shouldn’t be the only ones doing all the work keeping costs down — depending on how old your kiddos are, give them a bit of financial responsibility with a budget of their own.
Give them each a dollar amount they’re allowed to spend. Then, they’ll have to decide what they really want to use the money for rather than begging you every time they see something shiny. Remember: If it’s in their budget, you have to allow them to spend as they wish (even if what they want is kinda weird …).
Sit down and make a game plan
Grab a notebook and ask the family what types of activities they’d want to do on vacation. What would they want to see? What do they want to experience? What would make them happy? Jot down all the ideas, and then brainstorm family trips on a budget you can take based on their wishes.
Again, you don’t have to go to some top-tier, top-dollar destination to have fun. Perhaps visiting a medium-sized city or lesser-known historical site will turn into the perfect memory-making getaway — and years from now, no one will remember that money was ever an issue at that moment.