7 Ways to Save on Your Family Vacation

Family taking self portrait on beach
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Many families are now thinking about their summer vacation. We can't blame you; after the frigid temps and record snowfall many of you have experienced, nothing sounds better than a week at the beach!

If you're among these vacation planners, you may not be looking forward to figuring out how to pay for your family trip this summer. These seven tips will help you get more for less.

1. Start Saving Now

Begin putting money aside for your vacation immediately. It will be a lot easier to save a small amount each week than to come up with the lump sum as your vacation dates get near.

Pick up a side job in the evenings or on weekends -- such as tutoring, teaching, freelancing, consulting, physical tasks like home repair and lawn care -- or social tasks like babysitting. Simply working an extra two or three hours per week – say, from 6 to 9 p.m. every Tuesday –- can add hundreds of extra dollars to your monthly budget.

Simultaneously, consider temporarily cutting back in other areas like dining out or going to the movies. A combination of earning more and spending less will help you avoid the temptation to put anything you can't afford on credit cards, which will only add to your vacation stress rather than alleviate it. Set a budget you're comfortable with from the outset and resolve to stick to it.

2. Save on Food

Pack your own snacks for the car, train or plane to avoid having to spend a premium at rest stops or airports. Look for "kids eat free" promotions at the restaurants in the area where you'll be staying to cut back on the cost of dining out.

Also be sure to check out daily deal sites like Amazon Local for the city you're traveling to. You can find some great deals this way on not only food, but also activities like mini golf, movies and more.

3. Consider Alternate Accommodations

Renting an apartment or home through a short-term rental website like Airbnb can often be cheaper than renting a suite or series of hotel rooms for your family at a big-name chain hotel. Plus, it comes with the added perk of a full kitchen, so you can save some cash by making a few meals yourself. If you're traveling for one week or more, you could also offset part of the cost of your trip by renting out your home on Airbnb, as well. The income you receive from this might just pay for your entire vacation.

4. Save on Transportation

Use travel comparison sites to find the airlines and travel times that are the most affordable. Be flexible on your travel dates -- looking at non-peak days and times -- and be willing to consider a brief layover, as direct flights are often more expensive. Flying into an alternate airport is another way to save some money on your flights.

If the cost of air travel is prohibitive for you right now, consider traveling by car or train to somewhere nearby. For many kids, a train ride is a fun activity in itself, and it allows the whole family to sit back and relax as you head to your destination rather than stressing over traffic or security checkpoints.

5. Stick Closer to Home

You don't have to go across state lines to have a great vacation. Many people take for granted the great tourist attractions in their own backyards. Take a look at your city and region like you've just seen it for the first time -- and you may be surprised to find how much there is to keep your family entertained, from festivals to museums to natural wonders. You may be even more surprised how much of it is free.

Whether you've got the budget and the schedule freedom for a day trip, a weekend trip or a weeklong staycation, the important thing isn't where you go, but how much fun you have together as a family.

6. Use Your Membership and Rewards Programs

If you belong to AAA or another roadside assistance plan, check out the perks it offer,s which could include discounts on things like travel and hotels. Look up how many frequent flyer miles you've earned on your credit cards; they could knock down your cost of airfare considerably or even pay for a ticket or two.

And don't forget warehouse clubs like BJ's and Sam's Club. If you're a member, you can get discounts on cruises, car rentals, vacation packages and more.

7. Find Free Entertainment

No matter where you go, whether it's across the country, across the state or staying in your own hometown, there are plenty of great family activities you can do for little or no money. Run a Google search to find out about any free community activities; many cities host free movie, music and art festivals over the summer months.

In the end, it's not how much money you spend on your vacation that matters; it's how many great memories you make with your family.

Paula Pant quit her 9-to-5 job, traveled to 32 countries, launched her own business and became a successful real estate investor. She's the founder of Afford Anything, a website helps you build wealth and maximize life. Afford Anything is an online movement against tired old financial advice that says you should skip lattes and chain yourself to a desk for 40 years.
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