Cheap Family Vacations!

Cheap Family Vacations! ~ from Our Cozy Den

Taking vacations with the family are awesome — you get to see new places, do new things, spend time together & make memories… but the expenses can add up FAST.

Here are some ways to cut costs to the bone, so you can travel MORE and experience MORE with your money!

TRAVEL OFF SEASON

Like I mentioned in my post about all the ways homeschooling is cheaper than public school, homeschooling gives us the awesome benefit of traveling off season. We went to Spain in February (hello sunshine!). We did a 3 week tour of England, Scotland, and Ireland in September. We went to Italy in October. We went to Texas in April. And we did our huge Great Lakes trip in late August after most kids had already returned to school (but it was still warm enough to swim!).

You can save HUGE by traveling off season. Hotels (or campsites, if you camp) are cheaper. Lines are shorter. Crowds are smaller. Attractions even cost less sometimes.

Being flexible with your dates saves a lot too. Move your search around a few days in either direction. Sometimes even a day or two of flexibility can save hundreds!

PLAN FOOD AHEAD

I did a bunch of research on how much the average family spends on food on vacation. Most sources told me numbers that were crazy high (like $100-200 per person per day!), and I thought, “there’s no way my frugal readers would spend that much!”  This source said $35 per person per day, which I think is a more reasonable estimate.

For my family of 6, that would be $210 per day. On our recent Great Lakes trip, we traveled for 10 days, which means we should have budgeted $2100 for food. However, we only spent $200 — about $100 on groceries, and $100 on eating out. We did have the advantage of cooking over a fire, so I’m sure that saved us money as well.

When we were traveling in Europe though, we saved a bunch of money by buying groceries when we arrived at our destination. (I would use Google street view to find a grocery store near our hotel/apartment.) We would eat in the room for breakfast, pack sandwiches and snacks for lunch, and then we would only have to eat out for dinner. We spent less than $50 a day for all 6 of us, which is pretty much unheard of in Europe.

USE THE INTERNET

There are about a billion travel deals sites out there telling you how to save big on your next family vacation. I’m going to tell you about a few of my favorites, and what features they offer that makes me love them!

  • Booking.com is my absolute favorite place to look for hotels. This is how I do it: I search the city I’m going to, and flip to map view. Zoom in to the area I want, and then sort by price lowest-highest. Read a few reviews to make sure it’s not a dump, and check to see if it includes breakfast (that affects how much I’m willing to pay!)
  • If you have flexible dates and/or destinations, check out SecretFlying.com! They are HUGE clearance discounts, sometimes even on amazing destinations like Australia, South Africa, Japan, etc! And these round-trip plane tickets are often only a few hundred dollars instead of $1000-$3000!
  • Rome2Rio.com tells you the cheapest way to travel from point A to point B — including planes, trains, buses, & more! Sometimes the answer may surprise you.
  • TheFlightDeal.com is another site that has super discounted tickets to various locations. Like right now for example, there’s a round trip flight from Seattle to Hong Kong for $650, or Dallas to South Africa for $750! That’s a steal!!
  • Groupon often has really good deals on vacation packages, some of them even air-inclusive! Click here, then click “Getaways”. Then you can search by destination, or just browse the clearance deals or air-inclusive packages.
  • Go directly to the discount airlines. Whenever possible, we travel light, going back to the backpacking ways we adopted in Europe. If we are planning on traveling with no luggage, Spirit Airlines is usually the cheapest discount airline within the US. {TIP: Click the “deals” tab for some clearance specials!}  If we need to take suitcases, Southwest Airlines is very generous with free bags. It is usually worth the higher ticket price over paying for inflated bag rates on Spirit.
  • Consider staying in a vacation home instead of a hotel. Especially when traveling with children, the extra space is much-needed. And the cost is often the same as or less than a hotel. The only caveat here is that many of them require multiple-night stays and some charge a cleaning fee. Read the fine print before booking! A few of my favorite places to look for these are homeaway.com, vrbo.com, and airbnb.com, among others.
  • Keep checking. Deals come and go quickly, so if you check often you won’t miss the one that’s just right for you!

Considering that the getting there and the staying there are the two main expenses on vacation, there are two ways I go about this:

  1. Start with an amazing flight deal.

-then use the above sites to find a great cheap place to stay.

OR

2. Start with an amazing hotel deal.

-then use the above sites to find a cheap way to arrive!

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

When our family wanted to visit all 5 Great Lakes in an epic road trip — it just didn’t make sense to stay in hotels. Camping made sense. It’s true, we had never camped before. But sometimes learning new things is part of the adventure! (Ask my husband about the day we had breakfast at lunch time because he couldn’t get the fire started!)

When we wanted to go on a trip to the British Isles for 2 weeks, we had never backpacked before. In fact, I was a one-suitcase-per-person sort of packer. But we learned how freeing it could be to travel light, and how much more we could see that way!

Other outside-the-box ways to travel:

When it comes to travel, never think the words “I could never do that.” or “I don’t know how.”  You can learn anything!

 

I’d love to hear YOUR travel tips, favorite deal sites, and outside-the-box ways to save money! Do share in the comments below!

Cheap Family Vacations! ~ from Our Cozy Den
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