jar with coins on a map with sign Travel

Are you trying to do family travel on a budget this year? If you are looking for ways to save money on a family vacation or traveling on a budget, this post is for you.

While costs are on the rise this year, many people are not willing to forgo a family vacation, especially after the last few years of having to miss out or cancel a family vacation. But just because you may be trying to travel as a family on a budget does not mean you have to or should miss out on a fantastic trip.

As a family who travels often (sometimes I wish we could do it full time), we regularly look for the best ways to spend less money on family vacations. For one reason, this enables us to take more family trips throughout the year.

Sometimes, we want to take a quick getaway for a family trip for a summer or winter break but don’t want to break the bank as it isn’t a major vacation. And, for every trip, we try to stay within a reasonable travel budget, which, for a family of five, can get out of hand quickly.

That’s not to say we don’t enjoy a five-star hotel once in a while. But we certainly try to be mindful and travel on a budget we have predetermined to ensure we can prioritize travel for our whole family. And we have done budget family travel vacations on many occasions.

We have found many ways to stretch our budget when we travel. With a little planning and these family tips for traveling, you can make it work for your family.

Consider this post your complete guide to travel hacking and travel inspiration, saving money on vacations, and avoiding last-minute trips.

This blog post contains affiliate links which means I receive a commission at no cost to you should you make a purchase using these links. See my disclaimer. Cover photo credit: Canva

About Family Travel On A Budget

family looking at a passport
There are many ways to maximize your budget to take a family vacation. Photo credit: Canva

Long before my husband and I had kids, we would travel on a very minimal travel budget. We decided early on that we would prioritize travel because it has always been important to us.

While our trips improved in quality over the years, once we started having kids and needing larger rooms (travel is not easily built for five people), we again needed to find ways to maximize our budget to be able to afford to travel as a family. We were now buying flights for five people and tickets for five people for a visit to a theme park or attraction.

And then, when trying to find a hotel or motel room big enough for five people, it often means booking two rooms, ordering a cot, or booking a suite to make a hotel work for us.

Needless to say, we look high and low to generally travel well and find family discounts wherever we can.

But there are so many ways you can reduce costs while still enjoying a family escape if you’re traveling on a budget. If fact, there are many cheap family getaways in the US and abroad that can give you a great vacation at an even better price.

Even if you have more money to spend, who doesn’t love to save a buck?

With prices on the rise this year, these family travel tips can help you with saving money and maximize your budget for family vacations this year and beyond.

Tips For Family Travel On A Budget At A Glance
To help you get the most out of these tips, I have organized this into sections.
1. Planning For Family Travel On A Budget
2. Transportation Costs and Booking Flights
3. Booking Hotels
4. Road Trips
5. Booking Activities
6. Additional Tips
Read below for more detailed tips.

Planning for Family Travel On A Budget

Before you book anything, taking time to plan in advance can be a huge money saver. I know some people really like doing everything last minute, but to cut vacation costs, planning is essential.

So don’t overlook these steps to ensure you maximize your budget.

family in car
You may be able to spend less money on rental cars by using reward points or checking booking sites for the best price. Photo credit: Canva

Create A Travel Budget

This is the first and most important thing you can do to afford family travel on a budget. By understanding how much you have to spend and allocating those funds, you will be able to spend less on vacation in the long run.

You will also want to consider your family’s travel goals when creating a budget, as that will help dictate where you should spend your money. And decide when you can travel, as this can impact how far your budget will go.

Determine When You Can Travel

If you have flexibility, try to avoid traveling in peak season for the destination. There are always going to be much cheaper prices for traveling off-season or in-the-shoulder season. While school holidays like summer or spring break might be the best times to take a vacation, it’s cheaper to travel off-season.

Many people worry about taking their kids out of school for vacation, but as long as they aren’t missing huge chunks of time, it’s usually fine with the schools.

Start by looking for flights and hotels during off-peak times. Having flexibility on your departure and arrival dates can really impact the cost of your vacation and be a way to be more economical.

