No question about it, after you have kids you wonder where all of your money went. Somewhere there is a family that has half as much money as you and has managed to plan a fun vacation that was fun for the entire family! Every family deserves a vacation and all vacations do not have to be expensive. There is always a way to have a great time away from home, even if it is just pitching a tent in a park an hour away from the house!
The three biggest costs on a vacation are transportation, lodging and food. Once you figure out your budget, take into consideration these three categories and find ways to reduce the cost until the price meets your budget.
Transportation can get quite expensive if everyone in your family needs to purchase an airline ticket. The cheapest way to travel when going close distances is to drive by car. If money is a big factor in your vacation plans, plan to stay close and drive to your destination. Contact your local chamber of commerce for local vacation ideas that are close to home. If you are traveling further away, check into the cost of bus tickets or train tickets. Often times, the price of bus and train tickets is cheaper than airline tickets. If you do decide to fly, make it off-season. Generally, the further in advance you purchase your tickets, the cheaper they will be. Get online and look at travel websites that offer discounted airline tickets. Often discount travel brokers will also list cheaper airfare in the classified ads of your local newpaper. Be flexible about when you leave. Because airlines set aside a set amount of seats on each flight for their lowest available fares, be flexible about flight times and dates. Keep asking about cheaper alternatives that the airline may offer.
When planning where to stay, think free if at all possible! If you are vacationing near friends of family, more than likely they would love to host your family. If possible, stay with your friends and family to save money and spend some quality time with them! If staying with friends and family is not a possibility, how about camping? Camping can be free or nearly free if you stay at a public campground. If you have never camped before and do not have the necessary camping equipment, borrow it from friends. Everyone knows someone that has a tent-right? No sleeping bags, no problem! Take bed comforters that can be washed after you return from vacation. Even state and local campsites that have water hookups, electric and showers will be around $10 a night! Some campgrounds even offer swimming pools, arcades, volleyball and basketball, miniature golf and other amenities for free to the campers! If you must stay at a hotel, choose one that is further away from popular business and one that does not have as many amenities. Ask about specials and discounts that you might qualify for. Often times, it is cheaper to rent a private home or condo vs. a hotel or resort.
Although it does not have to, food can get very expensive while vacationing. Eat in as much as possible. If you are staying in a hotel, request a room with a kitchen so that you can prepare your own food. Theoretically, you will not spend any more than you would at home, since you would have to buy groceries there also. Find hotels that offer complimentary breakfasts. That is one meal saved right there. Some hotels offer deluxe complimentary breakfasts and others offer simple dognuts and bagels. Pack lunches and have picnics while on vacation! Find a nice park, stream or beach to enjoy a bagged lunch. If you do choose to eat out, look for restaraunts that offer kids eat free meals, early bird specials and coupons. Drink water when you dine out rather than order overpriced sodas and mixed drinks. Make up your mind ahead of time not to order any alcohol in restaraunts and remind your children that unless a free drink comes with the kids meal, it is water for the night!
Remember, a memorable vacation is not about how much money you spent while you were away. A vacation is simply a time to get away from everday life and enjoy your family. Of course, kids want entertainment. Fortunately, kids are flexible and adaptable with large imaginations! Camping under the stars with campfires, roasted hot dogs and marshmallows is sure to be a great memory!