Thanks for stopping by to check out part 2 in my Frugal Family Vacation Series!
I hope that first post didn’t overwhelm you with information. There are so many ways that you can save money while planning your trip, I want to make sure to cover them all!
This post is a little simpler, and focuses on the other two big parts of your vacation: travelling to your destination, and fun while there.
Flying or driving? This is one thing where you can save a ton of money! For Canadians, driving, is almost always cheaper. Flights within Canada and to the US can get very expensive, especially if you have a large family. So assuming your family’s vehicle is in good condition, driving is probably going to be the cheaper option. Sure flights can be faster, so you can enjoy more time at your destination, but you can make the drive fun so it becomes part of the trip! Stopping at fun places along the way extends your vacation, gives you a chance to stretch your legs, and gives everyone something to look forward to after all that driving. It can be an actual tourist attractions, or something as simple as a park or play place at fast food restaurant! And even if you pack food to eat while driving, stop at a playground to have a picnic lunch and let the kids run around and climb for half an hour. Or if you are going to buy your lunch, make sure it has an indoor playground for the kids to burn that energy off. We’ve even stopped at those play places just for washroom breaks too, though we still buy a drink, some fries or an ice cream, so we aren’t just using their space for free. When we drove from Toronto to Saskatoon, we made sure to split the 37 hour drive over several days, and each day we had a major attraction that we visited. We knew we couldn’t expect 3 little kids to just sit in a van for days and days of driving. We went a little out of our way to visit Chicago, and the Mall of America, and different museums while driving there and back.
If you have lots of little ones like we do, having all your belongings in your car can make the overwhelming task of getting there just a little easier. Dragging car seats, strollers, and all the luggage through an airport is a huge hassle! Plus, installing those seats in a car you aren’t familiar with, while you kids all have meltdowns in the parking garage, doesn’t sound like fun to me! Driving also allows you to create your own plan; you aren’t on the airlines schedule. You can stop when you need to, to let the kids stretch their legs, or if your kids are crying or throwing a fit, you aren’t disrupting everyone on the plane. And, have you ever thought about issues kids might have on planes? Fear of flying, or perhaps headaches from the pressure changes? Very real things that could make your trip that much more stressful. So maybe even if it isn’t cheaper, if driving is possible, it should be considered.
If you are travelling overseas or to a lush tropical paradise and driving isn’t an option, know that your budget for getting there is going to be fairly large. Watch for seat sales on the flights, or book somewhere that will give you a discount if you book your hotel at the same time, and of course watch for booking through a website that offers points or cash back. If an overseas trip is your dream, you might have to save up a little longer to afford that flight, start saving money or collecting points to help cover the cost!
Depending on where you are going, your budget for entertainment will vary greatly. If its Disney that you are headed to, your theme park tickets are going to be a large part of your budget. But if you are going to an all-inclusive resort, you might not have any extra costs at all! For us, we are heading to Myrtle Beach, which has loads of fun attractions for people of all ages, and the prices vary greatly. You could spend every day doing something very expensive or you could just hang out on the beach for free, it depends on what you want your vacation to be and what you budget permits. For us, you might remember me talking in the last post about how we chose our hotel: we picked one that was close to the attractions if we wanted to go to them, but the hotel itself has lots to do. Pools, splash pads, lazy river, all which is included in our hotel price, so we don’t have to spend any more money to have fun. We likely will play mini golf one day, and maybe ride some rides at the amusement park, but hanging out by the pools and on the beach is our main goal.
If you do plan to hit up the local tourist attractions, watch for coupons! I know, I’m not a coupon queen, but sometimes you just gotta use them! Hotel lobbys always have loads of coupon books, so look around for some, you are sure to find lots and save a few dollars on each attraction you visit. Also, see if the city you are visiting offers a City Pass. This is another great way to save money on the major attractions in big cities. The one for Toronto is a great value, and I’ve bought one in San Francisco too which saved me hundreds on all the major museums and art galleries. And of course, there are always deals online from sites like Groupon. Also, some major cities like Boston, offer loads of things that are completely free! My husband surprised me with a road trip to Boston for my 30th birthday, and it was amazing! Hotels there are very pricey, and we also went to 2 baseball games, so we saved money on the touristy things by doing all the free stuff they had to offer.
Hope you found this post helpful! I’d love to hear how you save on things like vacations, so leave a comment! And, in case you missed Part 1, you can check that out here: How to afford a vacation while living on a budget
Next up in the series: Packing hacks and surviving the long drive with little kids!