Vacation on the Cheap – Money Saving Tips for Family Travel

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Do you want to take a vacation with your family, but it just seems so expensive? Our family loves to travel, and we have found some great ways to do so while not spending a fortune!

First, one of the reasons I coupon all year long is to save money so our family can travel to see and experience new places. Not only does this include our regular grocery shopping but also when it comes to purchasing gifts for our family and the boys friend’s birthday parties all year long. We have been on a week-long family vacation every year for the past four years, and we are planning to continue that. One of my bucket list items is to visit all 50 states. I’m super close (less than 10 to go!) and my boys have a huge jump on it as well.

So, how do we vacation on the cheap? I am giving you all of my easy money saving tips for family travel right here! And, be sure to share with how you save money on family travel if there is something I forgot!

    1. Plan early. We actually book our vacation 11 months in advance. This allows me to start thinking about what we want to experience while we are gone and watch for the best deals on hotel rooms, restaurants, and activities.
    2. Drive to your destination. Yes, flying sure does sound really nice and I can’t wait to for the day my boys get to experience their first plane ride, but it’s generally a lot more expensive. Plus, by driving, there is no fee for a rental car and you can pack a lot more stuff!
    3. Don’t buy snacks at the gas station. When you are stopping for gas, it’s easy to grab a water, soda, or snacks, but that can get super expensive. I pack all of that in the car including these awesome snack boxes for the kiddos. 
    4. Use gift cards. One of my “rules” when we are on vacation is that we cannot eat at places that we have at home. When I buy a gift card, I know I’ll be at a local restaurant. So far, we have used our gift cards at The Bowery in Myrtle Beach, A&M Pizza in Pennsylvania and Fratelli’s in Orlando. All three restaurants have been a great experience.
    5. Buy gift cards. I use this website all year round. You can buy discounted gift cards towards restaurants and stores. Some places only have physical cards so you have to plan ahead, but many have vouchers or e-gift cards which you can purchase and show the code on your phone if you don’t have access to a printer. The website states that vouchers or e-gift cards are in your account within 24 hours. I have actually never had one take that long, it’s usually just a few minutes. Raise guarantees the cards for 1 year so there is never a worry when purchasing. I have only had a problem with one card out of dozens of purchases, and I received a full refund when I contacted Customer Service. If you have never used Raise before, you can get a $5 credit in your account through this link.
    6. Use credit card points and/or fuel points. You may be able to use these loyalty programs to help off-set the cost of hotel reservations and trips to the gas station! We always use our credit card points to cover our hotel reservations which works out perfect for us.
    7. Eat at your hotel / Have a picnic. Even though I like eating out at local restaurants, I also want to use our resources wisely and this means that we stay in a room with a full kitchen so we can eat two meals each day in our room or as a picnic. Since we drive to our destination, I load up a cooler (or two) and a large utility tote (or two) of food that we bring with us. Then, we make a stop at the grocery store when we get to our destination for things we run out of or to get things we couldn’t bring along with us. This year, I even brought my air fryer with us!
    8. Use Groupon or LivingSocial for discounted activities. I always look on these sites to see if there are deals for things we can do in the area. Keep in mind that you can also buy these when you are on the go. When we drove to Pennsylvania and were looking for something to do along the way, I just opened the app on my phone, made a purchase this train museum and showed the tickets on my phone when we got to there.
    9. Talk to your hotel front desk / concierge. The hotel employees are a great resource! They live in the area and often can give you coupons or tell you places that have specials like happy hours or kids eat free or even free things to do!
    10. Use your reciprocal benefits from memberships. If you have a Zoo or Museum membership in your hometown, did you know that you may be able to get free or discounted admission at zoos or museums while you are on vacation? The same is true for season passes to places like Six Flags. We have a zoo membership and have used it in Myrtle Beach, Orlando and in the Florida panhandle.


Where are some cool places you have been? How do you vacation on a budget with your family?

You may also be interested in this huge list of restaurants to Eat Where the Locals Eat Across the US!

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