Almost every day the kids come up to you and ask where they are going on a vacation this summer. You hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you have to tell them the truth: The family isn’t going on vacation this year because it just isn’t in the budget.
Hold on. Before you toss out the travel brochures, consider these ways to enjoy a family vacation that won’t cause you to dip into the kids’ college savings account.
Look for Free (or Less Expensive) Camp-outs. A trip to the beach, mountains or lake won’t cost you anything if you know where to look. Some campgrounds on public land or land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management — like Blue Oak or the Kowalski campground at the Indian Valley Reservoir in California — won’t charge a fee for camping there, or they will ask for a donation to use the park area, according to the U.S. Department of Interior’s California Bureau of Land Management. So research the area where you want to take a trip and you are sure to find a perfect camping spot to pitch a tent. Take note of the things the camp doesn’t provide, as you may have to carry your own water or treat the water at the location. Also, some parks may have a small area designated for camping as the park may operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Travel During the Off-Season. Resorts and popular vacation spots always have an off-season. When the crowds dry up, the resort will cut prices and offer bargains to get people to walk through the turnstile. For instance, you could land at the Disney All-Star Music Resort for $77 a night during the off-season instead of the $109 price tag during peak times, according to Smart Travel. Off-season times may be during the fall, winter and early spring when students are in school, limiting the number of families that can go to the resort. Because the weather can affect the resort crowds during these seasons, plan on what you want to do at the resort so your activities don’t get rained on.
Stay with Family or Friends: Do you have a family member or friend living in the area where you plan to go on your vacation? See if you can shack up at their home during the vacation — it saves tons of money that you won’t have to spend on a hotel reservation. And be a gracious guest: At the top of your to-do list is a gesture of gratitude, such as taking your hosts out to dinner or sending a gift they would love.
Invite Others on Your Vacation to Share the Costs: If you don’t mind the extra company, invite additional family or friends to go on vacation with you. Some vacation trips — such as cruise through the Caribbean as offered by Royal Caribbean International – discount large-party reservations. You can take advantage of other group deals offered by restaurants and amusement parks. Even if you don’t get a deal, having the extra company can still save you money. Split costs on the food, reservations for a resort cabin everyone can use, or gas for the car if taking a cross-country trip.
Shop Responsibly: It happens to even the most frugal of people. You get discounts on the hotel and great deals for the special attractions only to destroy your spending budget with impulse shopping. Some souvenirs are great to remember the fun time you had on vacation, yet reconsider buying items that will only wind up at your yard sale. If you’re in a buying mood, stick with quality items you will use or wear on a regular basis, or won’t mind displaying on the mantelpiece when you get home. Skip items that will only wind up placed in a box in the attic.
You can save money on your next family vacation. It will require research and haggling to get the best deals. But in the end, it will be worth it.