Trying to take your kids on a family vacation they will love without breaking the bank can sometimes seem like a daunting task. Resorts and theme parks can be expensive, especially during vacation times when the kids are out of school. However, no matter where you and your family happen to live, there are real alternatives that can please both your family and your wallet.
Stay close to home.
Choose an area a comfortable drive’s distance from your home that your family has never visited. For example, if you live in southern California, check out the northern part of the state or vice versa. Ahead of time, research inexpensive or even free activities near your chosen destination.
Staying within driving distance of home has the benefit of saving money on airfare and rental car expenses. It also eliminates the pressure families often experience when trying to fit everything in during one trip. You can relax knowing you can always come back another time.
Really close to home.
More than likely, there are many interesting places in your home town that your family has never been to. Is there a farmer’s market or museum you have driven past a million times but just never managed to stop by and see? Are there parks or gardens you keep meaning to take the kids to? Is there a great new restaurant that you have not gotten around to trying? Make a list of all those places and put together a vacation itinerary.
Another great way to make the most of vacationing in your home town is to attend local events such as festivals and county fairs, or community theater performances. Check your local community calendar for a schedule of events and chances are there will be something fun going on.
Go off the beaten track.
Look for unusual places close to home. Finding places to visit that are off the beaten track may take a bit of research, but is well worth it. Think beyond the internet and move your search to places such as your local library, chamber of commerce, travel agency, or AAA Club. Lobbies of local hotels usually have pamphlets and flyers of interesting and unusual things to do in your local and surrounding areas.
Another place to look is your local bookstore. The travel section often has at least a shelf or two dedicated to information on things to do in your area. Also, there are plenty of travel books specializing in weird or off the beaten track destinations.
There is nothing like spending time in the great outdoors and with the proliferation of electronic hand-held devices, unplugging and getting outside for a while is a healthy thing. The cost of spaces at campgrounds varies depending on location, amenities, and time of year, but usually end up being less expensive than a hotel room.
There is a great variety of activities to enjoy while camping such as hiking, climbing, kayaking, cycling, and more, as your location allows. Camping is also the ideal opportunity for family bonding over cookouts and campfires.
Travel in an RV.
If camping sounds appealing but tents and sleeping bags do not, consider renting an RV. No matter if you drive across your home state or across the country, driving an RV saves money on both lodging and food. Park the RV in a campground with hookups and enjoy all the amenities of a hotel room with a much lower cost. Bring your own food and save money on going out to eat. This is an especially helpful option if you have children with food allergies.
Environmentally conscious families can help make a difference by going on a volunteer vacation. There are opportunities both locally and globally ranging from preserving the Pacific Crest Trail in North America to helping preserve cheetahs in Namibia. Prices do vary widely, so be sure to check before you book. Also be sure to carefully consider just how much work your family can realistically do before committing. While you might be able to go all day, your kids might not. To encourage your kids’ enthusiasm for the earth, keep the experience a good one.
Take a package deal.
If a cruise or a resort is a vacation must, try an all-inclusive package deal. Vacation packages generally include lodging, food and beverages, and a range of activities. To get the best deals, take the time to shop around. It also pays to speak to a travel agent. Travel agents often know about deals and destinations you might not find online. A travel agent can also help you plan your vacation and personalize your itinerary to suit your family’s needs.
Go for the freebies.
There are many hotels and restaurants where kids stay and/or eat free as part of promotional packages. Also, there are wide varieties of places, such as state parks and museums that have no entry fees for children under certain age or even FREE for all ages. Make the most of your budget and your vacation by taking advantage of those freebies whenever and wherever you get the chance.
Go for it!
Using the above suggestions any family, anywhere can have a great vacation on a tight budget. No matter where you go or what you do, remember it is the time spent together that matters.