The family vacation is practically an American institution. Whether it’s a trip to Grandma’s house or a long-anticipated vacation to a Disney theme park, vacations allow you to spend quality time with your family as you make lifelong memories.
Of course, vacationing with a large brood also means shelling out more for everything: food, lodging, entertainment, and attraction tickets, to name a few. But just because you’re on a tight budget doesn’t mean you need to skip the family vacation.
There are ways to plan a family vacation without going into debt or paying a fortune. Being smart about getting the most out of every dollar makes it possible to enjoy your trip without sacrificing fun. It’s the best of both worlds: making memories with your family and avoiding sticker shock when all is said and done.
Cost-Effective Family Vacation Ideas
I’ve taken my kids on two vacations this year, neither of which were exotic or expensive. And even though I didn’t take my kids to see architecture in Europe or to find elephants on an African safari, we had fun, created memories, and snapped a ton of scrapbook-worthy photos. My kids are seven and four – they’re happy to stay in a hotel and go swimming. I’ve learned vacations aren’t about the destination so much as the experience, which means a cost-effective plan can be as enjoyable as a pricey vacation.
Here are some of the best ways to score a memorable trip on the cheap:
1. Plan a Staycation
Whether you visit a historical site, national forest, or a few local city hangouts, by booking lodging where you live and sticking close to home, you can get the vacation experience without the expense of travel. Look for cheap attractions and tours, and ask your hotel whether they offer a discount for local residents. One of the best places to find staycation deals is through group deal websites such as LivingSocial, Travelzoo, and Groupon. Most of these sites offer deep discounts on everything from hotels to food and activities.
Doing something out of the ordinary, even if it’s close to home, can help create a vacation-like atmosphere without requiring an extravagant trip. Whether you choose to go camping at a nearby campsite, or you stay overnight in the city to check out the opening of a new museum, you don’t need to drive or fly to find a vacation spot.
2. Get Active
If you think about it, most of the attractions and events you pay for on vacation are passive activities. It costs a lot of money to catch a baseball game, go to the movies, see a play, or wander around a theme park, and yet, these activities don’t always lend themselves to family bonding. That’s why I favor active itineraries instead. Not only does a hike through a national forest or a bike ride through town cost a lot less than show tickets, these types of activities give you a chance to talk and connect with