How to Plan, Budget and Enjoy a Fun Family Trip

Whether you are a family of two or five, planning a vacation can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be hard. The most difficult decision may be the “where” and that depends on your family’s preference. Are you beach lovers or do you prefer a relaxing mountain retreat? Once you’ve picked a destination, there are a few things you can do to get the most bang for your buck.

How are you going to get there? If you drive, instead of buying fast food along the way, pack a cooler. You can buy the fixings for a week’s worth of sandwiches for around 30 bucks. Also, get a tune up on your vehicle. It will keep your car running more efficiently, saving you in gas and any unexpected repairs on the road.

If you fly, be sure to check several internet sites to find the cheapest rate. Booking far in advance or at the last-minute are your best bets to finding a good deal. Flying at odd hours and on “off” days could also save you money. And don’t bypass calling the airline and asking for its best rate or if it will price match.

Where are you going to stay? It’s best to check out hotel rooms a few months in advance. It’s likely that if you book farther out, you could get a less expensive rate. Traveling during the off-season, when hotels do not expect a lot of reservations, will also keep more money in your wallet. But if you must go during the prime season, instead of staying a weekend, try just staying on weekdays. You’ll beat the tourists and you’ll find lower room rates.

You could rent a home or condo instead of staying in a hotel. Shop around to find the place that best suits your needs and be willing to negotiate with the owner. Many may be willing to cut you a deal on the price or add free nights.

Have you considered camping at your destination? It’s worth a quick internet search to see if there are any campgrounds in or around your vacation destination. Most have modern conveniences such as bathrooms with shower stalls and toilets; some even offer villas, snack bars, Internet connectivity and pools.

Look for accommodations where you have access to a free breakfast or a kitchen area. You’ll save money eating a few meals at “home” rather than around the town. Likewise, be sure to pack plenty of snacks and beverages for the kids. The mini bar and the hotel gift shop are big budget breakers, so be prepared for snack hungry kids by packing some food from home.

What if you forget something in your suitcase? It can be expensive to have to buy any clothing or toiletries while on vacation. So before you pack, do a walk-through of your home and write down all the things you use for personal hygiene, and things you will want to have on your vacation. Tape the list to the top of the suitcase. Once you’ve crossed everything off that list, rip it up!

Be sure to sign up for coupons and deals for your destination city. Check online for discounted entertainment and restaurant options. You can also visit the city and county visitor’s centers for special deals. When choosing activities, consider your memberships at home to see if there are reciprocal arrangements at museums, aquariums or zoos in your destination city.

Most importantly, pack your patience and have fun! You may hit a bump or two during your travel (could happen quite literally) but keep everything in perspective and enjoy the ride.

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