How to Plan and Save for a Cheap Family Vacation

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 we have finally gotten financial smart. Naturally, I want to share with you how to plan and save for a cheap family vacation that you will all enjoy and get every possible discount!

*This post contains affiliate links through which I may make a commission. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Get a plan

Planning for a vacation is absolutely crucial. Personally, I start planning ours sometimes a year in advance. When it comes to planning for vacation there are some important costs to look at and compare.

  • Airfare vs. Road trip
  • Excursion costs
  • Restaurants and eating out
  • Transportation once we arrive
  • Places to stay

Vacation Planner Printout

In fact, I even created an easy to follow Vacation Planner Printout to help keep you organized and smart when it comes to getting your vacation plans in motion.

This way you can compare prices to make sure you are planning the best and most affordable trip possible!

Airfare hacks

When planning your budget and looking at the different airfare and airline options, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

  • Sign up for e-mail updates on changed airfare prices
  • If planning for holiday travel, book as early as possible
  • Sundays are usually the most expensive day to fly
  • Purchase tickets at least 4 months before flight to save the most
  • Try checking airline prices from devices (laptop, tablet, phone) — the price will often change and you can snag a cheaper price!

Minimize Travel Stress with One Bag Packing for the Whole Family

Hit up those discounts!

Before you finalize your vacation plans, it’s good to check all your possible savings options! I can’t believe how many were available to me and I never even knew it! Planning a cheap vacation is so much easier than people think it is and a lot of it is in the small savings that are available to you!

  • Dosh savings app: The Dosh savings app is an app that not only pays you just for signing up but you can get $25 off with your first hotel booking.
  • Ibotta and Groupon: Ibotta is another savings app that a lot of people know and usually use for groceries. But, what you may not have heard is you can link Ibotta and save more with Groupon!
  • Tours4Fun: If you are still just not digging the idea of planning your vacation all by yourself, Tours4Fun is like an online travel agent that does everything for you! PLUS you save an additional 5% just by signing up for their e-mail list!
  • Airbnb: If you are a first time Airbnb user, you can get $40 off your stay!

16 Sneaky Ways to Save Money on Vacation

vacation, travel, travel agent, plan a trip, trip planning, plan a vacation, cruise lines, plan a cruise, all inclusive, excursionsThink “off-season”

Yeah, it’s not always ideal to travel when no one else wants to BUT you can really save yourself a ton of cash! Plus, you’ll have a little more walking room when it comes to doing “touristy” type things.

Traveling off-season can help you save huge on major destinations. If you don’t mind traveling to places like Australia in winter, you may just get the trip of a lifetime while saving huge amounts of cash!

In general,  fall is a great time to plan a trip. Most people are getting ready for back to school and have other things they are pre-occupied 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.

Think small

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 most weeks we have a pretty full schedule. That’s why considering a mini-vacation might be the best way to go.

Charting the lesser known, the lesser sought after places can really make for some great memories and experiences!

Cheap mini family vacation ideas

  • Visit places in your area
  • Plan visits to out of state family
  • Stop at the mom and pop shops
  • Take the back roads
  • Book a local hotel for a weekend
  • Camp out in the back yard

What to do with 24 Hours and $200 in San Antonio

Take your time

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 ages 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 a 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 Valentine’s Day that we set up a tent in our basement. We roasted marshmallows over candlelight and ate hot dogs.

It cost us close to nothing and yet, it was a memory our kids cherish years later.

Save Money for Travel Even If You’re Broke

Find Substitues

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 anything!

  • Look into local state parks
  • Google FREE things near me
  • Check out your local parks

Beauty is found everywhere. Sometimes you just have to look in places you wouldn’t think to look!

Save, save, save!

I can’t stress the importance of saving for your vacations enough!

Take advantage of my FREE Vacation Planner Printout to start setting a plan for your next getaway!

3 Ways Uber Can Help You Save for Vacation

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You can plan a cheap family vacation and still have a blast! Here are 12 ways that you can plan and save on your next vacation. Plus a FREE Vacation Planner


  1. Arliss | 12th Feb 18

    Renee, this is a GREAT post! Thanks so much for the helpful tips! Definitely going to be making use of these for the vacation my husband and I are taking this spring so we can do travel on the cheap without diminishing the fun. 🙂 Thanks again!

