A How-To Guide for Inexpensive Family Vacations
Inexpensive Family Vacations: Transportation
Flying with kids is expensive, there's no doubt. If you must fly, try and book your flight and hotel together (using a site like Travelocity or Orbitz) to save a little cash. If your flight dates are flexible, sign up for an alert on a site like AirfareWatchdog to get an email when there's a cheap flight to your chosen destination available. But -- the transportation spending doesn't stop there. Find out how much your hotel will charge for a shuttle from the airport; it's often a fee per-person, meaning a taxi might be less expensive. Or, if you think you'll need to be taxi'd or shuttled around a lot on vacation, rent a car instead. Per-day car rentals are especially cheap in tourist-heavy areas due to all the competition. You may be able to find an additional discount on a site like RetailMeNot, or by booking your rental car when you book your flight and hotel on one of the above sites.
Inexpensive Family Vacations: Hotels
Booking your hotel along with your flight, as mentioned above, can be a time and money saver. Also, it's very important to pick a hotel which offers a free breakfast, or you might find yourself paying $20 for a couple of eggs. Keep how much time you'll be spending at the hotel in mind when you book; if you're just going to be there to sleep, maybe you can forgo the 5-star service.
Inexpensive Family Vacations: Food
To keep food costs down, consider booking a hotel with a club level or other upgraded service where you'll have access to a lounge with free snacks. The price will be higher, but the money you'll save on food will likely balance it out if you have hungry kids (and perhaps a hungry spouse). Additionally, stock up on food at a local grocery store. It's worth renting a car on your first day just to stop at a grocery store (the rental company can give you directions) and get your family from the airport to the hotel. If your hotel has a rental company onsite, use that company so you don't have to go anywhere to return the car. Be aware that if you aren't staying in a place with a kitchenette, some resorts outlaw the bringing in of outside food, so you may have to sneak it in in your luggage. Be a good guest and keep it all sealed and put away safely so you don't attract bugs -- and be aware that your refrigerator might not fit anything more than deli meat. Beyond that, opt for street food when possible. It's more authentic anyhow!
Inexpensive Family Vacations: Sightseeing
The internet is your best friend for finding inexpensive deals on tickets to local attractions. Furthermore, the local tourism board may have special deals for families, especially if you plan to visit multiple museums or sites, so Google it out. Ask at your hotel about cheap or free things to do in the area; there may be some really great attractions you can even get to on foot. Lastly, spend more time in fewer places. You probably can't see everything a destination has to offer in one trip, so enjoy the things you can see. You''ll spend less and possibly learn more.
Photo by D.B. Blas via Flickr.