Family vacations are among my most cherished childhood memories, something I looked forward to each year. Now that I have my own family, I’ve learned that vacations can be pricey. With so many options and limited time and money, here’s my method to planning a fun vacation.
Give your vacation a purpose. Before deciding a destination, I give my vacation a purpose, whether it’s exploring a theme park, going to the beach, or touring a national park. After planning the purpose my vacation will revolve around, I look for other activities that are nearby and inexpensive.
Drive or Fly? Transportation can eat up a budget. First, figure out the cost of the two options. Divide the distance to your destination by your vehicle’s average MPG. Multiply that by the average gas price (add a few extra cents), and then double this number to get the approximate fuel costs for the trip. Add in food and lodging expenses along the way and you have an estimate of the cost of driving. To find flights, I use Travelocity. Search for flights between Tuesday and Thursday as airlines often discount their prices during this time. I also check smaller airlines such as Allegiant Air, which has some of the cheapest tickets.
Choose a place to stay. If I’m going to a national park, camping is fun and cheap. If I’m going to an urban area, I use TripAdvisor to find the hotel that meets my needs. TripAdvisor provides a variety of options to help you find the best hotel for you and frequently has promo codes or discounts for each hotel.
What to do and where to eat. I also use TripAdvisor to research the top attractions and restaurants in the area. I pick a few promising choices and add them to the rough draft of my itinerary. Once I get to where I’m going though, I start asking the locals-they know the hidden gems.
Look for deals. I’ve found great deals on Travelocity, which offers hotel and rental car discounts as well as flights. I also search Groupon and LivingSocial for deals around my destination.
Try these steps out next time you’re planning an affordable trip; and, remember that you don’t have to travel far to be on vacation! It’s the time together as a family that makes it memorable and fun!