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Planning a family vacation is always an exciting time, but let’s face it, it can also be a bit stressful, especially when you’re trying to stick to a budget. As a parent, I understand how quickly travel expenses can add up with little ones in tow.

Whether you’re dreaming of a beach getaway, a mountain retreat, or a city exploration, there are plenty of ways to make your family vacation affordable and enjoyable. From finding the best deals on accommodations to making smart choices when it comes to dining and activities, I’ll guide you through seven practical strategies to help you save money on your next family adventure. So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let’s dive into these money-saving tips together!

Travel During Off-Peak Seasons

When it comes to choosing your destination, think about places that are less popular during certain times of the year. Research the peak tourist times for your desired location and plan your trip accordingly to take advantage of lower prices and fewer crowds.

Of course, traveling off-peak doesn’t just apply to when you go—it also applies to where you stay. Many hotels and resorts offer discounted rates during their slower seasons, so be sure to do your research and look for special promotions or packages. You might even find that renting a vacation home or apartment is more affordable than a traditional hotel, especially if you’re traveling with a larger family or planning an extended stay.

Now, I know what you’re thinking— off peak seasons usually don’t line up with kids’ school schedules. It might seem tricky, but with a bit of planning and creativity, it’s totally doable. One option is to take your vacation a bit earlier than when the typical holiday crowd ends up taking theirs.

2 kids in front of Spongebob Squarepants statue at the Aqua Nick park in the Nickelodeon Resort Punta Cana

We accidentally did this once and realized that our trip ended up being a bit cheaper than if we had stuck to taking it when school ended. My husband booked a family vacation to Punta Cana a few days before our kids’ winter vacation started. Looking for great deals he forgot to check if the dates matched our kids’ days off. For our kids the last couple of days before school are usually easy going relaxed days so they didn’t really miss anything and we ended up saving money on our vacation. Not only that, because we were early, we missed the airport delays and a crowded resort. So it was definitely a win win.

Another way to save money is to plan shorter getaways during weekends or extended weekends. Instead of going away for a full week, consider a three or four-day trip that aligns with a long weekend or a PA day. It can also be a great way to recharge and enjoy a mini-break from the daily routine.

Lastly, don’t forget to consider the cost of flights when planning your off-peak family vacation. Airfare can be a significant expense, but by being flexible with your travel dates and taking advantage of mid-week flights or red-eye options, you can often find cheaper rates. Sign up for airline newsletters or fare alerts to stay informed about the latest deals and promotions.

Book All-Inclusive Packages

Another fantastic way to save money on family vacations is by booking all-inclusive packages. These packages often include accommodations, meals, drinks, and some activities, offering excellent value for families looking to stick to a budget. This can be especially beneficial when traveling with kids, as dining out multiple times a day can quickly add up. Plus, they can make planning your trip a breeze, as many of the details are taken care of for you.

When choosing an all-inclusive package, it’s essential to do your research and compare options to find the best deal for your family. Look for resorts that offer amenities and activities that appeal to both kids and adults. Many all-inclusive resorts have kids’ clubs, water parks, and family-friendly entertainment, ensuring that there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

All-inclusive packages can provide peace of mind by allowing you to budget for your vacation upfront. With most of the major expenses covered in the package price, you won’t have to worry about overspending or sticking to a tight budget while on vacation.

As I mentioned previously, being flexible with your travel dates can also be very helpful if you’re trying to find cheaper deals. This also applies to when you are looking for a deal on all inclusive packages. Many resorts offer special promotions and discounted rates during certain times of the year, so be sure to take advantage of these deals to maximize your savings. 

Also, booking in advance or last minute can also result in significant savings, so keep an eye out for the best deals and be ready to book when you find a package that meets your needs and budget.

Use Discount Websites and Apps

Using discount websites and apps is a savvy way to save money on family vacations. One of the most popular discount websites for travelers is Groupon. You can often find incredible deals on hotels, attractions, and activities in various destinations around the world. From discounted admission to theme parks and museums to special rates on guided tours and excursions, Groupon offers a wide range of options to help you save money on your family vacation. Be sure to check the website regularly, as new deals and promotions are added frequently. deals pages

Another great option is, which not only offers competitive rates on accommodations but also features a deals pages with significant discounts on hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals. Plus, you can filter your search results by price, location, and amenities, making it easy to find the perfect place to stay for your family getaway.

