With inflation costs rising, you might be feeling like you need to ditch your annual family vacation. But you’re about to discover some vacations for families on a budget so that you don’t have to cancel all the fun this year.
We are going to look at some savvy ways you can save money while traveling, budget-friendly destinations, and more. Plus, everything included in this blog post is focused on family vacations so that you can plan a trip that both you and your kids will love!
Trust me, it is entirely possible to have a fun-filled vacation with your kids without breaking the bank. Let’s look at some things you can do.
1. Take A Road Trip
When planned intentionally, road trips can be a great way to travel on a budget. Here are some things to consider when planning your route and stops.
- Is there a route you can take with activities along the way that won’t cost money to enjoy? This can include beaches, parks, hiking paths, nature lookouts, bike trails, boardwalks, and so on.
- Are there little towns you can stop and see that aren’t tourist destinations? These destinations will still offer a lot to see and do, all without the inflated prices you typically see in tourist towns. This applies to food, fuel, accommodations, and even activities.
Affordable Road Trip Route Ideas:
- Route 66
- Savannah River Scenic Byway
- Olympic Peninsula Loop
- Trail Ridge Road
- Great River Road
- Park Loop Road
- Coal Heritage Trail
- Blue Ridge Parkway
- Pacific Coast Highway
- The Kancamagus Highway
How To Save Money While On Your Road Trip:
While a road trip is an affordable family vacation option, it can get expensive quickly if you aren’t careful with how you are spending your money. Here are some ways you can save money on your road trip
Find Budget-Friendly Accommodations
While hotels are great, they can also be expensive. So, try to find some budget-friendly accommodations along your route. This can include:
Hit The Grocery Store
Eating out can be one of the biggest expenses on vacations, but you can save money on groceries by going to the grocery store when you can. Here you can get pre-prepared meals for a fraction of the cost, or you can buy food to cook yourself.
Bring Your Bikes
Who says you have to drive everywhere on this road trip? One way you can save money is by bringing your bikes along and using them to explore the area where you’ve stopped. This can help you save on gas while also helping you get some physical activity after spending so much time in the car.
2. Visit The National Parks
Did you know that there are more than 400 national parks in the United States? And they make fantastic vacation destinations, especially for families on a budget since they are often much cheaper than other attractions!
Most of the national parks will have free admission or at least a low-cost admission. Park admission can often span several days, making this a perfect option for a week-long family getaway!
(If you plan on visiting multiple national parks throughout the year, then consider getting an annual pass that will get you into every national park for the entire year. Learn more here.)
Affordable Activities To Do In National Parks:
Not only will you get to experience some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the country when you visit national parks, but there is often so much to do: from hiking to camping to sightseeing, you’ll never run out of things to do.
Some national parks also have beaches where your family can enjoy a picnic together and go for a swim.
Other national parks have specific attractions that you can see. Think geysers at Yellowstone National Park or the falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Before your trip, take some time to plan out what activities you can enjoy as a family in the National Park you will be visiting. And don’t forget to have some comfortable hiking shoes to wear as well! If you and your significant other are planning to have a day out for just the two of you, you can plan ahead to get ideas for what to wear on a hiking date.
Top National Parks To Visit:
Here are some of the most popular national parks to visit in the US:
- Yellowstone National Park
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Yosemite National Park
- Glacier National Park
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Acadia National Park
- Zion National Park
3. Go To A Theme Park
There’s no doubt about it, kids LOVE theme parks! The rides, the shows, the food – it all adds up to an amazing experience! But theme parks can also be incredibly expensive. Especially when you think about the cost of big theme parks like Disney World.
So, how can you visit a theme park while sticking to a budget? Here are our top tips!
How To Save Money On A Theme Park Vacation:
Visit A Theme Park That Has Multi-Day Passes
Some theme parks are ridiculously expensive when you just go for a day. But, they often offer steep discounts on multi-day passes. So, you can save a lot of money by planning to go to one park for multiple days.
A bonus of doing it this way is that you won’t have to feel stressed about trying to cram everything into one day. You can take your time and enjoy the experience.
Take Advantage Of Discounts And Deals
Theme parks are always running deals and discounts to try and attract customers. So, be sure to look online for any deals that can save you money at sites such as Groupon.
You could also look for coupons or discount codes. Many of these can be found online, but sometimes they are even available in magazines or newspapers.
If you love cashing in on deals, be sure you follow our Everyday Thrifty Facebook page where we scour the biggest retailer’s sites everyday and post the hottest deals!
Pack Your Lunch
We all know that theme parks are some of the most expensive places to buy food! So, why not pack your lunch and snacks when you go to the park? This way you can save a lot of money while also avoiding the long lines in the food court.
Most Affordable Theme Parks To Visit:
Since we are talking about vacations for families on a budget, it’s important that we consider the theme parks that will be the most cost-effective. That’s why this list only includes theme parks that also offer multi-day passes, allowing you to save money on your family vacation.