Not only will you have more luck finding flight deals, but you may also pay less for hotels, home rentals, rental cars, and the like. You can often find good deals if you’re willing to travel during the week or shoulder seasons.

Just beware that families traveling off-season may have trade-offs. For example, you may spend less money, but on a trip to Disney World, you may find more “Pardon Our Pixie Dust Signs.”

However, you will find more “Pardon Our Pixie Dust” signs or things under construction. A trip to Hawaii in January will give you a chance to see whales and amazing surfers, but the surf might be too choppy for swimming.

Avoid racking up more dollars by traveling off-season or to avoid peak times. But I know sometimes it’s hard to avoid high season, so that is where some of these other great cheap tips for traveling come in.

Look For Package Deals

When it comes to family trips or budget family travel, one of the best ways to cut corners on costs is by looking for package deals. You can often find great deals on family travel packages that include airfare, hotel, local transport costs, plane tickets, and even attraction tickets, especially if you are headed to somewhere like Disney World. It’s a great way to do Disney on a budget.

A travel agent can typically help you find a budget-friendly package. This can be a great idea to reduce costs as you are bundling everything together. Sometimes, the best deal you will find will be a package deal off-season.

Book your Travel Early

Once you have done the steps above, look at flight comparison sites (see the section on flights for more tips on this). If you find a cheap flight, book it, as chances are it is only going to go up from there. Flying is one of the biggest costs for trips, so don’t wait too long if you are saving money. Flight comparison sites can really help you spend less on airfare.


Take it from someone who once made this mistake. Cheap flights are no longer cheap if you book on a bad travel site or with an airline you have never heard of before.

My husband and I mistakenly did this once to save $100, only to get to the airport to discover we were sold a ticket for an airline that doesn’t fly on the days we booked. True story.

We never got the refund and had to pay the full fare to book another flight on a different airline. Lesson: A cheap flight becomes expensive when you aren’t careful about the airline or site you booked it on. We still will book budget flights or cheap flights, but only with reputable airlines and on reputable booking sites.

For this reason, sometimes buying travel insurance to protect your investment can also be wise when you purchase budget flights somewhere.

Use Loyalty Programs Points or Travel Credit Cards To Save Money

Our philosophy is don’t spend money; you don’t have to. So, we like to look at what we already have in terms of loyalty points. Using points and miles earned through credit cards is also a great way to get FREE travel or travel at a major discount.

One way to take vacations on a budget is to get a credit card with travel rewards, sign up for loyalty programs, and try to stick with one major rental car company, hotel brand, or airline.

Our family regularly uses Hertz for our rental car, Marriott or Hilton for hotels, and travels on Jet Blue and Delta primarily. We also have travel credit cards – my husband gets Marriott Rewards through his, and I use Capital One.

We save so much money this way because we cash in points for car rental upgrades, and we use our Marriott points for free hotel stays. In fact, on a recent road trip from Boston to Florida, we stayed in three hotels completely free using our Marriott points and didn’t spend any money on a single hotel stay.

Through our Jet Blue rewards, we often don’t pay any fees for baggage.

And, through Capital One, we can erase travel purchases using our reward points, book inexpensive flights, and trade in our points for gift cards for gas stations, restaurants, and hotel deal sites like Hotels.com.

I have a family member who always forgets they have reward points. But the truth is, using these points means you don’t have to spend money and can have more money for your trip.

Always check to see if your reward points for one airline can be used on another airline. Many airlines partner together like Jet Blue and Hawaiian Airways, which means you could use your loyalty points to expand where you can travel! This includes international airlines as well! Free air travel to Hawaii or London using points? Yes, please!

Transportation Costs and Booking Flights For Family Travel On A Budget

Be sure and follow these tips to find cheap flights when you are planning family travel on a budget.

airplane on a runway
Check multiple travel sites and be flexible with dates and locations to spend less money on flights. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Consult A Couple of Flight Search Engines

When booking domestic flights for vacations, check out a variety of search engines that can help cut costs on airfare. CheapOair, Kayak, and Skyscanner are good places to start to see where you can find cheap flights.

