Think you can’t afford to take your family on a decent vacation? Think again! There are so many great ways to have a fun getaway without breaking the bank.
Staycations: A vacation taken in your own home. Set up the backyard furniture and start grilling. Get out the Slip N Slide, Frisbees, bikes, and kites. Sleep in late. Eat out. Visit local landmarks and venues. Take in a ball game. Visit museums. Hunt for antiques. I lived in beautiful, sunny San Diego for years before I got to see the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Cabrillo Monument, Seaport Village, or Shelter Island. Look for coupons or multi-day passes for amusement parks. Spend the day at the park, the county fair, or the seashore or lakeside. Visit hiking trails and state parks. Take the dogs along. Make a picnic. Pretend you’re in a different city and explore. Don’t check your email; don’t play video games; and don’t call your work.
Visit relatives: A great way to combine a family reunion with a vacation. Have a relative who’s invited you to stay any time you’re in the area? Or a long-distance friend? Take them up on the offer. They will be able to give the best advice on what to visit and what to skip. They will know the best restaurants in town. They can show you around town and visit the local sights. Since you’ll be saving on hotel bills, you can make extravagant meals or budget more for souvenirs.
No relatives? Consider house swapping. There are some great websites like HomeExchange.com that can help people swap homes in different destinations. You can enjoy the privacy and comfort of a private home, while the owners enjoy the comfort and privacy of your home. Sometimes lifelong friendships are forged. You can shop locally for groceries and cook your own meals in a fully equipped kitchen.
Make a budget and stick to it. Give kids a set amount of pin money to spend at their discretion, and no more if they spend it all. Make reservations well in advance to get the best deals, and plan on going during the off-peak season. Take advantage of smartphone apps and membership privileges you already have, like cheap gas locators, or AAA membership discounts.
Insist on staying in a hotel? Look for ones that offer weekly rates and have kitchenettes. That way you can still shop for your own groceries and cook your own meals. No more ruining your diet on expensive and questionable restaurant food! Many hotels now offer a self-serve breakfast room, fully stocked with coffee, tea, juice, bagels, cereals, fresh fruits, butter, cream cheese, muffins, etc. It’s all paid for as part of your room, so fill up on these extras.
You may want to consider doing volunteer work overseas as a family. The experience combines travel, volunteering, and cultural immersion. It’s a fantastic way for families to visit unique destinations, experience new cultures in depth, and see parts of the world children would never learn about during a conventional tourist vacation. Some associations that help organize volunteering trips around the country and abroad include Cross-Cultural Solutions, Hands Up Holidays, and Global Vision International.
The traditional camping trip in the mountains is an old standard for inexpensive, yet fun and memorable vacations. Your kids will be learning about and appreciating nature, and getting fresh air and exercise. Go fishing. Hunt for rocks, leaves, bugs, and tadpoles. Climb trees. Take nature walks. Leave the electronic devices home,xs or at least locked away. Stock up on shelf-stable foods, like applesauce, nuts, crackers, peanut butter, and dried fruits.