Family Travel on a Budget - 11 Cheap Ways to Travel As a Family

Family Travel on a Budget

You can google this topic and get hundreds of posts on traveling on a budget with your family.

Traveling is expensive and we are all looking for ways to cut back on expenses while still being able to have a fun time!

I have some great travel blogging friends who’ve written some fabulous posts about traveling on a budget or traveling with your family!

Cooking in a Hotel Room – The Traveling Praters

Family Travel Tips – The Traveling Praters

9 Great Travel Tips for Families – The Traveling Praters

Travel Essentials – The Lazy Mom

Airport Travel with Kids – The Drays Today

There is even a whole blog called Family Travel on a Budget

And even my own, Tips for Traveling Well in Small Spaces, or Things Not to do While Traveling,

Even pinterest is full of tips!

But hopefully, by throwing my post in the mix, it will help you with your next family vacation as well as help you know how we do all this family travel!

Family Travel on a Budget - 11 Cheap Ways to Travel As a Family

1. Resource yourself! Find blogs about where you are going. Find magazine articles about the city you will visit. Look at maps. Find the town’s website. I recently found this article about family travel in Europe. You can find a resource for anything your family wants to do. Resources will help you be informed and will definitely alert you to costs you might not have thought about!

2. Once you’ve found those resources, USE THEM!! Check entrance fees, business hours, days they might be closed if you are traveling on a holiday… it is not a fun moment to show up at something fun and find that it is closed! Find out if you need special ID to get a better price… military, student, age… knowing these things ahead of time will save you money and time.

3. Make Lists. What does your family want to see? Find out what their top 3 hopes are and then see what will fit in the budget. Making lists of what your kids want to see also helps them be a part of planning on a budget. What do you need to bring so you don’t have to buy it on the road? What things do your kids need to keep them settled and happy on a long car ride? Kleenex? Cold Medicine? Band Aids? Make lists of things you have at home that should go with you!

4. Make a {loose} Schedule. I say “loose” because traveling on a budget means being flexible with times, events, sights and sometimes even where you will stay.

5. Check the weather. This is huge. We have had to buy blankets and sweatshirts or rain ponchos or swimsuits… buying that stuff on the road is crazy expensive! So, plan ahead and check the weather for where you are going and how long you will be there!

6. Food. Food can be SO EXPENSIVE while traveling! Mainly because when you go on vacation, you don’t want to cook. You want to try the fun restaurants in the place you are visiting. Eating out is just plain fun! But, to travel on a budget, you have to balance that with meals at a park or in your hotel or in the car. We made it through our 19 months of traveling, saving thousands, by eating small meals from the grocery store and not from a restaurant. Do your research, see if there are restaurants you want to try, build them into the budget and then make a plan for the rest of the meals.

Food tips:

Have a food bag. I use a big 31 bag for this. Snacks, chips, beef jerky, water, peanuts… snacks for on the road saves tons of money while traveling! And bring some fun stuff {candy, treats} that you don’t normally get your kids so that they don’t feel deprived at every rest stop!

Plans meals. Literally write out the days you are gone and plan where you will eat.

Lunch out and dinner in. If you want to eat out, do it for lunch. Much cheaper! And bring those coupons! Then, eat a small meal in for dinner. We always have bread, peanut butter, nutella and honey. With an apple and a piece of beef jerky, we have full bellies and money in our pocket to do something fun.

Find lodging that comes with breakfast. This is a huge time and money saver!

Family Travel on a Budget - 11 Cheap Ways to Travel As a Family

7. Lodging. Again, do your research!! Shop for deals. Start watching the prices way before you plan to travel. We are priceline lovers. We aren’t too picky on where we stay. We would like a pool, breakfast and free wifi. Usually that puts us in the Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn, or Comfort Inn range. We shoot low on the price, sometimes grabbing rooms for $45 or $50 a night. With breakfast, that is a steal! Another trick is doing our research so we know what is available, but not booking anything until the day you need it. Yes, this takes some travel bravery, but it has worked for us many times over. You will get a pretty nice room at a cheap price almost every time. We’ve stayed in some beautiful places because we pricelined last minute!! We also love our new favorite app… AirB&B. This is an awesome website that will let you find everything from a tent in someone’s yard to a free couch in their basement to a 5 star mansion you can rent for your family. Find a place with great reviews, email them for info, book it and go! We’ve used it numerous times and have been very happy!

8. Establish a “no begging” rule. We are not big touristy shopping people. Other than a random post card to mail to friends, you won’t find us buying any souvenirs or high priced pictures or t-shirts. Mainly because we travel so much that we just plain don’t have room for that stuff, but it also saves money on things you don’t really need. We let the girls grab a fun shell from the beach or a pen from the hotel or something else we might find along the way. Free souvenirs and your own camera will do the trick! And establishing this ahead of time, or giving your kids a budget on their spending money for things they see on vacation will help cut down on the begging once you are there.

9. Check out the free stuff! We recently toured Normandy with a cheap rental car, an AirB&B Bed and Breakfast and a ton of free things to do! We literally spent less touring Normandy for 3 days than most people spend on Disney tickets for 1 day! Free museums, free activities, free parks, free beaches, free tours… there are also a lot of “kids eat free” restaurants or “kids get in free” to historical sights. Find out the free stuff to do in the area you want to visit! Many Road Side Attractions are a huge hit for families and most generally they are free!

10. Have a budget. This really is key. I can’t tell you what your budget for travel is. I know ours is very, very small. In fact, other than making the trips we HAVE to go on for work fun and memorable or traveling to stay with family, we haven’t “vacationed” all that much! The first time our girls saw the ocean was here in France. But, having a budget, sticking to it, knowing your costs ahead of time and knowing how much “Free” money is available to use on a vacation will help you to cut out things that are too expensive and stick to the things your family originally wanted to see or do! Saving ahead of time is also a great thing to do. Save up for that vacation… don’t put it on a credit card. We have a small savings account that is just for travel. When we get “fun money”, we add it to that account so it is there when we want to do something fun.

Family Travel on a Budget - 11 Cheap Ways to Travel As a Family

11. Your kids just want to be with YOU. Oh, they might beg and beg and beg for that one ride or that one souvenir but they really do just want family time and they really will only remember a few things about that vacation. What seems like a “must do” might really be not worth the money and an afternoon of free things would be just as memorable! Kids are happy if you are happy. They want to do what the family wants to do. They can sense your attitude and they will play off that! Family time is free so make sure you plan a lot of it into your vacation.

I hope there are some tips in there that you can use for your next family trip.

We do travel a lot.

We travel for work and usually it is as a family. So, we try to make every trip as fun as possible and as cheap as possible!

Building memories and spending time together and seeing what we can see on every single trip out the door.

What are some of your family travel tips or ways you stick to a budget while traveling?



  1. Thanks for putting all this information in one place! You may want to check out my blog as I often post budget travel tips. My most popular post is called “How to Spend (Almost) Nothing on Accommodations”, but I have quite a few others, like my favorites “Free Substitutions for Everyday Expenses” and “7 Budget-Friendly Activities for Traveling Anywhere”. Hope you enjoy reading it!

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