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. However, in the last few years, we have managed to take 2-week long family vacations (on a budget). People constantly ask how we manage to make these things happen and the truth is anyone can do it! Here’s the breakdown of how to make this happen for your family!
*This post contains affiliate links through which I may make a commission. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Lower your cost of living
The first piece of advice I can give to you if travel is important to you is to make it a priority by lowering your cost of living.
Ultimately this means finding ways to spend less money each month so that you are able to set more money aside to help fund your travel.
For our family, this meant a major lifestyle shift by downsizing our house and losing over 2,000 square feet. (Less cleaning for me!)
While our downsize was a pretty big move, there are many things you can do to begin lowering the amount of money you spend each month.
- Find out where your money is going and make a better spending plan
- Get a debt payoff strategy in place
- Cut or reduce some of your recurring monthly bills
So many people are quick to be turned off by this idea because they see it as depriving themselves of little luxuries. What I’m saying is, choose priorities. Decide which things you want to spend your money on the most!
Research fun, affordable locations
If you are trying to stick to a budget and are bringing the whole family along for the ride, a good idea would be to start looking into affordable locations.
Of course, you can always spring for spendier vacations, like Disneyland, however, that’s probably not money you’re going to be able to spend year after year.
If a more expensive vacation is what your heart is set on, the rest of the steps will still apply to you, of course. But, for those wanting to be able to do this every single year, the biggest recommendation I have for you is to find affordable things in your price range that you’ll still love doing! 10 US Travel Destinations No One is Talking About.
Once you have a location in mind, it’s time to start pre-planning. When I say pre-planning that means getting ideas on cost of flight, gas and car rentals. It means calculating the cost of a hotel or Airbnb. (Save $40 on Airbnb here.)
If you’re going to be buying groceries or going out to eat, make sure you include that in your expenses.
Not sure how much to calculate for food? Go back through your current monthly food expenses. How much do you spend on average when going out to eat?
By paying attention to your current trends you are more likely to make a solid estimate on how much money you will be spending while on your vacation in these same areas.
Whenever we start planning a vacation, I like to have everything written down in front of me. That’s why I included a Vacation Planner in my Fun Sized Budget Bundle. You can snag that printout totally free. Just click here.
Skimp and splurge
One of the best things to do before planning a big family vacation is to pre-determine what you want to spend on and what you want to splurge on.
For example, maybe going out to eat isn’t as important to you. You’d be fine with cooking most of the meals in your Airbnb. Maybe you wouldn’t even mind sharing an Airbnb with another family to reduce your expenses?
Maybe you’d just camp out of your minivan like our little tribe?
Then again, maybe privacy is extremely important to you and you want to afford a nice place to stay with a good pool so you can skimp on tourist attractions and excursions.
Decide in advance where your vacation spending priorities are so you can feel more at ease with planning our your expenses.
Off-season vs in season
Pay close attention to the benefits of traveling in an off-season! Tom and I were able to take a trip to Nashville for under $1,000 by going in February. The weather was still enjoyable and we were able to skip all of the crowds for the most part!
We have done this for more tropical locations as well. Since our anniversary is in June we’ve saved big money on travel to places like Mexico and the Dominican. We got drizzled on a few times, but didn’t mind one bit.
So when you are deciding on when and where to go, make sure to take a moment to research the best and most affordable times to travel to your particular destination.
Set your savings goal
After adding up travel costs, food, hotel, and excursions, add up your grand total. So many people leave expenses out, or don’t take the time to budget thoroughly for the cost of their vacations that they end up needing to use credit cards to get them through!
To cover your bum, be sure to over-budget and set a realistic savings goal so you are sure to afford your two-week vacation with no stress and no debt.
If you are someone who likes to track and record your savings, there is also a Vacation Savings Tracker included in the Fun Sized Budget Bundle.
Once you have a savings amount in mind, you’ll want to set up automatic savings deposits. We do this through our online CapitalOne360 savings account.
