If you haven't gone on a summer trip yet, you might be considering sliding one in before the school year starts back, and it's a great time to go. Kids might be getting a little whiny and year-round boarding school might start looking awfully appealing--before you get to that point, take a trip!
Of course, there's the whole issue of money. Travel costs money, and when the budget's tight, a vacation can seem like it's just out of the question.
However, there are ways to take a satisfying, fun family trip for a lot less than you think--you just have to know how to plan.
Strategy #1: Closer to Home
When you start throwing out vacation ideas, initially you tend to think of places far away from home (and that's natural), but there are often places much closer to home that can be just as appealing.
Start looking at destinations within 3 hours of your house. Is there a larger city you haven't spent a lot of time in? A beach? A lake? Mountains? Generally there's a place to visit within 3 hours that will be the getaway you didn't know existed.
On the front of it, you're saving money by not needing to fly and also saving gas money, but you'll also save money by not needing to stop on the road to eat.
Strategy #2: Plan a Shorter Stay
Of course, if we could have everything we want, a week long vacation sounds amazing, but if that's not in the cards, a 1-2 night stay can be just as fulfilling while saving you a ton of cost on food and hotels.
The key is to make the most of the time you do have: use your days to their fullest extent. Start early and decide what is most important to your family. Would you rather hang out by the pool or beach? Go hiking in the mountains? Drive or walk around the city popping into shops here and there?
It's all about priorities. Figure out what the top priorities are, then plan your days around them! Don't do the things you feel like you should do--do the things you want to do.
Strategy #3: Be Smart About Food
When you're on vacation, there's this mystical feeling about food (mostly, you want to eat it all!), but you can save a lot by being conservative on your food spending.
If your hotel offers a complimentary breakfast, take advantage! If not, eat light or bring some food with you: cereal and milk, granola, yogurt, muffins--these things are easily stored in a hotel with a cooler or mini-fridge, and bonus, you don't have to get dressed and out the door immediately if you don't want to (mmm, that's a nice bonus).
Consider eating bigger meals at lunch and lighter meals at dinner, as well--most restaurants have lunch specials and reduced lunch pricing, while dinners are historically more expensive.
Bonus Tip: Find the Free!
A lot of places have free events going on all the time, but you might have to look for them. Free food festivals, carnivals, guided tours, concerts, shows, flea markets--you name it, they're out there.
Before you head to your destination, poke around their city/community websites and their local radio stations. You might find the perfect event for you and your family for free or next-to-nothing, and free is the best price!
When it comes to saving money on vacation, the important thing is to remember that taking a trip like this is about spending time with people you love (or maybe by yourself--nothing wrong with a mental health trip), breaking out of the monotony, getting some relaxation, and getting a new perspective.
Get away, free yourself for a day or two, and still have money left at the end. That's the trick!