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7 Tips to Help You Plan Family Vacations on a Budget

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post from Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Co.) and I have received compensation for it, but all opinions are my own.

Travel is not an exclusive privilege for the wealthy. I’m convinced that anyone, at any income level can travel and travel well.

Easy tips to help you plan family vacations on a budget.

That doesn’t mean that travel looks the same for everyone. For example, years ago my friends were planning vacations to Europe because they got a great deal on flights, and my family was excited to tent camp at a campground a few counties away. That doesn’t mean that our experience was any less fulfilling than their experience in Europe.

Sure, they saw some amazing sights and ate incredible food, but you know what? My family had a great time telling stories and roasting marshmallows around the campfire, hiking through the woods and making memories as a family. Because honestly, to me, travel has always been more about who I’m with than where I’ve been. With that in mind, I’d like to offer you some tips to help you have a memorable vacation on a budget- especially during the holidays with your family and loved ones.

Holidays can be hard on a budget and holiday travel can be even worse. Hotels, flights and gas prices are often at a premium. Poor weather conditions can also play a part in travel around Christmas and the New Year. Bad weather means canceled flights, poor driving conditions and can lead to increased travel time and expenses which may translate to extra hotel rooms and meals. If possible, consider planning your vacation at a different time of year. If that’s not possible, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Walking along the beach in California

7 Tips to Help You Plan Family Vacations on a Budget

1. Know your budget and stick to it.

It may be tempting to pad the budget just a bit with the help of a credit card or two, but unless you have an emergency, I’d steer clear of using the plastic to fund your vacation. When my vacation is over, I want to spend time thinking about how great it was (or wasn’t) and where I’d like to go with my family next rather than stress over any debt I’ve incurred.

2. Choose your destination.

Once you have your budget set, it’s time to choose your destination. Avoid big cities like New York and Los Angeles where you’ll pay a premium for hotel rooms. Touristy destinations like Disney are also pricey (though there are ways to make a trip to Disney less expensive).

I suggest looking at smaller cities that offer a selection of hotels and other accommodations within driving distance of your home. Many small to mid-range cities offer many of the same types of attractions, such as zoos, museums, and botanical gardens and they are much easier to get around.

The kids jumping on the beach in California

3. Choose your accommodations wisely.

If you have a large family, you may find that it is less expensive to rent a vacation home, rather than a hotel room. A home will give you and your family added privacy, space to spread out and relax, and comes with other perks, like a kitchen so you can prepare your own meals.

If a rental home is not an option, look for a decent, but inexpensive hotel near your destination. If possible, reserve a room with a kitchenette and a property that offers complimentary continental breakfasts. When booking, ask what is included with the breakfast to help you determine if it’s a good value.

If the property doesn’t have a kitchenette, consider packing a portable kitchen and cooking your own meals in your room. I offer more information on cooking in a hotel room on my menu bar.

4. Look for free or discounted attractions.

Personally, I love free attractions because that means I have more money to spend on an attraction that costs a bit more than I normally would want to pay OR it allows me to save money to put towards another trip.

The National Park Service often has amazing Visitor Centers that are free. Some state parks have free or low-cost admission and many cities have museums, walking tours, and parks that are inexpensive to visit. Check with the local Visitor’s Center to see if they offer any discounted tickets to the attractions you’re most interested in.

5. Avoid eating out for all your meals.

To many, travel and food go hand in hand. I get that. I also enjoy trying meals that are unique to the destination that I’m visiting, but eating out can be a huge budget buster. This is true at home and on the road. Think about packing a cooler with sandwich fixings, fruits, and veggies.

Avoid vending machines and high convenience store prices by packing your microwave popcorn, soda, and snacks; a few quarters here and there can add up.

If you do plan to eat out, order meals that can be shared if possible and skip the adult beverages and soda, which could easily add $10-15 more to your bill depending on where you dine out.

6. Slow down and don’t try to fit everything in.

The more you do, the more you’re likely to spend. Plan to visit one or two attractions a day and then plan to spend time in the hotel pool or hot tub. Read a book. Take a nap. Watch a movie. Take a hike. You’re on vacation, remember? Slow down, spend time with the family, and enjoy it. Don’t become one of those people that need a vacation from their vacation.

7. Decide if travel insurance is a good fit for you.

Travel insurance hasn’t always been something I’ve considered, but one eventful trip changed my mind. I was scheduled to fly from my cold home in Ohio to Fort Lauderdale in mid-January. If you’ve ever spent time in the Midwest in January, I think you’ll understand my excitement at escaping, or getting away for a few days.

Imagine how disappointed I was when three delays later, the budget airline I had booked for my getaway canceled the flight due to bad weather conditions. But left standing at the airport with my luggage in six inches of snow and driving home in near blizzard conditions (I may be exaggerating just a bit, but I want to make sure you understand the full impact of this loss) wasn’t nearly as bad as realizing that I’d missed the deadline to cancel my hotel room and rental car and that some tours had been prepaid. Yeah, this change of plans hit my pocketbook hard.

If I had purchased travel insurance through Allianz Travel Insurance, I may have been able to recover most if not all those costs. Travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance will reimburse prepaid deposits and expenses if you must cancel your trip for an illness or injury, trip cancellation due to natural disasters, loss of employment, military duty and more depending on the type of plan you purchase. For more information visit http://WWW.ALLIANZTRAVELINSURANCE.COM.

Allianz Global Assistance also has a free smartphone app for both Android and iPhone users that provides travelers with real-time flight information, important medical resources, international emergency numbers, and access to travel insurance information and one-touch dialing to reach travel assistance and customer service. Download the TravelSmart Mobil App for your next trip.

Have you purchased travel insurance in the past or is there a time you should have used travel insurance? Will you use it in the future?

April Yap

Monday 23rd of January 2017

I agree with you. It is important to set a budget and stick to it. We are travelling this February and I am really worried about spending too much. I think I will work on the advice that you shared about budget cause I do not want to worry after travelling.

Marielle Altenor

Monday 9th of January 2017

Excellent tips. Would love go somewhere nice with my family one day soon! I think I would take travel insurance if I were visiting a new place with my whole family. You just never know.

Shaney Maharaj

Saturday 7th of January 2017

After spending so much money during the festive season I wasn't planning on going anywhere but my husband is insisting on a vacay so this post really helps! Thanks for sharing.

Emma Spellman

Saturday 7th of January 2017

We are planning to go on vacation in April. These tips are awesome and will help us save some money.


Friday 6th of January 2017

I enjoy eating at different restaurants when traveling, but it can be costly. That's why I often go to the grocery store, such as Whole Foods, and buy meals at the daily. Much cheaper that way! Protection Status
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