I also recommend looking at websites like Google Flights or Scott’s Cheap Flights for fares as well, just to compare. Either one of these is a great site for finding good deals on flying on international or domestic flights.

As I said above, remember to also check your credit card company, especially if you have Capital One or Chase Saphhire cards, or check out reward points if you have been loyal to a specific airline. You may be able to get a cheaper price this way.

In fact, recently, I was trying to find cheap flights using Capital One. And it has a system that can tell you if this is the best deal or if you should wait. Based on their advice, I am waiting to book a flight to get a better deal.

Be Flexible On Travel Dates and Airports If You Can

If you have flexibility, check flight costs for multiple airports. For example, if you have two in your area, see if one of them can get you a cheaper flight (even if you have to connect.) 

Some budget airlines fly to smaller airports and that can be a way to cut money on flight costs.

Book Flights Early

Book your flights early – as early as possible – to spend less on flights. With Google Flights, you can turn on price alerts so you will get an email if the price goes up or down, but do book your flight as early as possible.

The closer to your travel dates, the more expensive the flight will be.

On Google Flights, you can also check out the price graph and the date grid, which will give some guidance on the cheapest time to fly for your trip dates. If you have flexibility in your dates, you can enter a couple of dates. You will be able to determine the cheapest dates to book your flights out and back.

If you want to maximize your loyalty or rewards points for booking flights, check out Point.me. This program can help you keep track of all of your reward points and help you find the best flight to book, maximizing your points. It does require a membership, but you can get a day pass for $5 to find the best use of your points for an upcoming trip. Point.me will save you time from having to go into each reward program to find out how many points it will cost you, AND you may be able to save points (and use them on another flight), saving you money!

Free Stopover Programs

If you are vacation planning for an international family getaway, some airlines have free stopover programs. That means if you have to fly through a certain hub city, you can stop there for a couple of days at no extra cost.

Stopovers can be more economical on your overall family trip because you can make it two vacations in one – just do some research on the airline’s site to see if they have a program like this.

Budget Airlines

Always check budget airlines like Southwest to see if they have cheap flight options for saving money. Some of these are “no-frills,” and you may be charged additional fees for many things.

So, be sure to price out those extra costs to make sure it is a good deal. And make sure it is a reputable airline (see my example above.)

kids walking through airport pulling luggage
Limit your packing to avoid spending money on luggage fees when taking a vacation on a budget. Photo credit: Canva

Check Airline Baggage Fees and Restrictions

Do your research ahead of time on baggage fees – both for checked and carry-on bags. Some airlines are charging more now for baggage, so it pays to check their websites before you book your flights and pack your bags.

This is a big money saver. If fees for your baggage cost $25 to $30 for each bag for one way, a family of five like ours is easily in for $125 to $150 each way. But if you can pack efficiently and bring a carry-on, you can save $250 to $300.

Sometimes, your carry-on will be checked at the gate. Usually, this isn’t charged.

Also, be aware of size restrictions for carry-on luggage as well as weight restrictions for checked baggage. You don’t want to get to the airport and find out that your bag is overweight or your carry-on on too big to bring on the plane. (I have been there on this one – I had to buy a suitcase at check-in AND pay for an extra bag!)

Take Advantage of Airport and Hotel Shuttles

One way to pay less for a rental car is to take advantage of airport and hotel shuttles. Often, these are FREE. And sometimes there is a small fee.

But, if say, you are going to Disney World, you can book a shuttle through Mears Transportation and use the resort transportation throughout your stay. This saves money on a rental car.

Like I said above, when planning family travel on a budget, don’t spend money; you don’t have to!

Booking Hotels For Family Travel On A Budget

Follow these tips for getting the best hotel deal when booking hotels for traveling as a family on a budget. Here are plenty of great options to find a cheap family accommodation.

Research Hotel Deals

Be sure to look at comparison sites like Hotels.com, Booking.com, or even Skyscanner and Kayak to find the best prices on hotels. While this can take more time, it’s well worth it! I also recommend, if you can, looking for hotels with kitchens or kitchenettes.

