Planning A Budget-Friendly Summer Vacation

Family Playing In Backyard

Tip Content Provided By: Financial Finesse

Ah, summer.  I often find myself yearning for the summers of my youth, when it was all about sleeping in, no school and nothing but fun. As an adult, it seems more like summer is about how my bank account can survive a vacation with my family. If you can relate, there is hope. I’ve found that taking a realistic look at how much money you can actually budget for vacations along with some good pre-planning, that a fun vacation is possible, no matter how much you can afford to spend.

The basics

If you want to leave town but have a tight budget, consider a road trip vs. flying. Use gas apps to help find inexpensive gas, which can help. I’m partial to GasBuddy, which uses GPS to find the cheapest gas around you.

We’ve also found that home sharing services like Airbnb or VRBO often offer better deals than hotels, especially on stays over 2 days. We have used both services for years so I feel like a bit of an expert here – make sure you read the reviews of places you’re considering and ask questions about anything that raises a red flag. Also, make sure you ask about what will be provided. We stayed at one condo that provided everything – beach towels, beach chairs, umbrellas, surfboards, even toys for the kids and basic food items, which saved us from having to haul all that stuff with us.

Food and souvenirs

To save money on food, pack snacks and lunches in a cooler and when you do eat out, look for restaurants where kids eat for free. If you are going to a high dollar destination like Disney, consider buying a few souvenirs in advance, then hide them to give to your kids when you arrive – trust me, this can save so much money and they won’t know the difference.

Staying put

Back when we were focused on paying off debt, we decided not to travel for vacation and instead implemented “staycations.” First we established ground rules like no checking work emails, minimal cleaning, and no trying to squeeze in errands like doctor’s appointments or cleaning gutters. We wanted to be on vacation in mind and body.

Then I planned out a week’s worth of activities that ended up costing us nothing. By combing local websites for free kids activities like movies in the park, puppet shows at the library and stores that offer free classes for kids, I was amazed at how many free or low cost events my city offered. We used an app to find the cheapest gas and tried to stick to activities close to home. You can also use sites like GrouponLiving Social orYipit (which combines several online deal websites), for discounts on activities like amusement parks, movies and local events or check with your HR to see if they have any discount coupons.

For food, I went to the grocery store and picked up stuff for inexpensive lunches to take with us like pasta salads, sandwiches or ground turkey patties and hot dogs to grill. We learned to make everything special – a trip to the pool turned in to a cook-out with a family water game. One of my favorite parts was that I got the kids really cool water bottles that they liked so much they stopped asking to buy soda.

The bottom line is that we ended up spending less than $100 on our weeklong staycation and my kids say that is was one of their favorite vacations so far. Remember, the most important thing is to spend time with your family. Most kids do not care about the location. Taking the extra time to research freebies and discounts can save hundreds of dollars and help you plan a vacation no matter what your budget.

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