Tips to Save Money on Family Vacations
With the country mired in a recession, many American families are looking for ways to cut back on expenditures and trim their budgets. At the same time, parents recognize the benefits of taking time off to relax with their kids—and to escape the economic malaise. Here are some tips to save money on much-needed getaways.
- Check to see if you can save money by purchasing tickets to attractions in advance. Many amusement parks offer up to 20% off for advance booking. Check to see how far in advance you must book to qualify for the discount. Note that some destinations charge children by height, not age, so you may end up paying full price for your taller offspring. Also be on the lookout for coupons and discounts offered by groups such as AAA.
- Buy sunscreen, bug spray, and other supplies at home rather than at tourist destinations, which tend to wildly mark up such necessities.
- Rent a house instead of staying at a hotel. A weekly house rental is usually much cheaper than paying nightly hotel rates. This option allows you to cook in rather than eat out every meal. Renting a house is particularly attractive to larger families since most hotels only allow four guests per room.
- Choose a destination that's within driving distance. Driving is much cheaper than flying, and why not explore the treasures in your own backyard? If you must fly, don't fly direct. You can save hundreds of dollars on each ticket by making a connection.
- If you grocery shop at your destination, go to a market outside the tourist area. Small markets in tourist sites tend to be expensive!
- If you're traveling internationally, buy local food and avoid American food. Expand your palette and avoid paying a premium for imported fare. No need to pay $10 for a box of American corn flakes.
- Travel off season. Hotel rates, airfare, and admission prices are often deeply discounted during non-peak periods. Be flexible! Even traveling a few weeks before or after school vacation can save big bucks.
- Don't feel obligated to be on the go every day. Do the tourist thing one day, then have one day of down time. Vacations are meant to be a time to relax and get away from all the over-scheduling.
- Have a friend take care of your pets rather than board them. A week of doggie daycare can cost up to $300.
- Stay with family or friends who live near a tourist area. Alternatively, do a house-swap with another family.