14 Cheap Yet Fun Family Vacation Ideas

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cheap family vacation ideasGoing on vacation can both be fun and stressful.

I know from experience as a child when my parents would always hurry us up because they wanted to get the most out of the trip with the little time that was available.

As I grew up and started paying for my own trips, a new kind of stress came up. Paying for the vacation. You’re probably familiar with it.

I can still remember the days of creating a “travel fund” for my next trip. And, keeping tabs on my expenses so I can save enough to travel.

The good news is, there are cheap family vacation ideas you can take advantage of in order to reduce the cost of your vacation. This way you don’t have to dip into your savings, investments, or borrow any money to do so.

Here are some of the best things you can do to save money on your vacation.

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Have a Staycation

Staycations are a great way to take a vacation without having to spend the extra cash you would when traveling to another country or state. Traveling within where you live lets you save on airfare and lodging, which often costs a lot more when traveling away from home.

The best part of it all is that there are many different cool places and attractions near where you live that you haven’t seen or gone to. This gives you a chance to explore places locally.

Travel During the Off-Season

Summer is by far the best time to travel. The kids are off from school and the weather is great to go outside. Unfortunately, it is also the time when everyone else is going on vacation.

As such, prices go up because the demand for airline tickets and accommodations is higher than supply.

Fortunately, the opposite happens during off-peak times. Traveling after the fall or after the holidays is much cheaper than most times of the year because much fewer people do it.

And while the weather may not be a toasty as it is during the summer, you’ll be able to enjoy different experiences with the cooler weather.

Compare Prices for Airfare and Accommodations

One of the most important things to do when planning any vacation is to price check everything. By comparing the prices of airfare, accommodations, car rentals, and other large expenses, you’ll be able to save a lot of money.

Many travel sites like Expedia, Booking.com, and Kayak offer discount rates with their partner hotels. In some cases, these are limited. So, when you find them, do take advantage of them, especially when they go for steep discounts.

Another thing worth looking it a complete package deals. Many hotels and airlines offer deals when you book airfare, lodging, and car rentals together.

Book Your Vacation in Advance

In most cases, you’re more likely to find deals when you book early. This allows you to search around and set alerts when prices of hotels and airlines go down.

Thus, it’s always a good idea to start looking early rather than just a month or less before you plan on traveling.

That said, there are some sites like Expedia and Groupon where you’ll be able to find last minute deals that are actually cheaper than regular prices.

Drive or Take the Train Instead of Flying Whenever Possible

When it comes to travel, airfare and hotel accommodations take up the biggest chunk of your budget. So, whenever you have the chance to drive or travel by train to your destination do so. Additionally, the farther away from home you travel, the more expensive the airplane ticket will cost.

As such, if you’re trying to save money while taking a vacation, it may be a good idea to travel to somewhere nearby. You can opt for a staycation if there are interesting locations and attractions locally. Or, you can visit a neighboring state or places where it takes just a few hours to drive to.

This will significantly cut the cost of travel.

Use Sites Like Airbnb and Booking.com

Airbnb and Booking.com are two sites that I always make sure to check when I travel, each for a different reason. But together, they help me decide where to stay.

Airbnb is a great place to find home and apartment rentals where you want to travel. I’ve found that this is a more cost-effective way to live when you’re traveling with 4 or more people in your group. The larger your group, the cheaper it will be to live in a house, townhouse, or apartment as opposed to hotels.

That’s because you’ll be living in a home with a few bedrooms. As such, your rent covers the entire place. Often, the hosts are kind enough to give you extras as well. And, you get to pick the amenities of the place you’ll be staying in.

In contrast, hotels limit how many people can stay in a room to 2 or 3 maximum. This means the more people traveling in your group, the more rooms you’ll need to book.

If you do prefer to stay at hotels, then check out Booking.com. they offer a lot of discounts depending on the time of year and the type of lodging.

Enjoy Active Vacations

Active vacations are another way to save money and have a good time. Activities such as hiking, cycling, and camping are much cheaper because there are free or low-cost places to go to enjoy them.

In contrast, when you go shopping, visit a theme part, watch a play or sports event you’re spending money just to get in the door. Food and other things you get along the way cost extra as well.

I can still remember the last time we went to Disneyland. While the kids were super-stoked, I can still vividly remember that the entire trip cost a pretty penny.

Stay at Places Where You Have a Kitchen and Fridge

Besides airfare and accommodations, food is often the next biggest expense when traveling. The other is shopping.

Because we tend to always eat out when we’re away from home, the cost of eating can quickly add up. So, unless you plan on eating Happy Meals all throughout your trip, you’re likely to spend more than you want to when traveling.

That’s why lodging somewhere that has a kitchen/kitchenette and microwave oven goes a long way. This lets you buy food from the supermarket and cook your own meals. Preparing your own not only lets you eat healthier it also allows you to save a lot of money and time (traveling to and from the restaurants).

Take a Cruise

Cruises are a cheaper way to take your entire family on vacation. That’s because you get everything in one place. The cruise covers travel costs, accommodations, food, and entertainment). So, you’ll be able to spend a lot less money while enjoying all the things there are on your vacation.

But, do note that not everything on the cruise is free. Always make sure to read the trip details and the rules of the ship. Each ship and cruise line will have its own rules.

In most cases, there will be premium services including restaurants, gym, and spa services that you’ll need to pay extra for. So, if you want to save money you’ll want to avoid availing them.

Go to the Beach

For something even cheaper, go to the beach. The beach is great because you can have fun with your family without spending a dime. You can bring all the things you want for a fun afternoon in the water, sand, and sun.

If you bring the food and beverages with you, then the entire trip will be free.

Look for Hidden Fees

Always include extra fees. You probably already know that the price tag shown on travel websites don’t include tax. But, it’s always a good idea to check for other extra fees so you don’t end up getting any unpleasant surprises.

In addition to taxes, there can be travel fees, extra add ons and other costs tacked on. Make sure to always check for these because they’re there. And, read the fine print.

Don’t Be Shy to Ask for Upgrades

Most airlines and hotels are very accommodating to guests. And, while upgrades are usually offered to loyal guests and those who qualify for certain things, it never hurts to ask.

The worst thing they can say is that there isn’t any available. So, what have you got to lose?

Often, they will have something. Sometimes it’s just a small add on. Other times, it can mean a beachfront view or even a complete upgrade to a suite from your regular room.

Ask Your Kids to Help You Find Deals

When it comes to technology, surfing the web, social media, and your digital devices, your teens are the go-to experts. Ask them to scour the web to find deals for your trip.

This will let them put their skills into action while doing the legwork for you. It also allows them to be part of the entire planning process.

From there, you’ll be able to narrow down the choices they come up with.

For older teens who understand the value of money, you can likewise give them instructions and tell them about your budget and restrictions. This will give them a chance to learn how to save money when planning trips.

Be Flexible

You’ve probably noticed that checkbox in most flight scanning websites that ask you whether you’re flexible about your departure and arrival dates.

Being flexible about your trip’s dates (and other details) allows you to move things back or forward a little towards when there are sales happening.


Cheap vacations are more fun because they take the stress out of worrying about spending. More importantly, your bank account doesn’t take a huge hit once you come back home to reality.

The list above gives you some amazing ways to reduce the cost of your vacation so you can enjoy time off with your family without spending a fortune.

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