To figure out how much you’ll need to save per paycheck, start with the savings goal amount you calculated. Next, divide that amount by the number of paychecks you have coming before your planned travel date.
For example, if your vacation is exactly one year away and you get paid twice a month, you will receive about 24 paychecks between now and vacay.
Take your total budgeted amount (let’s say $3,000) and divide it by your number of paychecks (24). 3,000 / 24 = 125. That means you’ll need to automatically save $125 per paycheck in order to reach your $3,000 goal in time! Get started with CapitalOne360.
If this method of saving seems stressful to you, I’ve got some good news!
Include your monthly expenses in your vacation budget
Keep in mind, that if you are planning a longer vacation. Like two weeks or more, you can most definitely include some of that budget money in your vacation spending plan.
If you’re not currently operating with a monthly budget, I highly suggest taking advantage of my Fun Sized Budget Bundle. It comes with a free guide so you can start a simple budget plan right away.
My one piece of advice with this is not to take all of your normal budget money!
For example, we normally spend around $150 per week on groceries. If we were gone for 2 weeks on vacation, instead of budgeting the full $300, instead I’ll have off some and budget $200 for vacation instead.
I do this because before you leave for a long vacation, a good thing to do is completely empty your fridge and pantry! That means when you get back home, you’ll have less food to work with than normal.
So be sure to leave a little grocery shopping cushion for when you return home! Grab the Budget Bundle to get started.
Take advantage of travel discounts
I am slowly working my way into the world of travel hacking and while it is very exciting, I feel like I need to have a love of spreadsheets in order to be successful. BUT, that’s not totally true.
Before I go off on a tangent though, let’s talk about what travel hacking is exactly.
Travel hacking is hacking credit cards to get free things like airfare, hotels, and rental cars.
I got started by just signing up for the DeltaSkyMiles credit card when they offered a $200 discount to join. Use my link for a sign-on bonus.Then I made sure to charge (and pay off) the necessary amount to score their bonus travel points. Doing just this allowed me to travel to Washington DC totally free and get a comped hotel room stay.
If you want to learn more about how travel hacking words, here’s a quick travel hacking guide for beginners.
Generate fun spending money
We’ve talked about budgeting for food and lodging, but what about fun stuff like shopping, souvenirs or maybe a drink here and there?
I’m personally a big fan of doing a little house cleaning before we take off on vacation just to free up a little spare cash for the trip. Having kids in the house always tends to bring in clutter and it’s easier to get rid of some of it when I let them know they can earn their own fun money for the trip!
We’ll list items on Facebook Marketplace, Mercari and sell used books and DVDs at the local used book store.
It might not bring in a ton of cash but an extra hundred never hurt anyone, am I right?
Put your vacation budget on a card
To help you stick to a budget and easily keep track of your spending, I recommend getting a Cash App account or taking advantage of the PayPal debit card.
Cash App works similarly to PayPal and Venmo in the sense that you can transfer and receive funds from people. However, with the Cash App debit card you can easily transfer money and then keep track of how much money you have left with the app on your phone!
It makes sticking to a vacation budget super easy. Instead of having to calculate and track all of your purchases, you just log onto the app to see how much money you have left in your budget!
BONUS – The Cash Card through Cash App also gives you discounts when you use it. Like $1 off coffee anywhere and $1 off Lyft rides! Sign up now.
This app can also be used to transfer money to friends and family and when you send your first $5, Get $5 to get started!
Learn to make income on the road
Alright, so let’s save the best for last! My personal favorite way to help my family afford these 2 week vacations every year is by making an income while we’re on the road.
No, this doesn’t mean I spend the entire vacation working!
It means I’ve learned how to make passive income online while setting my own hours and working from anywhere in the world! Learn how to make your first $1,000 online.
Having an income that you can run completely from a laptop isn’t only a major movement right now (#laptoplifestyle) it’s also an incredibly freeing opportunity that allows you to work on location from anywhere in the world!
I hope all of these ideas gave you some great starting off points for how to make 2-week vacations possible for you and your family!
Be sure to follow our family’s travel adventures on Instagram!