Vacation Money Savers


Sitting in front of my computer I was ready to find the perfect vacation for my family. I knew it needed to be fun and exciting. I wanted it to be memorable. It needed to have something everyone would enjoy. A quick Google search and I had 1,375,283 results. Maybe not exactly that many, but it sure felt like it. The possibilities seemed endless. Until I remembered my bank account.

It seems you need funds to go on these amazing vacations. And while I had saved some money, it wasn’t enough to simply follow wherever my Google search led. I needed to be strategic about what we chose and how much money we spent on our vacation.

According to Mastercard Economics Institute travel has increased 33% since 2019. This likely represents a rebound from our pandemic travel restrictions among other things. The biggest shift, however, is spending. With changes in the economy, families are discovering they need to change the way they travel.

Simple changes may be the thing that is making it possible for people to continue to travel when faced with skyrocketing travel costs. Forbes reports that 46% of people are likely to change their travel plans due to inflation. Top changes include traveling during the off-season, changing destinations, and choosing less luxurious lodging.

The big question is: how do you create magical family vacations while spending less? Even with a smaller budget, you can travel with your family. Try these simple tips that make a big difference.

Location, Location, Location

It’s like the real estate mantra; location makes a big difference in price. It is tempting when you see glamorous places fill your social media feed, but there are plenty of places you can go if you are willing to try something different.

If you have your heart set on a trip to Paris, consider another area of France or Europe. For something domestic, shift your sights from a summer at Disney to family-oriented parks with less demand.

Beach and lakefront spots are at a premium in the summer for good reason. But you may be able to find something in the mountains that has a great pool instead. The key is your willingness to explore your options.

Also, don’t dismiss international travel. Sometimes international locations can be more affordable than domestic. Consider a variety of options and see what works best for your family’s needs.

BUDGET TRAVEL TAKEAWAY: Think outside the box when deciding where to go.

Book at the Right Time

Travel prices fluctuate all the time. While we can predict some trends, considering when you book your vacation can have major savings.

For busy travel times like holidays, you should book early or last minute to maximize savings. The few weeks leading up to a holiday are typically the most expensive, with price variation that can go into the hundreds of dollars.

BUDGET TRAVEL TAKEAWAY: Book early or last minute for the cheapest flights and lodging options.

Find the Discounts

Places offer a wide variety of travel discounts, many of which you may not even think of. Consider looking for discounts for everything from flights and lodging to tickets and dining.

Great places to start are with your credit cards. Many cards offer perks or member benefits with reduced rates for hotels and special events. Additionally, you may have airline miles you completely forgot about. Cashing them in for a family vacation can be the perfect money saver.

Other often overlooked discounts are through employers and directly from businesses. Some employers have special savings programs they offer as a benefit. Contact your human resources department to see if your company participates. Even if you don’t have an employer-sponsored discount program, with some advanced planning you can check individual companies or even discount warehouse stores for options.

See if any places you want to visit offer discounts for veterans, EMS workers, nurses, or teachers. Check for child discounts free kids meals or reduced rates on certain days. Some places like zoos and museums even have free or pay-what-you-can days each month.

These savings take a bit of research but they can pay off.

BUDGET TRAVEL TAKEAWAY: Research possible discounts and money-saving opportunities for your destination.

Use These Tips as Your Foundation

These are great starting places, but your travel savings can grow from there. Savings can be found in places you wouldn’t expect when you build upon them. It will take extra work, but that extra effort may be the very thing that makes it possible to have a wonderful vacation with your family that fits your budget.

More Money-Saving Family Travel Tips

  • Rent a condo or a house instead of a hotel room. In addition to more space, you will have a kitchen. This allows you to bring food or do a quick shop and make food. Even if you just made cereal for breakfast each day instead of eating out, you could save hundreds of dollars over the course of a week.
  • Look for unusual kid discounts. Whether it’s at your hotel, restaurants, or events, many places offer discounts for kids on certain days or at certain times. Do an internet search for kid discounts + (location) and see what you find. You can find everything from kids eat free days to discounted or free tickets for good grades. Just be sure to call to confirm with the business and bring anything you need (like a report card.)
  • Bring the pricey stuff. When you travel with kids you’re bound to need some essentials like sunscreen or swim diapers. Tourist areas often offer these items, but at a much higher price than you would get at home. Bring things like sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, swim diapers, and beach towels to prevent expensive emergency purchases.
  • Consider different types of trips. Not every vacation needs to involve boarding a plane for a tourist destination. Considering different types of trips can have big savings. Great options for families include camping/glamping, farm stays, multi-stop road trips, volunteer travel, and train trips.
  • Check for dining packages. While a dining package may sound like an expensive option, it can save you money. A dining plan at a theme park, for example, can allow you to get a meal and drink every hour or two. You can purchase one or two dining plans and share the food throughout the day with the whole family, saving you from purchasing meals and snacks for everyone individually.
  • Make a souvenir and snack policy before heading to parks or destinations. Decide ahead of time if you will purchase souvenirs or snacks and how much you are willing to spend on each. It can save money to let everyone pick one snack while you’re out and then make a meal back at your rental. Or you can purchase themed souvenirs online for theme park trips ahead of time. Buying favorite character t-shirts from a discount store offers big savings from purchasing on-site.