Many Marriott hotels, like Marriott Residence Inns and the Marriott Vacation Club properties, have kitchens, kitchenettes, and sometimes laundry. These amenities can save you a lot of money and are a great choice if you want to spend less on eating out.

When we go to Maui, we often book at a Marriott Vacation Club because it allows us to have all our meals in our room. These properties have grills on the property, in addition to kitchens, which saves enough money that if we have an additional cost somewhere, it doesn’t break our budget.

vacation home
If you are vacation planning, consider a vacation rental, as it could save on costs. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Remember VRBO and Airbnb

As you consider your budget, definitely price out the cost of a vacation rental through a site like VRBO or Airbnb. This can give you more space, and kids can have their own room, making everyone comfortable, especially if you plan to stay longer.

When comparing a hotel room to a vacation home rental, be sure to factor in the extra perks you get staying in a house, like multiple rooms, a laundry room, a full kitchen (a great way to save money on eating out), and more.

Rental homes can also be a money saver as you have your own home own kitchen, can have groceries delivered, parking for your own car, do laundry, and more. When you add up all of the vacation costs, sometimes a VRBO or Airbnb can come out as a more affordable option and give everyone more room where you stay.

In addition to Airbnb and VRBO, be sure to also check the site Vaycay My Way. This vacation rental company often has some of the same properties as the other vacation rentals.

But because their fee structure is different, you may be able to save hundreds of dollars by booking your home rental property through Vaycay My Way, especially if you plan to visit a location for over two weeks or more or a busier season like Spring Break. And why spend money on extra fees if you don’t have to?

While it may seem like it would be more expensive, sometimes staying a few weeks instead of one can help you spend less in the long run.

Try A Home Exchange

House swapping (or a home exchange) is where you stay in someone’s home while they stay in yours. It’s a great way to save on accommodations while getting a taste of what it’s like to live in another city or country.

There are websites in many countries for people interested in doing house swapping, and it can be a money-saving activity. When looking for the perfect family accommodation, remember you have plenty of other options than just hotels and motels, and a home exchange can be a great choice for lodgings.

And another idea is to consider camping, especially when traveling to many places where it is pricey to book accommodation, such as North America, certain places in Europe, New Zealand, etc.

Take Advantage Of Hotel Breakfast And Other Amenities

If your hotel offers free breakfast (which many do), make sure you eat breakfast there! It can be a good way to save money, and it’s a great way to start the day. If a hotel offers a laundry machine (either in your room or a laundry room), you can bring less clothing.

Some hotels offer kids stay free offer or free breakfast for kids, so it is good to check for this as well. Most people use these amenities because they can help slash travel costs.

hotel room with kitchen
A hotel room with a kitchen or kitchenette can allow you to have all your meals in your room. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Order Groceries To Your Room

If you have a hotel room with a kitchen or kitchenette that includes a refrigerator, you can order groceries to your room to spend less money on eating out. If your room doesn’t have a kitchen, ask if you can get a mini-fridge, microwave, and coffee maker.

We recently did this at Walt Disney World Resort, and it allowed us to at least eat breakfast in our room!

If you go to the grocery store, apply for (or bring if you have one ) a grocery store discount card. When we go to Hawaii each year, we bring our Safeway grocery store card which saves us a lot of money on our groceries for our room.

Road Trips For Family Travel On A Budget

These great tips can help you save when planning a road trip or family vacation on a budget.

RVs and road trips
Taking a road trip can be a great family vacation on a budget. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Bring Your Own Road Trip Food

By bringing your own road trip meals and snacks, you can definitely stretch your travel budget. Rest stops often have picnic areas along the way to avoid the extra expense of food purchases at rest stops. And you can bring your own family travel games or road trip activities to keep everyone amused.

Having your own road trip food saves money, lessens the number of stops, and is healthier! Plus, everyone will have something they need. This is a plus, considering how much time you’ll be spending eating in a car on road trips.

If you want to stop at a restaurant, you can also look at local restaurants. Our family loves stopping at a small local restaurant, especially on our winter breaks to Vermont. They are often cheap ways to taste delicious homemade food, enjoy local dining experiences (like local maple syrup), and add a great memory to our family travels. It’s often the best deal in town!

