Plan Awesome Family Travel Without Busting Your Budget

In this guest post from Daniel Sherwin at dadsolo.com, the single dad of two writes about tips on how to travel with a family without breaking the bank. We also added some tips of our own. Keep on trekin’, and we’ll see you out there! ~ Ari and Jessi


People on a beach

Traveling with your family can be a whole lot of fun, but it can also be very expensive. According to a Bankrate survey, 60% of people who said they were not taking a vacation pointed to the high cost as the reason why. Fortunately, with some research and some help from your smartphone, you can plan a super fun family vacation that’s budget-friendly, too.

Make it a road trip

For big families, it often is cheaper to drive than fly because of the cost of flights. Instead of flying across the country or to an exotic locale, make it a family road trip to somewhere relatively nearby. You can find fun destinations within your own state. Even going a few states away could be easy by car.

Here at Trekers, we’ve always suggested people could have a lot of fun being a tourist in their own town. One great way to do that is to check out the state Capitol. We did a video for our YouTube channel about the Michigan Capitol.

Don’t travel during peak seasons

Whether you fly or drive, you should travel during off-peak times whenever possible. If you avoid holidays and summertime, you’ll typically find cheaper flights, cheaper accommodations, and less-crowded attractions, making life easier for families with kids. If your children aren’t yet school age (or you are willing to pull them out of school), consider shoulder season. Late April, early May, September, and October are a great time to travel because the crowds have diminished but the weather is nice. According to Travelzoo, you can expect to save 25 to 30% on hotels and flights from September to November compared to the summer months.

2008 Roadtrek 190 Popular 4x4

Also consider areas of a popular location you might be visiting. When we went to the Badlands and Yellowstone a few years back, we had to go in July. That can be a crazy time. But we found that if we got away from the popular geyser areas of Yellowstone, we could enjoy ourselves on long hikes while seeing few people.

Book an apartment

If you are renting hotel rooms, sign up for rewards programs to maximize your vacation dollars. For many families, depending on how long you’ll be in an area, it makes more sense to rent an apartment either directly or through a service like Airbnb. Rental apartments and houses offer more space for kids to run around and a kitchen to cook so that you can cut down on your food budget.

Find travel apps

Apps are very useful. But don’t be tempted to hunt down one that supposedly “does it all.” Those types of apps are usually not very intuitive and often difficult to use when you need them. Instead, focus on singular-function apps that accomplish what you need and do it very well. Some apps we find useful for before and during vacations include:

  • Hopper – To find cheap flights and hotels
  • Hotel Tonight – To book last-minute hotel rooms
  • Roadtrippers – To pick your driving route and book activities
  • Tripcoin – To track your spending along the way

If you are planning on camping, we really find The Dyrt to be quite useful!

Once you’ve loaded up your phone with these useful apps, be sure to protect it. Waterproof cases can withstand splashes from the pool, spills in the car, and spit-ups from your little one while still giving you easy access to your camera, touchscreen, and other functions. It’s also ideal to have a reliable car charger to make sure your phone doesn’t run out of juice if you’re planning to take any road trips. Even if you rent a vehicle after you reach your destination, having the option can be very handy.

Plan ahead

Whether you are going on a family vacation for two days or two weeks, you can save a lot of money by planning ahead. Seek out low-cost and free activities, enlist the help of apps, and look for discounts on flights, accommodations, and attractions. You don’t have to spend a small fortune to enjoy your trip. It’s the memories you make with your family that are the most important.

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