Going on family trips can be expensive, but if you’re careful and pay attention there are a lot of ways to save money while on a family vacation. Our little family of three recently went on a 5 day/4 night trip to Brian Head, Utah. Our budget was $100/day including gas. While I was confident we would be able to stay on budget, I didn’t expect us to be under budget. While we didn’t use all of the tips below, I’ve compiled all of the ways we like to save. Some trips we use more of these tips than others, but they are all great ways to save on your next family vacation.
One thing we love to do is to grocery shop while on vacation. I know, that takes the fun out of it right? Wrong! We always have food with us so there’s no running through the drive thru really quick to eat something that isn’t even really that delicious or special.
PICK ONE MEAL TO EAT OUT
Instead of eating out at every meal, pick one meal a day to indulge a little bit. We usually choose dinner, but sometimes a lunch out can be fun too. You can save so much money by eating on nice meal vs. skimping on 3 meals out every day.
One of my absolute favorite ways to save money while on vacation is to choose a hotel with a continental breakfast! When shopping around for a hotel make sure to check out if breakfast is included. We have often found hotels that are just $10 per night more, but our whole family can get their fill at breakfast which makes it worth it! Quick tip: if you go this route, try looking at reviews or calling because some hotels will say they have a continental breakfast and put out mini muffins and coffee. For some people this works, but most hotels have a much better selection so just double check.
SKIP THE SOUVENIR SHOPS
We rarely purchase any souvenirs these days. Once in a while we might grab a sweatshirt for one of us, but for the most part we don’t spend any money. Our favorite souvenirs are photos! Take some photos and throw them in a frame when you get home. Another thing we used to do when I was younger, and we went on a lot of nature related vacations, was we would take things like pinecones, rocks, washed up sand dollars, etc. Be sure that this isn’t frown upon where ever you are before doing it, but if it’s not it can make for a great reminder of your trip without spending any money!
KEEP A BUDGET
Our budget for vacations tends to be $100 per day or less. This is pretty reasonable for our small family of three. You can often fit in a delicious meal, an activity and maybe go out for ice cream or something similarly simple and fun. Make a budget and do your best to stick to it. If you need to, try to plan ahead on days that might be more expensive and pull back on the other days.
Many restaurants have a happy hour menu where their food and drinks are much cheaper than regular price, sometimes just a few dollars. If you’re on vacation during the week at all, you will more than likely be able to find somewhere to take advantage of this. My husband and I like to get a few happy hour appetizers and just share. We can often get a full meal for under $15 for the both of us.
If you have some time before your trip, try finding local deals on daily deal websites like groupon. You can easily find discounts on meals at restaurants, fun activities, pampering like massages or nail salon visits, etc. Some of my favorites are groupon and living social.
My favorite thing to do when we go to a new place is to check yelp! Whenever we’re looking for somewhere good to eat I always check yelp to find the best places and, often, tips on what to order. This doesn’t always save you money, but often times you can see the price rating as well as reviews that mention pricing, or at least if the food was a good deal. We have found so many place through yelp that we would have never thought to go to otherwise.
I’m a big fan of using cash on vacation! It’s so much more tangible and harder to overspend because you can see exactly what you have left. One thing we liked to do was to only take out what was part of the budget that day. The rest of our budget would stay in an envelope with us, but because it was separate we wouldn’t try to spend more than we had for the day.
If you do all, or even some, of the above you’ll be sure to save on your next family trip! What are your favorite ways to save?
Disclaimer: this post was originally published on my frugal living blog, Miss Tightwad, which I decided to shut down and combine with Life by Aileen.