I often talk to people who haven’t taken a real vacation in a long time. Between their bills and children, they feel like money is always an issue and their small budget won’t allow them to travel anywhere far from home. Traveling doesn’t have to be a burden, and with the stress of everyday life weighing down on you, a trip may be just the thing to re-energize you and bring your family closer together. You don’t have to spend a fortune to still have a great time. In fact, I spend my time researching ways to spend less, while still doing more on every trip I take. Here are just some of the ways to save when traveling with your family.
Travel in the off-season or during winter break. If you have smaller children, you have the luxury of traveling all year long. With this in mind, avoid traveling in the summer. Summer is easily the busiest and most expensive time to plan a vacation. If a beach or other warm-weather location is your destination of choice, plan a trip in the spring. Springtime is always less crowded and one of the best times to find sales on both airfare and hotel rates. If your children are in school, wait until Christmas break to make your journey. If you fly on Christmas Day, you can get rock-bottom airfare, since most travelers want to be at their destination by that day and it’s one of the lightest travel days of the year.
Trade in the ocean for the lake. If you are longing for a beach getaway, you can do many of the same activities at a lakeside destination as you can oceanfront, but with the upside of vast savings off your vacation total. You can still build sandcastles, go boating, snorkeling, diving, fishing, parasailing and more, but at a lower cost.
Rent an apartment, condo or house. When you travel with your whole family, even if it’s just four of you, a hotel room can feel claustrophobic. Hotels rarely offer more than just one room and an attached bathroom, so if you’re planning to be in your room for more than just sleeping and changing clothes, nobody has any personal space. Check sites like HomeAway and FlipKey to reserve a vacation rental for your stay. Not only will you have more room to spread out, but you’ll also save money over a bigger hotel room and have a kitchen, where you can make some of your own meals reduce your dining budget.
Avoid ordering off the kids’ menu. When you go out to eat, almost all restaurants have the dreaded kids’ menu that usually has the same five food items to choose from. Sometimes your kids are just not going to be happy with anything but chicken nuggets, but for the rest of the time you’re out, you can be more frugal and get your children to try new foods (and eat some vegetables!) by splitting an entree with them or between children. They will have options that are more nutritious than pizza and hot dogs and if they don’t finish what’s on their plate, you haven’t wasted money on a separate dish.
Use your zoo membership. Almost every family I know has invested in a zoo membership, because for one price, they can go to the zoo and aquarium all year long. This helps when money is tight and they have to get out of the house, and I don’t know any kid that doesn’t love fish and other animals. If you have a membership, you can use it to visit other zoos and aquariums across the country and, in some cases, in other parts of the world. It can be fun for kids to feel like the day is totally about them and they can learn about new animals in different parts of the world that your zoo might not have.
Traveling with kids can give you a whole different view of your vacation destination and cause you to be more creative in planning and traveling around each day. Children can be great world travelers, if given a chance, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for them to learn about new cultures, food and countries.
This post originally appeared on Totally Temberton.