Taking the family on a vacation can easily end up being quite expensive. Thankfully, there are things you can do to save money on your trip. Based on my own experiences as well as conversations with other parents, I’ve pulled together a list of some great money-saving tips. 

Save up Money

My partner and I each put $5 in an empty coffee tin every evening all year round. By the time the holiday season comes around, we’ve saved up more than $3500. That helps cover our vacation expenses. If $5 a day is above your budget, putting aside some amount on a daily basis can quickly add up to a nice chunk of change. 

Create a Budget

Create a detailed budget for what you’re able and willing to spend on your vacation – and then stick to it. Overspending often occurs because people don’t have a budget and, instead, just pay for things without considering how much they’re actually spending in total. Divide your budget into transportation, accommodations and food, and factor in money for things that’ll make the vacation extra memorable for the kids, like amusement entrance fees. You want to have fun but not to go broke!

Know the Exchange Rate

When you pick your destination, decide – as a family – where you’d like to go. It’s hard to have a great vacation if there’s nothing about the destination that excites any of you. Also take into account the local cost of living, if you’re going to a foreign country. The foreign exchange rate is a good indicator. Exchange rates can fluctuate widely, so be sure to get the latest information. The more foreign currency you get for each dollar, the less expensive your vacation will be. 

Choose Your Accommodation Wisely

You can save lots of money by doing a house swap or by renting a home (think Airbnb). However, if you prefer a hotel, you can save money by staying at a distance from the city center and making sure the place has a kitchenette or offers a complimentary breakfast. Staying outside the city center and then driving in to see the local sites isn’t only cheaper: it’ll give you a chance to see where local residents live. 

Invite Family or Friends To Join You 

If you plan to swap or rent a place, invite family or friends to join you. The per-person expense for accommodation will go down dramatically. If your kids bring some of their best friends from home with them, they’ll have someone to hang out with. Everything is much more fun when they can do it with a good friend. 

Reserve Activities Online 

Save money by creating a detailed itinerary of what you plan to do when you arrive, and then make reservations online before you go. Most tourist sites offer deep discounts if you reserve your tickets online and in advance. Also look for family passes for extra discounts and tourist passes that cover multiple attractions. By reserving everything online before you go, you also avoid standing in long lines which leaves everyone tired and frustrated. 

Look for Free Activities

Some of the most fun things you can do on any vacation won’t cost you anything. Most vacation spots have special celebrations during the holidays. The best way to find out about all the free activities at your destination is to go online or to pick up brochures at the local visitors bureau. 

Plan Your Meals

When it comes to food, plan your meals in advance and limit the number of times you eat out. One option is to eat breakfasts in, pack your lunches to go, and only eat out for dinner. Another way to reduce expenses is to look for restaurants where kids eat free or at a discount. Many restaurants let kids age 12 or younger eat for free; other restaurants offer a kids’ menu with smaller portions at lower prices.

Use Debit Cards or Cash

Pay for as much as you can with a debit card or cash. Avoid credit cards: the interest rates are sky-high. Only use credit cards if you’re absolutely sure you can pay them off as soon as you return, if they offer discounts on local attractions, if they don’t charge any foreign transaction fees or if you can collect lots of points for your next vacation by using them. 

Buy Post Cards Instead of Souvenirs

Many people spend a ton of money on souvenirs. They’re exciting when you first get them, but the kids quickly lose interest in them and they ultimately end up unused or in the garbage. As an alternative, encourage the kids buy one postcard from each destination, which they can use to write down their favorite memories, and then mail home. It’ll make for a great collection that they can keep in an album and look back on to reminisce about their vacation.

Tanni Haas, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences, and Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College.

You may also like: