9 Vacation Planning Tips for Families
Set a Budget and Stick to It. Figure out your family vacation budget before you even start looking. AAA and Money Magazine have the average vacation cost as being around $1,600, but you should spend only what you can afford. Set your budget and stick to it.
Account for Extra Fees. When booking a hotel or adding up transportation cost, it’s easy to forget about unpublished fees and additional expenses. Resort fees, taxes, parking, baggage fees, and add-ons can drive up the cost of your family vacation. Always add some extra fees for wiggle room in your budget, to account for extra fees to make sure you know how much you’ll be spending. Ask your hotel about other fees that may apply to you, and research the read reviews online before you make commitments. Expedia and TripAdvisor have great review sections that might illuminate hidden hotel or airline fees.
Avoid peak times. Major holidays and weekends are busy times for beach communities. Hotels charge peak season rates between Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. If possible, consider a weekday beach getaway, or plan a trip in September when rates are lower and many schools are back in session. Affordable prices aren’t the only upside. Depending on what coast you’re visiting, the weather and water are both still pleasantly warm, and the crowds are more manageable.
Consider renting a condo or vacation home. A hotel isn’t the only option when traveling. In fact, it’s often not the best option when it comes to your budget or sanity. Vacation homes are typically more affordable when you rent them for the entire week, especially if you have a big family or large group. They also have the added benefit of a kitchen, so you can easily prepare meals without dining out. Look for properties that are located near restaurants, activities and the beach so you’ll enjoy the convenience without having to rent a car.
Ask for a Fridge and Microwave. When booking vacation accommodations, ask for fridge and a microwave. Eating while vacationing can be seriously expensive, so having the option to reheat leftovers and store food in your room can save you plenty. Stock up on drinks and comfort food for your room, to hold the gang over till planned meal time. Consider packing a picnic lunch on some of your days to avoid eating out. Especially if you are going to the beach or a park for the day.
Plan ahead for your activities. When choosing affordable beach vacations for families or large groups, think about what everyone wants to do, and factor that into your budget. Young families will likely want to head to beaches that have lifeguards, convenient restrooms and calm waters. Teenagers will most likely want a little adventure like snorkeling or surfing. Ask ahead if there are any discounts on lessons or activities. Bring beach toys and inflatable rafts and plenty of sunscreen instead of buying the marked-up products at the gift shop.
Book Free Attractions. While Theme parks are the main attraction for many families, there are lots of free attractions that give you the vacation experience for less. Nature-based activities, such as hiking, cycling, and sightseeing, are usually free or cheap, but you can also look into factory tours and inexpensive museums. Try running an Internet search for your vacation spot’s free attractions. This way, you can save up your vacation money for a few of the more expensive attractions.
Buy Souvenirs Off-Site. Theme parks and attractions make big bucks by selling souvenirs, so expect to pay a premium if you purchase memorabilia on site. Instead, head off-site to pick up a souvenirs. Every city in the USA has a Walmart and Target nearby, and these usually offer much cheap memorabilia than the theme parks. If your kids are simply dying to buy a souvenir at the park, set a budget and stick to it. Once the budget is spent, remind your kids that there’s nothing left in the pot for non-budgeted items.
Ask for Discounts. Students, families, active duty military, and seniors should ask for discounts. Don’t be bashful. These discounts add up.