Summer vacations with the family are a part of the American Dream. Travelling somewhere beautiful and different during the summertime can be both fun and educational for families or all sizes. However, with the higher than average costs of gasoline, meals and hotel stays in most parts of the nation, this can also be an expensive adventure for an already cash-strapped young family.
Fortunately, you can have your ice cream and eat it too, with these smart, money-saving tips for families with the travel bug this summer.
Book family travel packages in advance
The further in advance you plan a summer vacation for your family, the more likely you’ll be able to find some sweet deals on travel packages. For example, major resorts and theme parks often offer family travel packages with as much as a 50 percent savings off normal rates, when you book at least a year in advance.
Look for off-season specials on vacations
Another way to save money on family travel plans is to head for your destinations off-season. Consider that the biggest months for travel are in the spring, so booking as late in the summer as possible will save you some cash. Hotels often run specials during the off-peak season to increase bookings, offering buy-on-get-one hotel rooms to travelers.
Join a popular travel discount club
There are several discount clubs that offer travel promotions to help you save money on your family vacation. AAA offers a club card with an annual membership that practically pays for itself. COSTCO has travel discounts you can purchase with a membership. Entertainment books can be purchased for your destination and used while on vacation for meal discounts, low cost rental cars, hotels and flights, and even cruise ship discounts.
Take a break in the great outdoors
One of the most fun, yet low cost family vacations today is camping in state parks. You can rent a camper and park for less than $25 a day, or get a family tent and rough it for a few days. Enjoy spectacular views of nature, and quiet family time playing board games, fishing, and swimming.
Keep the vehicle tires filled
You can save as much as $300 a year on gas simply by making sure your vehicle tires are inflated to the proper level. According to fueleconomy.gov, maintaining the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure can improve your travel mileage by as much as 3.3 percent. This can help you cut down on the amount of fuel you use for vacations.
Stay and eat where kids are free
A perks that many restaurants and hotels offer to families each summer is allowing kids to stay for free with a paid adult room. Try getting a larger room with a pullout couch, or book an adjoining room at a special kid’s only rate. Search Out to Eat with Kids for restaurants that provide free meals and desserts.
Consider a house-swap
Imagine being able to stay in a spacious home any time you want? House swapping and sharing has become popular with many families who need a bigger place to stay without all the costs. Home Exchange is a good source to find temporary lodging for your family during the summer months.
Tax season can bring savings too
Believe it or not, tax season doesn’t have to be a time of dread and despair. If you’re lucky enough, you even have a nice little refund coming your way. If not though, then there are still other ways to save. Most major tax preparation firms—both online and off—usually feature a free efile option for certain qualifying individuals.
Not only that, but the tax laws change frequently. New tax credits and deductions are introduced virtually every year, while existing ones may be removed from the legislature.
Travel lightly to avoid hidden fees
The average cost of checking a single suitcase for a summer vacation flight is $25 per bag. Imagine how this can add up for your family when you have multiple bags? Instead of packing everything but the kitchen sink, encourage family members to pack one backpack or carry on, then ship any special sporting equipment or heavier items via FedEx. You can save a bundle this way and you’ll get updates to your mobile device on their arrival.
Buy discounted gas and meal cards
Many retail outlets and online discount programs offer discounted gas cards, meal certificates, and more. For example, Restaurant.com offers dining certificates that can be purchased in advance for as little as $10 for a $35 value. Many gas companies offer discounts and cash back on gas purchases, with a low interest rate. Grocery stores often sell gas cards with as much as a 20 percent savings on each tank for loyalty card members.
Saving money on your family vacation is only a matter of planning ahead and taking advantage of all available deals. Enjoy your summertime and make memories, but save cash while you travel with the above tips.