Hopper is a fantastic app that analyzes billions of airfare and hotel prices daily to predict how prices will change and alert you when it’s the best time to book. This can be incredibly helpful when planning your family vacation, as it allows you to find the lowest prices and avoid overpaying for flights and accommodations.

Skyscanner is another handy app that compares prices from hundreds of travel sites to help you find the best deals on flights, hotels, and car rentals. The app also features a “Price Alert” function, which notifies you when prices drop for your selected destinations, allowing you to book at the right time and save money.

If you have a Costco membership, then Costco travel is a personal favorite of mine for great deals on all inclusive packages. We booked our Nickelodeon Punta Cana vacation through Costco and we got a $400 rebate on our Costco groceries as well. Free groceries and a great deal on our vacation package. Sign me up!

It’s also worth mentioning that many airlines and hotel chains have their own mobile apps with exclusive deals and discounts for app users. I have a Bonvoy membership that collects points every time I directly book a room in one of their hotels. Once you have enough points collected, you can get a free stay. 

Screenshot from WestJet website showing purchase offer of WestJet dollars
Screenshot of a WestJet dollars discount offer

Many airlines also have points that you can collect if you book directly through them. You don’t even have to wait to travel with the airline to collect these points, you can purchase them directly from the website which can lead to cheaper airfare than just buying the tickets. 

Not only that, they have special days during the year where you can purchase these points at a discount, adding to the savings. So sign up to their mailing list to keep an eye out for these special discount days that they share with their members. 

Cook Meals Instead of Dining Out

While it’s tempting to indulge in restaurant meals while on vacation, dining out multiple times a day can quickly add up, especially when you’re feeding a family. By opting to cook some of your meals yourself, you can significantly reduce your food expenses and stick to your budget without sacrificing the quality of your meals.

Many accommodations, such as vacation rentals or hotels with kitchenettes, offer the necessary amenities for preparing meals. This can be a great option for families, as it allows you to enjoy homemade breakfasts, lunches, or dinners without the cost of dining out. 

When planning your meals, consider simple and budget-friendly recipes that are easy to prepare and appeal to everyone in the family. Pasta dishes, sandwiches, salads, and grilled meals are all great options that are both affordable and crowd-pleasing. You can try cooking some local dishes as the ingredients are likely to be more readily available and you get to try out a new cuisine.

I have to be honest though, I personally am not a fan of having to cook while I am on vacation but I am up for buying snacks from a local grocery store in bulk to save some extra cash. This is especially great for when you leave your resort for excursions. I know my kids get hungry before it’s actually time to eat and also sometimes things get delayed and you need something to hold you off. Usually food at tourist locations is more expensive than a regular grocery store so you can save some money by buying it before you go out. This also allows you to make healthier choices since you won’t be relying on what’s available once you get to your destination.

If you’re going on day trips, packing a cooler with drinks and snacks can help you save money and avoid the high costs of purchasing food and beverages at tourist attractions or theme parks.

Take Advantage of Free Activities and Attractions

Many destinations offer a variety of free attractions and activities that are perfect for families, allowing you to explore and discover new places without breaking the bank. Especially all inclusive resorts where they have daily shows and activities you and the kids can take part in at no additional cost.

Dancers on stage at the Nickelodeon Resort Punta Cana's Show Lounge

The Nickelodeon resort we stayed at had Club Nick which not only had a ball pit, movies, and slides, they also had daily activities like cooking classes, mess lab, and crafting. There were also dance performances, magic shows at the resort every night.

There is still plenty to do even if you don’t end up choosing an all inclusive resort. Hiking through national parks, visiting local beaches, or exploring scenic trails, spending time in nature can be both educational and enjoyable for the whole family. Not only is it a great way to stay active and connect with nature, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to create lasting memories together.

Attending local festivals, parades, and community events can also be a great way to experience the local culture and entertainment without spending a lot of money. Many communities host free events throughout the year, featuring live music, performances, food vendors, and activities for all ages. It’s a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local culture and enjoy a unique and memorable experience with your family.

