5 Ways to Take a Family Vacation Without Going Broke

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Traveling as a family is one of the best ways to build great memories. Not only do you experience something out of the ordinary, but you also can help your children cultivate curiosity about the world around them. Family travel played a huge role in shaping my young life — and my son has benefited from our exploits.

Unfortunately, many families assume travel is too expensive. The reality, though, is that it’s possible to travel on almost any budget. Here’s how.

1. Look for discounts and deals

You might be surprised by the number of discounts and deals available for travel. Websites such as Kayak, Orbitz, Travelzoo, and Airfarewatchdog can help you book your travel for less. I’ve used these websites to save money on packages and score great deals on flights.

And don’t forget about Airbnb and VRBO. They offer greater comfort, and you can save money by buying groceries and preparing meals in your temporary home.

I also make it a point to check Groupon for cities I plan to visit. I’ve scored two-for-one admission to various attractions and printed out coupons for meals at local restaurants. And don’t forget to check the local community calendar for free activities such as concerts in the park and gallery walks.

You might be surprised by how much you can save when you know the best times to book travel. I once saved almost $500 on airfare and a hotel stay by adjusting a travel day from Sunday to Tuesday since rates are often lower on weekdays.

2. Use credit card and loyalty points

Take advantage of rewards programs to reduce travel costs. I like using travel rewards credit cards to make everyday purchases such as groceries and gas and to pay my rent. I earn points quickly by paying for things I would buy anyway. Then, at the end of the month, I pay off the balance to avoid interest charges.

You can use not only credit card rewards but also other loyalty programs. Some credit cards even partner with hotel chains and rental car companies to boost your rewards. Combine your loyalty and credit card efforts with other programs, and you could earn even more.

For example, Orbitz has a loyalty program that’s eligible for rewards through Swagbucks, an online rewards program. Starting from Swagbucks, I book a planned trip on Orbitz using a travel rewards credit card while also inputting my airline loyalty number. As a result, I get double points on my credit card, extra airline miles, a discount on my next booking through Orbitz, and cash back from Swagbucks.

With the right coordination, it’s possible to get extra points, rewards, and cash back in multiple places for a single transaction, making your travel more cost-effective overall.

3. Save up using a travel fund

Every month, money is automatically moved from my checking account into a high-yield account dedicated to travel. The money accumulates, allowing me to prepare for trips large and small.

If you’re planning a family vacation, a travel fund can help you spread out your costs over time. You know you need to save $100 per month if you want to pay for a $1,000 trip in 10 months, for example.

Your travel fund also can be a way for you to keep money in the bank for other trips, including short weekend getaways. I use my travel fund regularly to help pay for travel without going into debt.

It’s even possible to use your travel fund in conjunction with your credit card strategy. Use a credit card to pay for your travel-related expenses and earn the points. Then, pay off the balance with the money from your travel savings.

4. Start small and stay close to home

For the first few trips we took as a family, we started small and stayed close to home. I was on a tight budget but wanted to have good travel experiences, so I aimed for smaller adventures such as camping and staying in a nearby town for a couple of nights.

One of our most successful early outings was to a town two hours away. We stayed at a low-cost hotel with a pool, went on a hike to local rock formations, and used coupons at local restaurants. It didn’t cost us much, but we were able to get out of town and make some fun memories.

You also can save money by taking day trips. They cost less than overnight excursions but can be just as fun. Pack a picnic lunch and find some songs to sing together in the car. Also, consider researching roadside geology or cultural history and try to identify interesting sites along the way.

After you build up your travel fund and your financial situation improves, start planning bigger and longer trips that fit your budget.

5. Borrow smart

It’s always best if you can plan your family travel in a way that doesn’t involve debt. But if you can’t afford a trip to an important event, such as a wedding, family reunion, or funeral, then a personal loan might be an option. Still, it’s important to carefully consider how you get the money.

Start by shopping around for the best personal loan rates, and look for terms that are relatively short. The sooner you can pay off the debt, the better off you’ll be. Likewise, shorter terms often come with better interest rates, which can limit how much extra money you pay in order to borrow.

Start making memories

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great family trip. With a little planning and attention to some of the great rewards programs and discounts available, you might be surprised by how much you can travel as a family.


Miranda Marquit Bio: Miranda is a writer for Student Loan Hero. She has been a financial journalist for more than 11 years and is a nationally-recognized financial expert. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, Inc., Fast Company, and other local and national publications. Miranda has also appeared on TV, radio, and podcasts to talk about money and investing issues. She regularly speaks at conferences and workshops and is an ambassador for Women’s Money Week.

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  1. […] Being the cool, hip parents that you are, you’re surely going to take the kids on some unforgettable trips while they’re young. Traveling to new places and experiencing new cultures builds character, and it a great way to get in some quality family bonding time. But to make sure the kids are learning and growing from their expanded horizons instead of suffering from unnecessary travel stress, there are a few key things to remember before jetting off on your next family vacation. […]

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