We try to stay within a certain daily budget, but this can get out of control real quick if you have a big family, so just beware of that.

Avoid Toll Roads​

Another money-saving tip for road trips is to avoid toll roads if you can. Map your route or use GPS or an app like Road Trippers to help you avoid toll roads!

Look For Free Parking

Try to find free parking when planning any vacation on a budget. Parking fees and parking garages can get very expensive (especially in expensive cities like Boston or Seattle, where a parking ticket can be less than paying for parking.)

If you can find free lots or parking garages or use local transportation, this is a great way to reduce costs and stay on budget.

Download Helpful Apps​

​Download apps like Gas Buddy, which will help you find the cheapest gas station nearby and has additional programs to help save on gas costs. This can be a huge money saver for long trips by car and helps afford family travel.

Bring Your Own Car

Drive your car rather than rent one on a road trip. This will save you a lot of money.

Consider Camp Grounds

Find campgrounds instead of hotels for overnights when traveling on a road trip.

Or, if you plan to stay in hotels, book them in advance at sites such as Booking.com or Hotels.com for the best rate, rather than finding them on the go. By planning your stops in advance, you can stay within your budget for stops on your road trip and book accommodations that are nice but cheaper places to stay.

hotel room with mini fridge and food
Bring your own food for breakfast and snacks to stay on your budget. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Booking Activities For Family Travel On A Budget

These tips will help you cut costs activities when planning a family vacation on a budget.

umbrellas on a beach
Enjoy free things to do, like going to the beach. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Check For Discounts

Many attractions offer discounts if you purchase your tickets online in advance. This can be a great way to cut airfare costs as you are buying your tickets at a discounted rate.

You can often find this in big cities like Orlando or London.

Look For Free Activities

When vacationing as a family, it is important to find activities that the whole family can enjoy. And one of the best ways to do that is by finding free activities.

There are often many free things to do in a city or town, you just have to look for them. Things like hiking or going to the beach are free and can make a family getaway quite magical and make saving money easy.

Many cities offer free walking tours and free museum days, and there are often many kid-friendly activities that are either free entry or very low cost. Also, travel books like Lonely Planet can help you find free activities in a location.

family in front of medievil times
If you plan to do a few activities in a location, especially in a big city like Orlando, look for package deals or passes that give you discounts on multiple activities. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Buy Discount Passes

Be sure to buy discount passes like Go City or City Pass, which can help you spend less money when visiting multiple attractions in a city location. Many destinations are included, and it can be a significant savings than paying for multiple entry fees.

If you plan to visit multiple National Parks or historic sites, check out the National Park Service National Parks Pass, which gives you entry to nearly 2000 National Parks and historical sites for a year for $80! Got a 4th grader? You can get into National Parks for free with the Every Kid Outdoors program! Plus, once you pay to get into many of the West and East Coast National Parks, you’ll find all kinds of free outdoor activities to do.

Even if you don’t get a yearly pass, you can typically get a pass that costs one flat rate fee per vehicle for seven days.

Heading to a ski resort? Be sure to check out ski resort passes like the Ikon or Epic ski passes. This can be significant savings if you plan to ski a lot at multiple ski resorts on these passes. Some of our favorite ski resorts are in Colorado.

You can also look at places like AirBnB experiences for families traveling. These are activities hosted by locals in a location, and they may save you money. But because these are not run by a tour company, I recommend checking the reviews and vetting them carefully if it is a fit for your family.

Additional Tips to Afford Family Travel:

Rent Baby Gear On Site Or Ask the Hotel To Supply

When we would travel with our infants and toddlers, we would make sure any hotel offered high chairs and a pack n’ play or a crib. But, in many cities around the world, there are rental services that will bring you strollers, pack n’ plays/cribs, jumpers, toys (even for kids!), and pretty much anything and everything you might need for your visit.

Not only will this prevent you from having to bring extra bags, but it will ensure you have everything you need. These services will drop off at both hotels and homes. And it will lessen the stress of flying with kids!

