Vacation on a Budget with These 12 Tips

Do you need ideas for taking a vacation on a budget?

Does it seem like your family doesn’t travel as much as you’d like because money frequently gets in the way?

Don’t let your children’s childhood pass them by without making many fun memories. We’re a one-income family so I know how a budget can sometimes cramp your dreams.

But I’ve also learned how to do more with less because your kids are only little once, right? Here are a few tips for taking a family vacation on a budget:

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12 Tips for Taking a Vacation on a Budget

1. Camping is a Great Way to Vacation on a Budget

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on

Camping is a fun way to go to different places without spending a ton of money. You buy the equipment once, and as long as you take care of it, you can use it for years to come.

You’ll need:

·       A tent

·       Sleeping bags

·       Flashlights or lanterns

·       Camping cookware

·       Fun camping recipes

When you have these items, you can search for inexpensive campsites that your whole family will enjoy.

2. Vacation on a Budget at the Beach

Photo by Brady Knoll on

Choose wisely when going to the beach. If you go to more populated beaches, you’ll pay more money because it’s a hot spot for vacations.

However, there are many beautiful beaches that are less crowded. Therefore, they’re less expensive to stay at. Do your research and start discovering hidden gems.

The beach is an affordable vacation because it’s free entertainment, relaxing, and absolutely gorgeous scenery.

This is definitely one of the best options for taking a family vacation on a budget.

3. Stay with Family

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Do you have family that lives near a place you’d like to visit? Then have a family visit and a family vacation rolled into one trip.

You could stay with family much cheaper (or maybe even free) while still being able to see the sights.

If you have a family member that has a vacation home, maybe you could work out a discounted rate to make traveling more affordable.

4. Staycation

Who says you must go anywhere to have a vacation? We all have hidden gems close to where we live. The funny thing is, we don’t realize it.

Why? Because we’re so busy doing everyday life. Why not take some time off work and plan multiple day trips?

You can come home at night and not spend nearly as much money because you’re forgoing the hotel accommodations.

5. Shorter Trips

This is what we do to make sure our kids get to go everywhere they want but not go bankrupt in the process.

My children love going to Great Wolf Lodge, the beach, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Camping Resort, and to the mountains.

We can’t afford to rent beach houses, condos, hotel rooms, or even campsites for a week at a time. Instead, I schedule trips that last anywhere from one to three nights.

This works out great for our farm (it’s hard to be gone for long periods of time), and it works wonderfully for our budget.

My kids get to go where they want, and usually by day three we’re ready to go home anyway.

I’m so thankful that I learned this trick early on with a growing family. It has allowed us to take many fun family vacations on a budget.

6. Eat In

We don’t normally stay in hotel rooms unless we’re somewhere like Great Wolf Lodge. The reason being is hotel rooms don’t come with everything you need to cook, and they’re such small spaces.

Instead, I try to find great deals on beach houses or condos. I may spend a little more for accommodations, but I save a ton on food.

Plus, we have enough room to hang out where we’re staying which saves on entertainment too.

I bring food from home, and we cook our meals in the fully stocked kitchen. This can be a huge money saver.

7. Eat Out

When we take trips to places like Great Wolf Lodge (where lodging and entertainment come as a packaged deal) your only option is a hotel room.

However, we choose to dine out when we stay here. The reason being is it’s more expensive (usually) to eat at the resort.

Therefore, we’ll take snacks and ingredients for quick lunches in our hotel room and play at the resort all day.

When it’s dinner time, we clean up, head out to eat, and come back to play some more.

8. Take Your Own Entertainment

If you must pay for entertainment on vacation, you’ll spend a ton of money. Bring your own instead.

We try to choose locations where the entertainment is either free (i.e. the beach) or included (i.e. Great Wolf Lodge.)

However, if you need additional entertainment take your bikes, pack movies, or even gaming systems to keep the kids entertained when you’re not out and about.

You could even bypass buying ice cream on vacation and pack your own ice cream machine. It’s delicious and still a fun treat!

9. Pick the Right Resort

We took our kids to Disney World a few years ago. My family had a timeshare, so we were able to stay at a nice resort and had to pay a minimal transfer fee.

This allowed us to go to Disney World during the day, eat at our condo, and the resort is what put everything over the top.

Our youngest was more excited about what the resort offered than Disney World. We joke about it now, saying we should’ve just skipped Disney World.

Choose a resort that offers many free amenities. The resort we stayed at offered a pool, a water park area, miniature golf, and much more.

Our family loved it, they were entertained the whole time, and it didn’t cost us a dime extra.

10. All-Inclusive Trips

All-inclusive trips are a wonderful way to take vacations while on a budget. We have friends who cruise a lot.

They do this because they schedule their trips when it’s the cheapest time to go. They’re able to pay for everything over the year and are out little extra money when vacationing.

Their food is included, all the entertainment, their accommodations, and they even incorporate their tips into their monthly vacation payments.

11. Special Occasions

Our family stopped doing birthday gifts a few years ago. Instead, we do experiences. This is a great way to ensure we take family trips but don’t break the bank.

Instead of paying for birthday parties, fancy cakes, or gifts, we schedule a trip our kids want to take. It makes it more affordable because we use the money, we once budgeted for their birthdays, to help pay for the trips.

Plus, when our family finds out where we’re going, they send money, gift cards, or gift certificates for the kids to enjoy special things while we’re there. This is in place of birthday gifts.  

For instance, my parents always send gift cards for the kids to use around Great Wolf Lodge when we go there. We may be able to eat at the resort one night because of the gift certificate, and the kids can purchase items from the gift shop.

If we go to the beach, my parents research what restaurants are nearby and get us gift cards. This allows us to eat out more while on vacation. The kids enjoy getting the mail prior to the trip, and it’s special to them when we get to use what they got.

12. Check for Discounts

Last but certainly not least, check for discounts wherever you’re planning your trip. I’ve mentioned Great Wolf Lodge a lot because we go there frequently.

The reason why is because of the discounts. My husband gets a discount through his work, and they occasionally offer a discount for homeschoolers.

We see which one gets us the larger price reduction on our room and we go. See if you are offered any discounts through your work, AAA, military discounts, or anything else that may qualify you for a reduced room rate.

I hope these 12 tips give you hope that you can take a family vacation on a budget, and it can still be awesome!

It may take a little more planning, and it may look a little different than how other people vacation, but it’s okay.

This is about doing life with your family and making as many memories as possible. So go make a ton of memories while still staying within budget.