Family vacations seem to have become more and more difficult to do, not just from the standpoint of having time to be together with all of the time conflicts of work and activities but also financially. The big theme parks have admission fees that are nearly prohibitive for most families and gas prices and rising airline fares and fees are making it difficult for families to create the traditional family vacations. So, how can a family find ways to have vacation time together without breaking the bank or maxing out the credit cards?
Here are a few pointers for planning and executing a more economical family vacation.
Find travel bargains. Even if your kids have their hearts set on a big theme park for the family vacation, with a little planning and research, you can find travel bargains. Theresa Plowright, the About.com Guide for Family Vacations has prepared an excellent list of family travel bargains and deals for vacation spots like Mexico, Florida, and the Caribbean. Also, check with your employer to see if they have discount passes to the major theme parks available to employees and their families.
Plan on less expensive lodging. Hotels can really add up the cost for a family on vacation. If you have more than two or three children, you would likely need an additional room or a family suite, and those costs can be pretty daunting. Consider camping along the way, staying with relatives or finding a hotel package that is less when you book airfare or buy amusement park admissions. If you do have to stay in a hotel, compare prices online and try to plan the trip in non-peak times. Hotel rates can be half off in less popular travel periods.
Cook out. Meals as a family can also get pretty pricey, and for the fast food places, even though they are less expensive, they are often not very healthy. So consider bringing along a camp stove and some pots and pans and cook out at a nearby park or similar facility. Packing a cooler with food to be cooked and fresh fruits and vegetables can make for a fun and less expensive trip. We have made all types of meals on the road from eggs and pancakes for breakfast to freeze dried meals or canned stew for dinner. Peanut butter or tuna sandwiches can also be a great choice for a quick lunch on a road trip. About.com Guide Erin Huffstetler has solicited more ideas for keeping food costs down while traveling.
Try some inexpensive destinations. Our family has loved visiting national parks, historical sites and just camping and swimming at a lakeside park. Sometimes a scenic drive rather than just taking the freeway can add some real positives to a family trip and you can avoid some of the pricier distractions on a vacation. Remember, the important part is building memories and relationships together; it is not about the latest thrill ride or the most popular resort.
Consider a family cruise. Many of our friends have chosen to take the family on a cruise. While the passage can sometimes be a little pricey, it does include everything including meals and activities. More and more cruise lines are offering special cruises for families and they frequently have pretty attractive rates.
Plan a "staycation." Have you fully explored your own area? Many families pass by some great vacation spots because they are too close to home. You might just think about a few day trips in your area so you can spend the nights at home but have very full days. Think about a day at the zoo, at a museum, a planetarium and a big regional park, all in one staycation week. You will likely find some hidden treasures and save a lot of money on lodging and meals.
Making time for a vacation with the family is important. You can build relationships with the children, create lasting positive memories and simply relax and get out the daily grind. And when you can do it economically and creatively, the adventure becomes even better.