We love taking vacations, but it doesn’t take long for all of those expenses to add up. We generally treat our vacations as giant field trips, incorporating as many learning opportunities as possible. That makes vacations a homeschooling expense, right? Right! But learning how to save money on vacation has been the difference between taking a vacation or not for our family.
Over the years, we have learning quite a few tips for how to save money on vacation. To make the most of your vacation budget here are a few things you can do to save a little here and there. After all, every penny you pinch will add up to dollars you save!
How to Save Money on Vacation
Choose the accommodations carefully
Be sure to check the hotel amenities before making your reservation. Many hotels offer a free breakfast, happy hour snack supper, in-room refrigerator (or even better, a kitchenette). Just that free breakfast will likely save a family of 4 up to $30 a day. If you have a kitchenette or small refrigerator, you can save a lot of money by stocking the hotel fridge with milk, juice, sandwich fixings, cheese, yogurt, fruit and cut-up veggies. Even if you choose to only eat breakfast and lunch from your hotel room, you’ll save a ton of money! Just don’t go crazy with dinner and eat up your savings.
Find local deals
Once you’ve chosen your destination city, sign-up for Groupon and Living Social deals for the area. You may just find some great deals on museums and other attractions! If you have zoo and/or museum memberships at home, be sure to check for reciprocal museums near or on the way to your destination. If you are a homeschool family, ask for homeschool or educator discounts. You’ll likely need proof that you are a homeschool family, be sure to take along a homeschool ID or letter of intent to homeschool. We have visited many science and history museums completely free or at a great discount because of museum reciprocity and homeschool discounts.
Drive, don’t fly
Even if you have to stop over to sleep at a hotel on the way, you’ll still save money driving over flying. And driving will afford you other opportunities that flying will not. We make the driving a part of the vacation by mapping out fun places to stop and visit along the way! Be sure to pack a cooler with snacks, sandwiches and drinks, so you’re not tempted to drive-through when you get hungry.
Visit State and National Parks
Generally, for state and national parks, the cost is per car, not per person and is very reasonable. Some of our most favorite vacations have included stops at State and National Parks. Most parks have historical significance to the area, as well as nature and science explorations in the form of ecosystems, flora, and fauna. State and National Parks are one of the most frugal choices you can make on vacation.
Travel in the off-season
This is the beauty of homeschooling, right? You can choose to plan a vacation during the school year when most families have kids in school. Florida was beautiful in February! The best time of year to visit Disney World is the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. You’ll find cheaper accommodations, car rentals, and often admission prices to area sites in the off-season. Plus, attractions won’t be as crowded and the weather is much nicer!
Travel with another family and share the costs of a vacation cabin, beach house or another rental. You can share the costs of food as well, cooking most of your meals in your rental house.
Make a list ahead of time of what to pack
And check it twice. Make sure you’re not leaving behind important things like toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, medications, etc. You don’t want to have to re-purchase these items after you’ve reached your destination. Also be sure you pack for the climate (and potential climate changes). More than once, I’ve had to buy a sweater while in Florida because I forgot that the nights can be cool.
Choose to stay home and have a staycation
The last thing you want to do is go into debt for a vacation. You can have just as much fun being a tourist in your own city while sleeping in your own bed and making food in your own kitchen. You may even find some out of the way treats you may never have paid attention to without a focused staycation!
Combine a vacation with a business trip or visit to see family
So that you’re not paying for overnight accommodations for your entire vacation, seek opportunities to combine travel with business or visiting family. Hotel costs are the major portion of the vacation budget. If you can save on that by staying with family or being reimbursed by your employer, then taking a vacation might be more affordable than you thought. For many years, Ben and I have “vacationed” while dad was working on business trips. We’ve visited Washington D.C. a dozen times or more that way. We’ve also extended business trips by just a few days so that Dad could get in on the fun with us.
Begin saving now
Open up a vacation account and put money away every week or month so that by the end of the year (or two if it takes that long), you’ll have the cash to pay for everything. Combine this with the other tips listed above and you can likely afford a fabulous family vacation in no time!
What are your tips for saving money on vacation?