Travel Light to Avoid Extra Baggage Fees

Airlines often charge hefty fees for checked bags, overweight luggage, and oversized items, which can quickly add up, especially when you’re traveling with a family. By packing smart and traveling light, you can reduce the number of bags you need to check and minimize the risk of incurring extra fees.

Overhead video of luggage bag, that is open and there are full packing cubes insides

One of the best tools for packing efficiently is using packing cubes and compression bags. Packing cubes help you organize and compress your clothing, making it easier to maximize the space in your suitcase and keep items separated by family member or type of clothing. Compression bags, on the other hand, allow you to vacuum-seal bulky items like sweaters, jackets, and blankets, reducing their size and creating extra space in your luggage. Both of these packing accessories can help you pack more efficiently and fit more items in your bags, all while keeping your belongings organized and accessible during your trip.

Create a packing list for each family member and stick to it to avoid overpacking. Choose versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits, and use packing cubes and compression bags to maximize the space in your luggage.

Image showing the Munchkin Sparrow Ultra Compact Lightweight Travel Stroller fully open and folded up for travel
Munchkin® Sparrow™ Ultra Compact Lightweight Travel Stroller

When it comes to packing for kids, opt for lightweight and compact travel gear, such as strollers, car seats, and travel cribs. Many brands offer travel-friendly versions of these items that are designed to be lightweight and easy to transport, making it easier to navigate airports and travel with minimal baggage. Alternatively, consider renting baby gear at your destination to avoid the hassle and expense of bringing your own.

I personally find laundry services at resorts and hotels to be expensive but you can rent a vacation rental or a suite that comes with laundry machines to wash your clothes. These are not always more expensive than just getting a hotel room. You may have to look around a bit to find one that fits your budget. Our hotel room in Montreal had a full kitchen and laundry room with washer and dryer and cost was comparable to a regular hotel room. That too in the middle of a busy Just For Laughs festival weekend.

Additionally, consider using a carry-on suitcase or backpack for each family member instead of checking multiple bags. Most airlines allow passengers to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item, such as a purse or backpack, free of charge. By maximizing the use of carry-on luggage and utilizing packing cubes and compression bags, you can avoid checked bag fees and keep essential items with you during the flight, such as medications, snacks, entertainment, and travel documents.

Be mindful of the weight and size restrictions imposed by airlines to avoid incurring overweight or oversized baggage fees. Invest in a lightweight luggage scale to weigh your bags before heading to the airport, and measure the dimensions of your luggage to ensure it meets the airline’s requirements. By staying within the limits and packing smart with the help of packing cubes and compression bags, you can save money on baggage fees and enjoy a stress-free and affordable family vacation.

Plan and Budget in Advance

By taking the time to plan your trip and set a realistic budget, you can avoid unexpected expenses and make informed decisions to ensure a memorable and affordable vacation for the whole family.

Start by researching your destination and determining the overall cost of accommodations, transportation, activities, meals, and other potential expenses. Create a detailed budget that includes estimated costs for each category, and be sure to account for any additional expenses that may arise, such as souvenirs, snacks, and unexpected activities or attractions.

Once you have a clear understanding of your estimated expenses, look for ways to save money and reduce costs. Consider booking your accommodations and flights in advance to take advantage of early booking discounts and special promotions. Many hotels, resorts, and airlines offer early bird deals and discounted rates for travelers who book their reservations several months in advance, so be sure to plan ahead and secure the best prices for your trip.

It’s essential to monitor your spending and adjust your budget as needed throughout your trip. Keep track of your expenses and stay within your budget by using a budgeting app or spreadsheet to track your spending and compare it to your planned budget. This way, you can identify any areas where you may be overspending and make adjustments to stay on track and avoid going over budget.

From taking advantage of early booking discounts and special promotions to packing smartly with the help of packing cubes and compression bags, these practical strategies can make a significant difference in your overall expenses. By being mindful of your spending and making strategic choices, you can stick to your budget and enjoy a fantastic family vacation without breaking the bank. So, start planning your next family adventure with these tips in mind, and make the most of your vacation without the stress of overspending!

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