family travel ideas

Family Travel Ideas on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide to Affordable Trips

family travel ideas

Embarking on family travel ideas is among the most exhilarating and rewarding experiences. Introducing your children to the wonders of the world not only broadens their perspective but also enhances their knowledge and enriches their overall experience.

Do you see other families traveling all the time and wonder, “how the heck do they afford this??” 

Well, you’re not alone. 

When it comes to family travel ideas, it can sometimes feel like you have to sell your firstborn just to be able to afford it! 

You figure, either all these traveling families are either super wealthy, or they’ve sold everything they own just to be able to fund their adventures.

Whether for three weeks during a winter break, three months in the summer, or a full year, budget family travel is possible.

However, there’s no doubt that it can cost a pretty penny if you’re not careful!

I promise that if you spend money on experiences with your kids, rather than on more stuff, it will bring endless fulfillment and rewards. 

However, there are lots of ways you can travel cheap as you plan vacations, no matter where you hope to go.

Related: Best All Inclusive Resorts For Families, Couples and Solo Travelers 

Families do have to budget carefully

If you’re a parent, you already know how expensive it can be to raise a family, especially in this day and age. 

Families do have to budget carefully I was brought up in a family where saving money was a necessity.

It seems like every year, prices on housing, food, clothing, gas, and plenty of other necessities just keep going up, and that’s not even accounting for all the things you and your kids might want!

No doubt, from day to day, you have to think carefully about where every penny goes, and it might seem like family travel is out of your reach. 

Cheap family accommodation for family travel on a budget

Accommodation can easily soak up most of your budget if you don’t watch out! 

Especially with children , as you need more beds and bigger or more than one hotel room. 

To travel with kids on a budget does not necessarily mean, however, you only get to sleep in dodgy guesthouses.

But I assure you, there are so many ways to find opportunities to afford family travel, that you’ll regret it more if you don’t take advantage of them.

How do we afford to travel and save money?

If you’ve decided that traveling is something that you want to make a priority for your family, then the first thing you need to do is figure out what you can do to set aside money for your family trips.

One step may be to look at where you can cut back on expenses when you’re at home. 

Some suggestions include:

  • -Making meals at home rather than going to restaurants or ordering takeout
  • -Selecting a few streaming services for family entertainment rather than expensive cable packages or trips to the movie theater
  • -Family adventures at local parks, free museum days, and festivals, instead of paying admission to attractions near home
  • -Shopping secondhand for clothing and household items and using cashback sites and coupons to earn rebates and save on necessities

You could also set aside a portion of each month’s budget into a “family vacation fund.”

Perhaps, once you have a destination and travel budget in mind, you could even make it fun for the family by setting up a large jar where spare change can go; the kids will love watching the jar fill up as it gets closer to travel time! 

By getting the family involved, you’re sure to have enough money to make the most of your family travel by the time it comes along.

When it comes time to choose the destination, and the activities, for your family vacation, there are a few things to keep in mind that can help you with an affordable family vacation. 

One of the best ways to afford family travel is to consider traveling at off peak times, whether you plan to visit somewhere domestically or internationally. 

Peak season is when the most tourists are visiting a particular destination, and all the businesses there, from hotels to attractions, are going to be taking advantage of it by raising rates.

We generally travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the very best deals.

 Flights to such destinations during peak season also tend to be more expensive. 

Although part of the reason destinations are so busy during these peak times is because the weather is the best, you will save a lot of money if you consider traveling offseason.

 One thing to keep in mind about traveling off season is that it might require you to take your children out of school for a few days, rather than traveling during holidays and school vacations like most families; but we promise the benefits your kids will get from seeing the world will be worth it!

Another, surprising real money saver, is to consider extending the entire duration of your family travel.

 It may seem a little counterintuitive, but staying a few weeks in the same place can actually save you money by not forcing you to cram all your activities into just a few days. 

This way, you can take advantage of things like local transport, which is typically cheaper than tourist-targeted bus tours and the like, and spread out visits to museums, national parks, theme parks, and other attractions, perhaps even taking advantage of free museum days, entry discounts, or other free activities.

 Additionally, by staying longer you may actually be able to get cheaper prices on house rentals or multiple rooms at a hotel.

Often, companies will offer discounts on accommodations if you book two weeks or more.

When it comes to deciding whether a hotel or house rental is the best option, be sure to also keep in mind your food costs.