This theme park and water park combo in Idaho is a great option for families. They have over 65 rides, slides, and games that you can enjoy, plus shows, different dining options, and little places you can shop.
Nestled in Smokey Mountains, Dollywood offers its guests access to more than 50 rides, from small, carnival-style attractions to heart-pounding coasters, ensuring that there are rides that every member of your family will enjoy. And as if that weren’t enough, they also have a separate water park, ideal if you’re visiting in the Summer!
If you have preschoolers, you can register them to get a FREE Pre-K Imagination Pass which gives them an entire year of FREE entry at the parks if they’re eligible!
Cedar Point theme park boasts more than 70 rides, from roller coasters to water rides. They also have live shows and fireworks!
Not only is this a theme park with rides, but they also have a chocolate factory, a water park, and a zoo with over 200 animals. Plus they host several events year-round that your entire family can enjoy.
Thrifty Tip: If you are planning a Disney vacation and are looking for ways to cut costs and still have a magical experience, check out How to Save for Disney World in 2023: 20+ Lesser Known Ways.
4. Have A Staycation
Who says you have to go somewhere to enjoy a vacation? A staycation is a great way to save money and still have a good time. You can explore your own city, visit local attractions, and discover new places that you haven’t been to before.
Staycations can be very cost-effective since you don’t have to worry about the added expense of travel or accommodations. But, if you do want to make your staycation still feel like a vacation, you could consider taking your family to a local hotel, vacation rental, or even a campground. This is a great way to get you out of the house, disconnected from work, and focus on making memories.
Even if your staycation falls during the week and not over the weekend, there’s so much you can do! Check out these weeknight activities for couples for inspiration.
Affordable Activities To Look For In Your Local Area:
While you might think you’ve done it all, you might be surprised to find there are more things to do than you ever realized. Here are a few ideas:
- Visit local museums.
- Take a nature walk or hike.
- Go fishing.
- Attend local concerts, festivals, etc.
- Check out local farmer’s markets.
- Go to the beach.
- Visit a petting zoo.
- Play mini-golf.
- Go bowling.
Be sure you frequently check discount sites such as Groupon to get local deals on dining, attractions, and entertainment.
5. Go Camping
Another one of the best vacations for families on a budget is camping. You can take advantage of nature while having a lot of fun together. Camping can be relatively inexpensive, especially if you already have all the necessary gear.
Camping also offers more variety than some other vacation options. You can choose how much you and your family want to “rough it.” Camping isn’t just one thing; it can be anything from traditional tent camping to sleeping in an RV. You can also stay in regular campsites or go to resorts with swimming pools, parks, etc.
Activities To Enjoy While Camping:
If you are looking for some budget-friendly activities to do while you are camping, here are some ideas:
- Bird watching
- Paddle boarding or kayaking
- Beach time
- Outdoor scavenger hunts
Top Low-Cost Campgrounds To Visit:
- Sandy Pines Campground
- Old Forge Camping Resort
- Keen Lake Resort
- Little Arrow Outdoor Resort
- Branches Of Niagra Resort
Best Ways To Save Money While Traveling:
1. Travel During The Off-Season
Even the best vacations for families on a budget still cost money, especially when you go during a peak season. So, save some of your pennies and go during the off-season when tourism is at its lowest. You’ll find that flights and hotels are cheaper, and you may even be able to get discounts on theme park passes.
2. Use Public Transportation Whenever Possible
Public transportation can be a great way to get around, especially in bigger cities. Not only is it usually cheaper than taking a cab or ridesharing, but it can also help you explore the city and get to know the local culture better.
3. Take Advantage Of Travel Rewards Programs
If you’re going to be traveling often, you should look into taking advantage of travel rewards programs. These can help you save money on flights, hotels, and even attractions like theme parks.
4. Look For Deals And Discounts
Whether it’s attractions or flights, accommodations, or even a coupon for dinner, there are always discounts and deals available if you look hard enough. Keep an eye out for special offers that can help you save money on your family vacation.
5. Stay In Budget-Friendly Accommodations
Look for budget-friendly places to stay like camping, vacation rentals, hostels, or even Airbnb. These are usually cheaper than traditional hotels and can be a great way to save money while still enjoying your vacation.
6. Eat Out Less
Eating out can be expensive, and it’s not always the healthiest option. Instead, try to find grocery stores in your area so you can buy some of your own food and cook meals. But if you do want to treat yourself, there are still plenty of ways to save money eating out in this article.
7. Plan Ahead
The earlier you start planning your vacation, the more chances you have to find discounts and budget-friendly options. Start researching different activities and places to stay, and compare prices so you can make a smart decision when it comes to booking your trip.
Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all of the fun. There are ton of options available that don’t have to cost an arm and a leg, from road trips to beach getaways. With some smart planning and budget-savvy tips, you can plan a fun-filled vacation.
I hope that this list of vacations for families on a budget has inspired you to plan an affordable vacation this year that everyone in your family will love.