Taking vacations has always been something that has been important in our family. We try to get away a few times a year, even if it’s only for a weekend. When planning these vacations, very little planning actually used to go into them. We made snap decisions with our finances that just would up making life more stressful when we returned from vacation. Now that we have finally gotten financial smart I want to share with you how to plan and save for a cheap family vacation that you will all enjoy!
Planning for vacation is absolutely crucial. Personally, I start planning ours sometimes a year in advance. When it comes to planning our vacation I like to really research to get an idea of how much it’s going to cost and try to figure out different places where we can save financially. Some of the things I look at are:
Vacation Budget Planner
In fact, I even created my own easy to follow vacation budget planner that I included in my Fun Sized Budget Bundle. The Fun Sized Budget Bundle has everything you need to plan a smart budget in every area of your life and you can snag the Vacation Budget Printout right here to help keep you organized and smart when it comes to getting your vacation plans in motion.
Be airline smart
When planning your budget and looking at the different airfare and airline options, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
Yeah, it’s not always ideal to travel when no one else wants to BUT you can really save yourself a ton of cash and have a little more walking room when it comes to doing “touristy” type things. I kind of wonder if Tom planned our wedding in June just so we were forced to take beach vacations during the “off season.” In June we have traveled to different locations in Mexico as well as the Dominican Republic and were only met with one seriously rainy day (and we didn’t even care.) Because we planned these off season vacations (AKA the hot months when people don’t want to go somewhere even hotter) we saved ourselves up to 50% of what the cost would have been if we had chosen to go during Minnesota’s winter months.
Even traveling to the warmer states in summer can wind up saving you huge when compared to the winter months.
In general, I think fall is a great time to plan a trip as well. Most people are getting ready for back to school and have other things they are pre-uccupied with. They have taken their summer trips and ready to get back to life. Meanwhile, you could jump on this chance to take your family on a crowd free, inexpensive vacay. (We may or may not be planning something like this for this coming fall…wink, wink.)
Big giant vacations are amazing and exciting, that’s for sure. I know a trip through Europe is still on my bucket list. But for now, life in general is expensive and takes up a lot of time so I am ok with thinking smaller. Plus, charting the lesser known, lesser sought after places can really make for some great memories and experiences that not many other people can share.
For right now, Tom and I have decided to put our passports on hold and just explore the beautiful country that is the USA. After our last trip to the Dominican, we had people from different countries telling us excitedly of all the places they couldn’t wait to explore in America. Hearing this made me feel kind of guilty for ditching my homeland and heading overseas when there really is so much to see from sea to shining sea.
Thinking smaller on vacation
Check my post, How to Be a Cheap Date Without Staying Home for some more great close to home ideas.
When I think back on my childhood, I was always mad that I never went to Disneyland when all the other 7 year olds were. Now, as an adult I think about the backyard campouts I had, the small candy shops we stopped at on the scenic routes and the amazing wonder that was my first far away trip to Colorado to visit family friends. It’s definitely easier to appreciate the big things in life, when you’ve taken in the beauty of the small things.It's definitely easier to appreciate the big things in life, when you've taken in the beauty of the small things. Click To Tweet
Yes, I always dreamed of that Disneyland vacation when I was a kid and I would love to gift that to my children. But not right now. Tom and I have been putting off Disneyland until we knew it would be appreciated by all. Had we taken them at 3, 4 and 12 we might have had one kiddo who appreciated the insane amounts of effort, planning and funding that went into the trip. Then again she was borderline teenager so, probably not.
When kids are young, don’t stress if you can’t afford to take those big trips. Enjoy the small things that you can. My kids still talk about the Valentine’s Day that we set up a tent in our basement. We roasted marshmallows over candle light and ate hot dogs. It cost us close t nothing and yet, it was a memory our kids cherish years later. I’m so thankful I had parents like this when I was growing up. One that made the small things magical and memorable. I hope to give that to my little ones…and maybe I’ll throw in a Disneyland somewhere along the line.
Simple Living Posts
Like I said, big adventures like Disneyland are ideas that will stay in our back pocket. For right now, we are enjoying finding small substitutes. Like the Disney Store at the Mall of America for example. My kids could spend hours in there and I don’t even buy them stuff. Haha. Heck, for those out of state, planning a trip to the Mall of America would be a great way to getaway. There is a waterpark next door, a theme park inside, Crayola Color Experience and mini golf. Plus, Lego Land and the Disney Store are totally free!
Look into your local state parks, free events and outdoor parks. I have found that there are so many things to experience and most of them are right in my “backyard.”
As for those big beach vacations, I say look to the lakes! Again, it’s easy for someone from the land of 10,000 lakes to say, but the truth is there is a ton of beach beauty to be had in places that aren’t “hot spots” like California, Florida or tropical islands. Look into vacations around the Great Lakes, Montana or even Canada.
Beauty is found everywhere. Sometimes you just have to look in places you wouldn’t think to look!
I can’t stress the importance of saving for your vacations enough. Scroll back up to our photo from our first trip to California and you will find a family who CHARGED the entire trip because it just seemed like a good idea. yes, we went to visit family and family is first in my book…but debt shouldn’t be!
Take advantage of my FREE Vacation Budget Printout to start setting a plan for your next getaway! If you want to get really serious about your finances, check out some of my top budgeting and debt payoff posts and get yourself my Fun Size Budget Bundle for only $10!
Smart money posts
*This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures.
$5 Meal Plan – The $5 meal plan was created by a busy mother of 4 for other busy mother’s out there. Get access to healthy meal plans that take all the guess work out of what to make for your family!
BeFrugal – Be Frugal is an online resources for the best coupons around. In stores, online or in restaurants.
Dosh – Dosh is an app that links up to your credit cards (or qualifying debit cards) and gives you money back on purchases you make. It works like other cash back apps by refunding you money on qualifying purchases. Only you don’t have to keep track, it scans discounts and gives you money back automatically!
Declutter – Decluttr is a super easy online way to sell your unused things to get the maximum amount of money!
Fun Sized Budget Bundle- My very own customized budget bundle. Including your basic budgeting printouts, debt payoff sheets as well as savings and vacation planners!
IBotta – IBotta is a totally free app that pays you $10 just for signing up. With this app you can get paid for the things you already plan on buying!
Love and Money – Online courses to help couples and family get finances together in order to stay together!
Paperless Home – The paperless home guides you step by step through how to start creating a home where all of your most important information can always be in one place and always at your finger tips!
Simplify + Planner – Abby Lawson from Just a Girl and Her Blog has a great and inexpensive planner to help you get intentionally organized. Starting a blog can be very overwhelming and getting a little organized can go a long way.
Target Debit Card – If you shop at Target as much as me, you should definitely get in on the debit card if you haven’t already. All it does is remove money from your regular checking account like a regular debit card, but saves you 5% on your purchases every time you use it!