No doubt there will be local restaurants, street food, or food trucks you want to try in your destination, but if you’re trying to feed a big family for the entire duration of the trip, you’ll want to save some money on meals by cooking at the place you’re staying as often as possible.

15 Travel on a budget tips: 

With the right combination of free activities, advance planning, and strategic frugality, a cheap family vacation don’t have to mean boring family vacations.

  • If you want to travel on a budget, go to a supermarket and buy all your snacks there, enough to survive the rest of the day. Take some fruit, cookies, and biscuits and you’re all set!

2. Make sure you have everything with you when one of the kids suddenly gets all cranky or even completely unmanageable ?. We all know what I am talking.

3. A rental house is more likely to have a fully-stocked kitchen and full-size refrigerator and oven, but you can certainly find these things in certain hotel suites as well, and its also important to remember that many hotels offer free breakfast, which could also save some money along the way as well.

4. Bring your own car seats This may sound like a no brainer, but if you’re flying somewhere and planning to rent a car once you’re there, you can save money by bringing your own child seat. Car rental places often charge $7 to $15 a day for car seat rentals, so you can save a bundle if you’re renting for a while.

5. Kids stay or eat for free 

This is one of our favorite discount tips for travel with kids! Some parents don’t know that most hotels, even all-inclusive hotels, don’t charge for kids under 12.

6.We always research the free things to do when we visit a city or region. We’ve been to amazing playgrounds, have seen fountain or light shows, beautiful performances, stunning museums and so much more, all for nothing!

7. Generally we will eat one meal out a day because we are on vacation.  In more expensive countries we often will buy sandwiches at a grocery store or food truck and find a park for a picnic lunch.

8. Some museums have free entry and others have certain days or times when entry is free; a little research can save you fortune.

9. Take Advantage of Layovers If we are planning a trip and have a layover along the way, we will often turn that into a longer stopover. 

 That way we get two destinations for the price of one, since often airlines will allow a free stopover. 

 We find this also helps the kids deal with jetlag .

10. Eat breakfast in your room before heading out and eat every third supper in. 

Keep it simple, with a bowl of cereal and fruit for breakfast and make your simplest (yet favorite) supper. 

The kids will enjoy the comfort of home and you still get to eat out most nights on your trip.

11. If you want to avoid the crowds, skip the spring break crowd in March.

12. A valuable tip for family travel on a budget is to brainstorm all of those hidden costs before you commit to booking if you want to avoid racking up the euros or dollars while you travel.

13. And walking only costs you shoe leather! In some countries it can be more efficient to link upafew activities and book a car or taxi to take you to them all in one day, rather than pay for several excursions.

14. The concept of a house swap is a people staying at your house, while you stay at theirs. You exchange houses. There are lots of great websites out there to meet other interested families, such as HomeExchange . 

A housesit means you look after the house (and often the pets), while the owners are off on a vacation.

15. If your plan doesn’t cover phone calls, look into buying a local sim card for your phone as soon as your plane is on the ground.

Choose Family-Friendly Budget Airlines

A third, very important part of family travel is, how do you get to your destination? 

There are plenty of ways to save on your transportation costs. 

If you’re traveling domestically, you could of course take your own family vehicle; but gas is expensive and you’re likely to run into having to pay for parking wherever you go.

 Your best bet in most cases, whether you are traveling within your home country or visiting another, is to plan to fly to the destination and take advantage of local transport there.

When it comes to saving money on flights, there are plenty of ways you can get the best deal, but when it comes to family travel, it’s also very important to keep in mind the airlines you choose to fly as well. 

Remember that budget airlines will nickel and dime you for everything. 

Make sure you are comparing apples with apples when comparing flights between budget and full-service airlines.  If you can travel with carry-on only, you can save a lot of money. 

Family travel on a budget isn’t possible if you can’t find cheap flights. 

Try to be flexible when you’ll fly and where to. 

Especially if you are travelling long term, don’t decide where you’ll go just yet. 

Let the price of the plane tickets make the decision for you.

If you can remain open about our destination, a good tactic is to see where you can get cheap flights and choose to explore that place.

 Don’t forget to check out smaller airlines that might not appear in aggregator searches like Avelo Airlines and Frontier .

Flying with kids can be stressful both for your own family and for other passengers on your plane, so it’s important to choose family-friendly airlines. 

Look for airlines that offer benefits for families such as seat assignments so you can keep everyone together and minimize disturbances, and early boarding procedures that will allow you to get all of your necessary gear onboard before the other passengers start coming onto the plan.

