Now that winter has retreated, you are probably looking forward to the family summer vacation. The summer vacation offers a relaxing break from the demanding schedules of both parents and children. It is a time to put away stress and slow down, allowing the family to connect in a fun and meaningful way.
In the face of a tough economy and rising gas prices, it can be difficult for many families to find a way to pay for that summer getaway. Read on for some budget-friendly tips to keep vacation costs under control.
Do Your Homework
Sign up for email newsletters. Many airlines and online travel sites offer updates featuring inexpensive family vacation packages and last-minute travel offers.
Stay flexible, and research several destinations to find the best deal. Traveling one or two days before or after your original schedule can pay off in the form of reduced airfare and hotel rates. When you see a good deal, jump on it. Prices will only drop so low, and you do not want to risk having the package sell out on you.
Opt for Vacation Rentals Over Hotel Rooms
If your family is large or you are traveling with another family, consider checking out a vacation rental. Dividing the cost of a rental with another group offers huge cost savings.
Having a full kitchen at your disposal will cut down on eating expenses, and the rental may offer free on-site entertainment opportunities, further slashing costs. Parents will enjoy the privacy offered by having their own rooms, making the vacation even more relaxing.
Get Off the Beaten Track
When you visit an area that does not list tourism as a main source of income, you stand to save vacation dollars. Check blogs and travel forums for unusual and interesting attractions.
Scout out free events that offer the opportunity to learn about another culture while you eat unfamiliar food, listen to lively music and explore unique crafts. Look for lesser-known historical sites that offer children the opportunity to learn at their own pace in a quiet environment.
Think about exploring a National Wildlife Refuge where your family can enjoy hunting, fishing and kayaking against a backdrop of spectacular scenery.
Cut Down on Eating Out
While much of the appeal of a vacation lies in the freedom from the drudgery of cooking and cleaning, eating out takes a large chunk of the typical family’s vacation budget. If you are staying in a hotel, try to find one that offers free breakfasts. Pack your own healthy lunches, and save your dining dollars for a nice evening dinner.
Keep the Little Costs Under Control
Steer the kids away from expensive T-shirts and stuffed animals that will mean little two weeks after vacation ends. Sit them down before the vacation even starts, and let them know just how much money they can spend on souvenirs. Decide on whether the kids will supplement this amount with savings from babysitting and chores. Try to defer souvenir shopping until the last portion of the trip to cut down on the number of purchases.
Look into house swapping as a way to save money on dining and hotel room costs. A number of online agencies work to bring interested families together. For a small fee, you can list a description and photographs of your home. If you are comfortable with the prospect of having strangers sleeping in your beds, home swapping may be a cost-effective vacation option.
Decide on details, such as who pays utilities, whether smoking will be permitted and the number of people staying in the house. Put everything in writing. Consult your insurance policy, and make sure that it will cover injuries to guests and damages to the home.
Take a Vacation at Home
Skyrocketing gas prices are convincing many families to stay close to home this summer. Do not view a “staycation” as an inferior version of the real thing; instead, think of it as a relaxing alternative to a lengthy, expensive car trip.
Pick up your camera, and pretend to be a tourist in your own city. Leave the cell phones at home, and ignore the lure of the television and computer at the end of the day. Break out the board games instead, and enjoy some family together time. Because you will be cutting costs by vacationing at home, splurge on pricy restaurants you rarely visit.
The most important aspect of a summer vacation is spending quality time with your family, no matter how much, or how little, you spend doing it.