As summer approaches, your thoughts may be starting to turn towards planning and saving for a family vacation.  Though money seems to always be an issue, that doesn’t mean you can’t plan a fun family vacation on a budget! It just means you’ll have to use some smart thinking to pull it off.

Here are some ideas that I believe to be useful when planning a vacation on a budget:

Though money seems to always be an issue, that doesn't mean you can't plan a fun family vacation on a budget! It just means you'll have to use some smart thinking to pull it off. Here are some ideas to help you plan a vacation on a budget.

Travel when others aren’t

Weekends, especially long weekends are popular travel times throughout the summer.  Maybe plan your trip to start on a Tuesday (or Wednesday or Thursday) when there are likely to be less travelers.  Hotel rates are usually higher on weekends too

Rethink the hotel stay

If staying in a hotel doesn’t have to be your only option, why not consider staying in a hostel, going camping, or renting a home?  When we went to Florida a few weeks ago with family, we rented a beautiful home through AirBnB. It was much cheaper than if we were to pay for a hotel room for all three families!  If you must stay in a hotel, be sure to look for deals. I’ve used Priceline and Expedia with great success as well as finding deals through travel emails I’m signed up for. Many deal sites like Groupon and WagJag have sections within their websites featuring only travel deals, you may find something there!

Plan your meals

Much like how you might plan your meals at home, planning for meals during vacation is important if you want to stay within your budget.  You may like to eat out for every meal and if that’s the case, check for groupons to local restaurants or search for coupons in local newspapers.  If the budget won’t allow for you to eat out every meal, consider eating out for breakfast and dinner only.  If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, use it, and cook some delicious meals!  Another option that we like to do is stop by a grocery store to pick up staples for picnics.  Our selection usually includes sandwich meat, buns, cheese, fruit, granola bars, juice boxes and maybe a bag of chips. We also like to take advantage of hotels with free breakfast.  We’ll eat a lot, then we’re usually good until dinner with a snack in between.

Research budget activities

Fun activities are a must for any vacation, but they don’t have to cost a lot. Doing a bit of research beforehand can really help keep your budget in check.  Look into local parks or historical sites that offer free admission or cheap rates.  Beaches are also a great way to unwind and even horse around at no cost.  When we’re on vacation, we always like to find hiking trails to explore, which are free unless we’re stopping in a national park. If you have a vehicle, you may also like to drive around to acquaint yourselves with some local neighborhoods. The Entertainment coupon books can also be a great place to look to coupons for local attractions.

Share costs with another family

As I mentioned previously, we rented a house with other family members on a trip to Florida. This not only saved us a bundle when it came to accommodations, we saved a bunch by sharing grocery costs!  While this may not be ideal for some families, we really enjoyed it because we still had the freedom to do our own activities if we wanted to “escape” to do our own thing as a family.

Plan a staycation

If you’re really on a budget, or wanting to stay close to home, a staycation may just be the ticket you need to have some fun as a family. Plan your Staycation just as you would a regular vacation.  Set a budget, research activities and find restaurant deals. Reacquaint yourselves with local attractions, camp grounds, and parks. Take advantage of free concerts or stay up late stargazing in your backyard.  The options are endless!

Have a Plan B

In order to stay within your budget, it may be important to have a Plan B for some of the activities you want to do. Due to unforeseen circumstances, one (or more) of the activities you wanted to do may be closed or cancelled. Having a budget friendly backup plan in place will still ensure you’ll have a blast!

Taking a family vacation doesn’t have to be stressful or too hard on the budget when you keep these tips in mind!

What are your tips for planning a family vacation on a budget?