In the United States, most of the best family-friendly budget airlines only fly domestically.

 If you just plan to travel around the U.S., this might be a great option for you; you’ll find perks like free bags, comfortable, roomy seats, plenty of available snacks, free seat back entertainment.

With the abundance of low cost airlines out there, you can save a pretty penny by sticking to a budget airline.

Or better yet, fly Southwest for US domestic flights and skip the baggage fees altogether.

Also frequent-flyer programs that will allow you to rack up and even stack your earned miles to save even more, and complimentary family boarding or seat assignment so that you can all stay together. 

International airlines may not offer quite as many perks, but you should still do your research to find the most family-friendly options that will help you with baggage fees, boarding, and in-flight entertainment.

No matter where you’re flying, consensus is that you’re likely to get the best deal on a flight by booking about six months in advance of when you plan to travel. 

Be sure to also use flight comparison sites, such as Kayak or Skyscanner, to find good deals on plane tickets; these sites compare routes on the top airlines traveling to your chosen destination to help you find the most affordable options and cheaper alternatives. 

If family travel is going to be a big priority for your family for years to come, you may also consider signing up for newsletters that aggregate the best deals around the world; this may be one of the best ways to snag unbeatable prices to many countries that could be hard to visit otherwise.

family travel ideas

How can I get around cheaply on family vacations?

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, one of the other big things to consider is how to get the whole family around as cheaply as possible. 

As we’ve mentioned before, we recommend taking advantage of local transport as much as possible, rather than relying on rental cars or tourist-specific transportation. 

Large cities often have bus, train, and subways that make it simple to get around, and if you check ahead with the local transportation authority, you may find that kids can travel free on some of these systems. 

Also, don’t forget that especially in places like Europe, many cities and towns are more compact than those we’re used to in the U.S., and are more walking-friendly; and if you’re taking advantage of the local cuisine, walking around cannot only be a great way to see the city but also to burn off the extra calories! 

And walking is always free.

If you do need to get around more quickly, most places offer ride sharing services. 

These days, ride share services like Uber and Lyft also abound most everywhere and offer affordable ways to get the entire family around town at a lower cost.

 If you plan to visit several attractions in one day, you could also consider booking a car service for the day to take you to each location and save time trying to get to each place via local transportation.

Consider these places to travel on a budget

  • Yosemite’s numerous hiking trails, rushing waterfalls and giant sequoias are just a few reasons why this California national park appeals to families looking for a fun, outdoorsy vacation. Entrance passes are good for three days during peak of season (May through September) and seven days during the offseason, allowing ample time for activities. While summer is the busiest time of year for Yosemite.

2. Families love Branson, Missouri, for its thrilling amusement parks, informative museums and ample opportunities for outdoor recreation. Kids won’t want to leave Silver Dollar City, a unique theme park boasting rides and musical performances.

3. We spent a month touring Nicaragua and could have easily toured multiple countries in South America, but purposely chose to slow down and experience one country more deeply.  We also find that when traveling with kids, slower is better, which also allows more flexibility. We had lots of time to get to know Nicaragua in our month there.

Unfortunately, most of the real fun activities cost a lot. 

But don’t despair, you’ll still have an amazing family trip if you don’t try to do all the highlights or at least choose those that are budget-friendly .

Appreciate active experiences over attractions. 

You could book a tour or guide to see a viewing point. 

But you’ll appreciate the experience so much more when you walk over there with the kids

Countries with extensive rail or bus systems are also great if you plan to visit several locations during your family travels. 

You may be able to take advantage of family discounts on things like Eurail passes, which allow you to travel to many countries within Europe by train. 

Booking overnight train trips in sleeper cars can save your travel budget on additional hotel rooms, and give your kids another adventure that they’ll remember forever.

All in all, family travel is one of the most rewarding experiences you can give your kids. 

We promise that if you make it a priority in your family, you’ll have lots of fun on every trip, expand your kids’ perspective, and give them memories that they’ll carry well into adulthood. 

Yes, some family travel ideas can be very expensive, but by using some of these tips and tricks, you can travel on a budget and still make the most of every trip. 

Start planning now and by incorporating some of the things you’ve learned in this article, you’ll be ready to head out on your next family vacation in no time, and get the most out of it that you possibly can. 

Be sure to share in the comments how these tips have helped you, and if you have any additional ones that can help other families save money on traveling!



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