    • | 12th Feb 18

      So glad you were able to get some ideas Arliss!! Have fun!

  2. Kippi | 12th Feb 18

    Great information! Inspired to plan a vacation.

    • | 12th Feb 18

      Me too!

  3. Erika | 12th Feb 18

    I would definitely say my sister is the most travel-savvy person in the family. She always tells me to travel in the off-season because prices will be cheaper.

    • | 12th Feb 18

      Gotta love those people who pass along their knowledge!

  4. Aleah Worthem | 12th Feb 18

    Renee I will definitely be using your vacation budget printout when I take my very first Baecation in January. We plan to go to the Bahamas and definitely do not want to spend tons of money. Thank you for all your tips and advice on how not to go broke while on vacay!

    • | 12th Feb 18

      So glad it could be helpful! The vacation printout is definitely extremely helpful for us to get a good budget set!

  5. Agness of a Tuk Tuk | 12th Feb 18

    This is an exceptional and ultimate guide to planning a family vacation, Renee! I will try to bear all these tips in mind. Keep up the awesome work!

    • | 12th Feb 18

      Thanks so much Agness!

  6. Sarina | 12th Feb 18

    Great article! I definitely agree with you that there’s so much to see and do in the US. We like to think of things in our state or just do something a bit out of the ordinary. I’m into party styling so I make holidays special for my kids and they seem to enjoy it.

    • | 12th Feb 18

      That sounds so great! Those are definitely the things they will remember the most!

  7. michaela | 12th Feb 18

    This post is so great! I love budget ideas for travel. Thank you so much!

  8. Melanie | 12th Feb 18

    Great tips! Traveling is one of the most amazing things, but so many people feel limited because they can’t afford it. I hope this helps people out!

    • | 12th Feb 18

      Totally agree!

  9. Sincerely Nicki | 12th Feb 18

    Love these tips. I don’t have kids nor am I married yet. But these are definitely takeaways for the future. I love your “about me” by the way.

    • | 12th Feb 18

      Thanks so much Nicki! I think you can still definitely take advantage of some stuff if you’re single!

  10. Lydia | 13th Feb 18

    I love your ideas here! I love traveling and getting to adventure together, we will be putting some of these into practice!

    • | 13th Feb 18

      Me too!! Hope you can benefit from some!

  11. Gem | 13th Feb 18

    Great tips, thanks! I agree about the off-season, wherever possible! Now it’s got me thinking of planning another 🙂

    • | 13th Feb 18

      Do it!!

  12. Melissa Javan | 13th Feb 18

    Helpful tips. I like the “Sundays are usually the most expensive day to fly” one. We try to stay with friends or family along the way, to save costs on a road trip.

    • | 13th Feb 18

      Ahhh that’s a good idea. Unfortunately we don’t know many people lol!

  13. Linda | 13th Feb 18

    Great ideas here! Too often we focus on the “big” vacation and when something comes up you just can’t swing it, a lot of folks end up not taking a vacation at all. Planning for smaller vacations more often is a great idea and will create so many more memories! Thanks for the tips!

    • | 13th Feb 18

      I agree. In fact, I think we have one in store for us!

  14. Katie | Hospitable Homemaker | 13th Feb 18

    These are such great tips!! So much better to plan and save beforehand than have debt when you are done! Love these tips!

    • | 13th Feb 18

      Ugh yes…I have done the vacation and then come home to more debt. It’s really not all that great. Most of it was debt from $4 Starbucks!

  15. Amanda | 13th Feb 18

    Thank youfor all of these great tips! Ill have to save them for our next trip!

    • | 13th Feb 18

      You bet! Hope you can benefit from some of them!

  16. Justine @ Little Dove | 13th Feb 18

    These are such great tips! I totally agree about traveling during the off season, not only can you get great deals but I love that places are less crowded!

    • | 13th Feb 18

      Oh yes! I definitely get that! We have only gone off season so I think we’ve been spoiled for sure!

  17. V at LoveBecomesHer | 14th Feb 18

    That printout is handy!

    • | 14th Feb 18

      I love using this every time we plan a trip!

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