Travel on a Shoestring: Vacation Fun for the Family without Busting the Budget

 Travel on a Shoestring

As you plan your vacation, it’s great to find ways to save on lodging and transportation and your meals and snacks to pinch as many pennies as possible.  But what about your vacation FUN?  The cost of family fun can range from near zero for a beach vacation to many hundreds for a place like Disney World.  Here are a few tips to get the most bang for your buck:

  • More days=better value.  Many amusement parks offer discounts for more than one day–lots offer buy 1 day get 1 free, or buy 2 get 1 free.  Some also offer a “preview” where you can get in the evening before your full-day admission for free or a discounted price.  At Disney World, the longer you stay, the cheaper it is to add an extra day’s ticket: Day 1 of a Disney World ticket is currently $97-$105; going from 3 days to 4 only costs another $30 per person.  A fifth day only adds $15, and days 6-10 are only an additional $10 each!  Look at all the pricing plans for your destination to choose the best value for the time available.
  • Consider an annual pass.  If you’ll be staying a while, or if you’re going somewhere close enough you could go back a few times within a year, check the difference between what you’d pay for one visit vs. a whole year.  If it’s good for a full 12 months, you could vacation twice within a calendar year (i.e. July this summer, June next summer).
  • Surf for discounts.  The internet is full of people who’ve already been there, done that, and want to share their tips with you.  Spend some time searching the internet for “_____ discounts,” “____ tickets,” “cheap ____” etc., and you can gain some valuable information.  The tips I found before our Disney trip really helped us get the most out of our trip (and helped me maintain my sanity!).  I also saved 10% on our Durango train tickets when I noticed a “coupon code” box and Googled for a code!  You can also check out tips for specific destinations and the Nationwide “Staycations” list at the end of this post.
  • Pin some bargains:  Pinterest is another fantastic way to search for bargain vacation fun.  Use the same searches listed above, and pin some great tips so you have it all organized in one place.  If someone else has already done a trip on a budget and shared it, you might get all the information you need!
  • Daily Deal sites.  Keep an eye on Groupon, Living Social, and other deal sites.  You can subscribe to notifications for your destination area too.  You never know what might pop up.  Just read fine print carefully.
  • Coupons, of course!  Almost every destination has those tourist-y coupon books with ads and discounts.  Flip through a couple and see what you can find.  You can also order an Entertainment Book for your destination.
  • Ask at the hotel/condo/campground.  Check with the front desk to see if they have any suggestions for reasonably-priced fun.  They may suggest something off the beaten path, or they may have discount coupons to use.
  • National Parks and Monuments.   Reasonably priced or free, these are great options, and even make good stop-overs while traveling.  Get out, enjoy a hike, learn something, and check out the visitor center without leaving a huge dent in the wallet.  For more tips, don’t miss our National Parks with Kids post.
  • Unique freebies you can’t do at home.  For example, on the Outer Banks there’s a free ferry to Okracoke Island–it’s part of Highway 12, and the boat ride is a highlight whenever we go.  Ask around for stuff like that.  Consider your lodging amenities too–the pool, game room, tennis courts…even cable if you don’t have that at home!
  • Schedule some down time.  This is a good tip for your sanity as well as your wallet.  Frugal people sometimes try to milk every cent out of their vacation expenditures, but a little chill time can help everyone enjoy their trip.  This is true whether you’re at Disney World or the beach.  An hour or two lounging with a good book, taking a nap, going for a walk, or vegging in front of the TV…all free, and all will help you be ready to enjoy the activities you choose to pay for.

Have anything to add?  We love to hear from you!  Comment below, or join the discussion on Facebook, where over 21,000 brilliant Sisters and Misters share their money-saving tips!

Have you checked out our other Travel on a Shoestring posts?

Comments

  1. Denise Wright says

    These are such great suggestions! I have one more tip to add about rebates…My family and I often book our hotel in advance through http://www.hotels-and-discounts.com. We fill out the rebate coupon and then get a check in the mail (the amount depends on the number of days) after our vacation.

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