Spring is in the air, your kid’s summer break is coming up soon enough and it’s about time to start planning for that long awaited family vacation. This can be stressful when money is tight, but rest assured, planning an unforgettable vacation on a budget is far from impossible. Here are a few tips on how to get started:
Set a budget: Start by deciding on a reasonable budget that you can afford, and move forward from there. This way, you’ll be able to figure out what kind of trip you’ll be planning (i.e. whether or not you can afford to travel abroad).
Decide how to get there: Once you’ve established your budget, you can start deciding where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. Fuel prices may make driving and flying unavoidably expensive, but you can save money in the margins. Whether you drive, fly or take a train or bus, pack food for the trip and avoid spending extra cash on mediocre rest stop/airport/café car offerings. If flying, try travel websites like Travelocity and Expedia for cheap rates, and pack lightly to avoid checked baggage fees.
Find a place to stay: Hotels are expensive, but booking early or taking advantage of off-season rates knocks down the price tag. Some hostels offer private rooms at a much lower price than hotel rooms (but check them out thoroughly for family-friendliness). Taking it a step farther, forgo the whole idea of a roof over your head and save a ton of money by camping. Not only is it affordable, but it’s also a great way to spend quality time with your family or friends, away from technology–some of my best childhood memories come from family camping trips in Florida. Wherever you stay, make sure to look for special coupons at the front desk or the campsite office.
Decide where to eat: Don’t forget to include meals in your budget. Feeding an entire family can easily push you over budget. Although the thought of eating out every night might be tempting, you could save a lot of money by stocking up at a grocery store near your hotel, picking up a disposable cooler and having picnics in your hotel room or at a nearby park. Try eating out at least once though—go to a restaurant you can’t find at home.
Pack ahead: Start thinking about the things you’ll need to bring on this trip to avoid spending extra money on items you forgot to bring along. Taking the time to make a checklist can really help.
Planning a vacation doesn’t have to be stressful; it should be exciting! Add to our list with your own tips!