How to Save Money on Summer Vacations

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.

House Swap

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.


  1. Great ideas, FD!

    I’ve got just one suggestion. A great alternative to the expensive souvenirs you mentioned is to take the time to take some good pictures. Children and adults alike will enjoy framed pictures commemorating a family vacation far longer than the average souvenir.

  2. Don’t forget to save money FOR vacations – not just while your on one. $20-$30 /week set aside in the Vacation jar makes some of the vacation decisions a lot easier. Make sure the word “Vacation” is clearly visible on the outside of the jar to do the most to “deter” early withdrawals. There is a painfully obvious penalty for doing that !

  3. For me the eating out part is the biggest money waster. When you are somewhere new it is all too tempting to want to try all kinds of different restaurants. That luxury adds a lot of money though. By avoiding restaurants for just 1 or 2 meals a day, it can add up to huge savings.

    Also remember to plan ahead and scout out discounts or coupons for any attractions you want to see. Sometimes people have unused tickets they are reselling or something travel companies provide discounts to refer people to things. If you didn’t plan ahead, it is worth at least asking the hotel front desk about it.

  4. One of the reasons why we travel is to try different restaurants and have a taste of their food so budget on food is a big fraction of our budget. To save on money, we rent a house or an apartment instead of hotels and walk down the road, instead of taking a cab, to enjoy the place and see more what they have to offer. Souvenirs? We take photos of landmarks and scenery, print them, and give it framed or as a postcard.

  5. Great info. I recently did a post on this and didn’t write about subscribing to travel websites (mainly because the post is more about when you already know where you are going), as this is actually a great way to see deals if you don’t already have an idea of where to go.

  6. Great article! The most expensive part of my vacations is usually eating out. We usually don’t want to cook because we’re on vacation but not eating out as much can definitely save us a lot more money.

  7. Saving tips have become really important nowadays especially when prices of the necessities are shooting through roof.. But I also like to know regarding how to save chunks on money2india transfer because I do it too often.

  8. great ideas. I mean getting to the actual vacation part and saving up till then is hard enough on its own. I have done a few things like just basically not going out to eat at restaurants at all and then we got rid of our landline because honestly nobody calls us on that anymore and little changes like that help. We also switched our cellphones which was probably the biggest money saver. We are saving up to go to the Grand Canyon so anything can help. I mean of all those things I think each has an added benefit to saving but by far the switching of our phones to a prepaid company is saving my husband and I approx 80 dollars a month. Cant speak to all companies but we got on the Tracfone bandwagon and have been super happy about it. Both got LG430G’s and got double minutes for life and have been thrilled since. Aside from those three things I think we might be able to save.

  9. These are great practical tips to save money on a summer vacation. I’ve personally found that ‘getting off the beaten’ track not only helps me save money but I often find it most rewarding as well.

  10. I really liked the article it had some great tips. I know we like to go to Myrtle Beach every year and always try and save where we can, just love the coupon books. Anyway a friend introduced me to a thing that I signed up for called Invado Travel Club. I though it was really great and it was nowhere near one of those overpriced clubs that people try and sell you on when your on vacation. They have exclusive member trips, condo and resort getaways, custom trips for family vacations; retreats, and other group outings. And many of them are all inclusive trips with transportation to and from airports, your meals, passes to any special activities associated with the hotel and more. Really friendly customer service too. Here is the link I was given to sign up at: then scroll down and click into Invado Travel and then sign-up. It ask about an enroller id and I was told to put this number in 312727, but I hope this helps you guys out, I know its helped us out a lot.

  11. I love this post! Great tips, I never thought about signing up for email newsletters with different companies, great idea!

  12. Heading to countries where you get a lot more bang for your buck is a good tip as well. Yes the airfare might be more expensive, but hotels, attractions and food will be quite a bit cheaper.