Let’s face it: Raising a family is expensive. With all the small purchases and bills related to having kids, elderly parents, even pets, it can be difficult to afford your ideal family vacation.
How much does family travel cost? Of course it can range quite a bit depending on your destination, size of your family, and age of your kids, but in 2018, the average cost for a family vacation was $1,145 per person. Don’t let this figure overwhelm you, though. There are plenty of ways to plan and save for that perfect vacation.
Luckily, there are ways to save in your day-to-day life and when it comes to planning and preparing for your trip. So, don’t let your budget bog you down. These quick and easy tips can help you go from the local park on the weekend to the Grand Canyon for a week!
1. Set a Goal
The first thing you will want to do is decide on what your goal is. Do you want to travel by car, or are you ready to pack onto a plane? Either way, you need to know how much this will cost you and what your end goal is. You can then figure out how long it will take you to achieve this goal. Find a free budget template and use it to estimate costs and save up a bit each month.
When it comes to goals, many parents think about opposites. If you live somewhere warm and sunny, aim for the mountains. If you get snowed in every winter, maybe head to the Southern coast.
Then, find out how much hotels, flights, or fuel will cost. You will want to budget for meals, tours, and possibly childcare, too.
2. You Are What You Spend: Know Your Budget
Once you have a goal, you’ll need to figure out how long it will take you to achieve this goal and how practical it is. The easiest way to do this is to examine your spending.
There are numberless tools you can use to track your day-to-day spending. There are apps, spreadsheets, even keeping track on a dry erase board. Are you spending too much by going out for lunch? Do you need to cut back on movies or fancy dinners in order to meet your goal? The most important thing is to be honest with yourself.
You want to be aware of annual subscriptions, travel taxes, and possible babysitter or nanny taxes that way you’re not caught off guard.
3. Make a Plan, But Be Flexible
Life happens. I hope it doesn’t happen to you, but transmissions blow or rooves need repairs. Having a plan is great, but don’t panic if an incidental expense occurs. Just adjust your plans. Postpone your trip from early summer to late summer or even spring.
Flexibility also helps when it comes to booking flights. Many booking sites can show you a range of possibilities around your ideal travel window.
Think outside of the box when it comes to your trip, too. Get off the beaten path and avoid some of the more common tourist activities, these often cost more and are surrounded by little gift shops the kids will insist on going in.
4. Monitor Your Saving Progress
Your first month will mostly center on where you can cut back and what your conservative budget looks like. As the month progress, always check your budget. You may find that you can save more in areas you hadn’t thought of. Or, better yet, afford a longer vacation or a few more activities.
Monitoring your saving also helps keep you aware if you fall off track or if you’re not meeting your goals. If you find it too difficult to save what you had expected, re-evaluate your destination or budget.
5. Shop Smart for Flights
Flights are often the biggest travel expense. In addition to being flexible, you can save money on your flights in other ways.
While booking early can save you money, so can booking late. If you have a small family or older kids this is a great option. You can find last-minute seats (that may not be together) but are an excellent deal.
You may have noticed that when you’re looking at flights, the price will incrementally rise if you refresh the page or search the same dates a day later. Most booking sites use your cookies to set the prices. One way to avoid this is to use the Incognito mode on Chrome.
When the time rolls around, you will be thankful you planned and saved for the perfect vacay. Your family will thank you, too. Planning for an epic family vacation doesn’t have to mean stressing yourself out too much. I can be as easy as knowing your budget, sticking to it, and planning.
If you’re looking for that perfect family summer road trip in the Midwest, check out “4 Midwest Vacation Travel Tips You Can Use Before School Starts.”