One exception: Bring your own car seat or booster seat. This is because renting them with rental car companies is really expensive. We purchased a lightweight (but safe!) car seat and booster seat that we used just for travel.

We packed an extra bag with these items (also would throw some laundry in there too.) Most airlines check these for free.

Watch For Hidden Costs

When planning your budget, be sure to track hidden costs. This can include things like parking, toll roads, taxes, resort fees, and unexpected costs. Always have room in your budget for the unexpected, such as a trip to the doctor on vacation, especially if you have a big family.

Ways to Spend Less On Food Costs When Family Traveling

Whenever possible, bring your own snacks and drinks. This can save a lot of money – especially if you have kids with you. It avoids having to eat every meal at local restaurants, though we always enjoy splurging on a nice meal a couple of times during our vacation.

Some people spend less money on food by only eating one meal out a day. It’s a great way to save more money, especially in more expensive countries, states, and cities. In many places, you can rent a house to save money on eating out, even in many countries outside the United States.

microwave and coffee maker
You can ask for a microwave, coffee maker, and fridge to be brought to your hotel room. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Don’t Overlook Street Food

In certain locations, street food and food trucks are very popular. Be sure and do your research, as it can vary for different destinations. But often, street food or a good meal from a food truck can be delicious and very affordable, especially if you choose it as your one meal eating out that day.

Gas Cards and Gas Reward Programs

Gas cards can also be helpful to get reward points and save on gas for any upcoming long trips by car you might have! Be sure to also check local grocery stores that have gas stations, as you may be able to save additional money if the grocery stores offer discounts at their gas pumps.

Use Gift Cards

When planning a family trip on a budget, gift cards can be helpful! This is one of my favorite ways to afford family travel on a limited budget.

Have a holiday or birthday coming up? You can ask family members for travel-related gift cards for holiday or birthday gifts.

Another tip is to purchase travel-related gift cards at Costco for restaurants, gas stations, hotel sites, such as Hotels.com, or possibly Air BnB at a discount while getting full value for the card. Be sure to check if you can cash in credit card reward points for gift cards, as that can also help.

Many people buy Disney gift cards at Target using their Target Red Card, which gives them 5% off the cost of the gift card but keeps the value of the card. The gift cards can be used at most places on Disney property (confirm when you buy), and some people use them to cover the cost of much or even the entire duration of their vacation. That 5% savings can add up when used this way.

train local transportation
Use the free transportation as a way to enjoy family travel on a budget. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

​Use Local Transport

Taking advantage of local transport like trains and subways can save you a lot of money when planning family travel on a budget. It is often a more cost-effective way to travel around your destination, and you don’t have to find or pay for parking. It doesn’t just save you money, it allows you to immerse yourself in the location in a very different way.

Most cities around the world have public transport. In London, for example, we traveled exclusively by bus or the tube. And in our upcoming Switzerland trip, we plan to buy the Swiss Pass to cust back on the money you spend on local transport.

Especially in some destinations, you will save significantly by using local transportation but just beware, depending on where you go, some of these options may not have air conditioning.

Make A Spending Plan In Advance

Plan spending in advance for any activities you plan to do so that you stay within your budget. By choosing your activities in advance for your “must-see” activities, you can cut costs by possibly purchasing tickets or even plane tickets at a discount in advance or online.

But also, you can make sure you do the things you want and save other activities as “if you have money left” activities. I also recommend avoiding charging things to the room so you don’t lose track. 

Have Kids Bring Allowance Money or Greenlight Cards

We have our kids bring allowance money or their Greenlight Cards for souvenirs. This helps so you don’t overextend your budget.  

Young Kids can learn money management, and it saves us money by not splurging on souvenirs for them. The kids have their money and make choices on what they really want. We allow them to spend it how they want, but once it is gone, it is gone.

We also like to say that it’s more fun to collect experiences than trinkets, so remember that if money is tight. When you collect experiences, you make memories for life.

kids on a boggy creek airboat ride
Activities booked in advance or online often can be purchased at a discount. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Look at Local Tourist Bureaus For Planning Help

Travel agents can often help you get good hotel and flight deals, upgrades, VIP treatment, and even some bonuses. But before you go through a travel agent, families can also check local tourism bureaus to be more frugal.

Particularly when traveling internationally, travelers are either stuck with group tours or expensive private upgrades when working with some travel companies. And they may be stuck with preset dates.

But, when reaching out to the country or city’s tourism bureau, the tourism bureau can actually help plan an itinerary. They can also connect you with local tour companies and activities and recommend great places to book accommodations that can help you build the vacation you want for much less than the cost of a group tour. 

Many countries, states, and cities have tourism bureaus. This is a great way to find much cheaper prices for hotels and popular activities, even in more expensive countries and locations.

In fact, we are doing this ourselves for one of our summer trips.

Also, check out sites like Viator and Get Your Guide to get discounts on kid-friendly day excursions and tours.

Plan For The Unexpected

We always bring a plan for a “buffer” amount in case of emergency, including if you overspend unintentionally because even a cheap family vacay can get expensive when unexpected things come up.

One way I have seen this getting travelers in trouble is when you go somewhere, like Disney World or on a Disney Cruise, where you use your Magic Band or room key to pay for all charges. You go to check out, and you get a really nasty surprise in the form of your bill!

Also, be aware when visiting an all-inclusive or taking a cruise ship, not everything is included! You may get a surprise at the end if you aren’t clear about what is and isn’t included. And before booking, check various cruise ships to weigh the pros and cons and choose one that makes sense for your vacation.

This can get out of hand quickly if you aren’t careful. So, I totally agree it is good to have a buffer amount planned for when someone gets a bit “room charge” happy.

We have also had to change flights while on vacation due to hurricanes or unexpected reasons back home. We have also had sick young kids on travel and had to pay for an onsite doctor. Sometimes, these flight change fees or extra airfare costs, additional airline fees, and doctor fees can be a few hundred dollars.

Having a buffer in our budget for such unexpected charges, surprise bills, or last-minute emergency costs has helped us keep within our total vacation budget. Travel insurance can also help plan family travel on a budget, as you will recoup your money should something happen on your trip.

Communicate Your Spending Plan With Other Travelers

An important tip for family travel on a budget is to communicate with your partner or other travelers your spending plan.  For example, if you have one credit card for charges and one for emergencies or backup, make this agreement in advance of your trip. This will help you to avoid overspending as a family.

If two parents are both using credit cards to charge costs, and they aren’t paying attention to what the other is spending, the budget gets quickly out of control. But if you have one charge card or one person managing the charges, and you communicate, this can help keep your budget in check.

family hiking
Hiking is another free activity to enjoy on a family adventure. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Family Travel On A Budget: Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does The Average Family Vacation Cost?

It’s hard to say how much the average family trip costs because there are so many varying factors. If you drive instead of fly, stay in a home rental vs. a hotel, if you bring your own road trip food vs. eating out, can all add up.

You can certainly travel with family on a budget and have a great vacation for under $4,000 to $5,000 for a family of four. But you would need to follow many of my family travel top tips in this post to maximize your travel.

Certainly, trips to beaches like Cape Cod or to National Parks can get you more value for your money. Whereas a trip to Costa Rica, Hawaii, Europe, or Walt Disney World will be on the more expensive end of a vacation for families.

Some locations, like South America, are less expensive to travel to, and accommodations and dining are cheaper, too. For an inexpensive trip, South America is rich in culture and experiences.

Which Trip Is Best For Family Travel On A Budget?

This is, of course, very much dependent on your interests. If you are wanting a more nature-based vacation, I would look at National Parks like Glacier, Yellowstone, Arches, or Canyonlands.

If you want a city vacation, places like Pittsburgh can be very affordable. You can visit a more expensive city like Boston, but you can use public transportation, fly into a different airport (like Providence or one in New Hampshire and rent a car), stay in an Airbnb or VRBO, and look for some of the free or package activities.

Want to visit the beach? Look for places like Cape Cod or Florida that have amazing beaches, lots of home rentals, and inexpensive hotels. You can also camp when visiting the beach.

How Can I Travel Cheap On A Budget? How Can I Save Money Travelling With Kids?

Use many of the great tips in this blog post and ultimate guide, including:

  • Pay with loyalty or reward points no matter where you want to go.
  • Get gift cards at a discount or with your reward points.
  • Be flexible in your timing dates and flight times.
  • Fly into an alternative airport.
  • Fly budget airlines.
  • Look for inexpensive flights on places like Scott’s Cheap Flights or Google Flights, and set flight alerts so you know when the cheapest price becomes available.
  • Download entertainment ahead of time and bring lots to do in kids’ carryons.
  • Bring your own food and snacks.
  • Book hotels with kitchens/kitchenettes, or stay in a vacation rental to eat many or all your meals. This is especially perfect for a large family.
  • Enjoy free activities like hiking, the beach, or free museums.
  • Split costs with friends or family.
  • Take a road trip.
  • Get a local SIM card.
  • Watch exchange rates. Check with your bank in advance for which is the partner bank in that location or country to minimize fees.
  • Use cash to avoid credit card or ATM transaction fees.
  • Take local transportation, walk, or rent bikes to get around.
  • Get package deals/city discount cards to save where you can.
  • Book activities online.
  • Bring your own car seat but rent other baby/kid equipment in your destination or use the ones the hotel provides.
  • Use stopovers on airlines to get two vacations for the price of one. This may not be ideal for a large family, though.
  • Save on travel insurance by using your credit card (some credit cards have included travel insurance when you book a vacation using that card.)

How Can A Family Travel More?

A family can travel more by prioritizing travel. One of the ways to do this includes cutting out on unnecessary expenses and saving for travel.

We also take advantage of every school break, long weekends, and holidays to travel more as a family. Whether it is a weekend ski trip, a week-long school break, spending winter break at a place like Beaches Turks and Caicos, or taking time in the summer, this is how a family can travel more. We also leverage long weekends to go to a ski resort.

Sometimes, people avoid peak times by taking their kids out of school for family trips. While this isn’t something we do often, pulling the kids out of school to travel during cheaper times is a way to cut vacation costs.

Buy tickets in advance (for things like an attraction or theme park) to get the best deal. And remember the free things you can do, like visiting the beach or going on a hike. A whole vacation can be built around free things.

I always recommend signing up for reward points for airlines, hotels, and rental cars. If you use the same companies over and over, you will surely accumulate enough points to cash in for travel.

We also recommend using a travel-focused credit card that gives reward points, like Capital One or Chase Sapphire. Both of these cards have numerous travel benefits. With Capital One, you can use your reward points for booking travel, getting reimbursed for travel expenses, or getting gift cards at gas stations, sites like Hotels.com, and restaurants.

Plan ahead, be sure to book in advance to get the best price, and use many of the tips in this article.

What is the cheapest way to travel with kids?

If you want to stretch your dollars on family trips, use local transport if you can. When we lived in London and when we visited, we got an Oyster card and traveled almost exclusively by bus (with a stroller) and the tube. This is much less expensive than a taxi, Uber, or even paying for parking.

Most major cities, like Orlando, Boston, and San Diego, have ways to get around. In fact, on my recent visit to Memphis, I took the $1 old-fashioned trolley everywhere! Not only was it one of the cheapest ways to travel around, but it was also fun.

Follow any of the tips in this post for the cheapest ways to travel with kids no matter where you want to go.

Final Thoughts On The Best Tips For Family Travel On A Budget

Family travel on a budget doesn’t have to be difficult with this ultimate guide to spending less on vacations. With careful planning and communication, you can spend less money and have a wonderful time.

From low-cost flights and eating out less, now you have plenty of ideas for saving money on vacations. You can take a cheap family trip and still have tons of fun while saving some money.

While it may seem like more work to plan a budget-friendly vacation, there’s something very satisfying about it. Just remember there are always other options for travel, places to stay, dining, etc. Travel hacking has definitely been the key to us spending less money.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Now I want to know, do you have any other tips for saving money on vacations and traveling as a family? Let me know in the comments below.

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