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20 Pro Tips On How to Save Money on a Family Vacation

We can’t possibly tell you everything you need to know about taking a family vacation on a budget. And even if we give you every single money-saving tip we can find, there are still some aspects of the family vacation that should be addressed so that everyone is having fun! but below are some pro tips on where to start

1. Write down your budget, make it detailed, and stick to it! For example, If you’ve budgeted $1,000 for food, be sure you’re going to be able to feed everyone the entire time for $1,000. It’ll save you a lot of stress and aggravation and you can make adjustments elsewhere if you find you’re close to going over budget.

2. No matter what, ALWAYS ask for discounts. You won’t ever get them unless you ask for them. If they’re available, you should take advantage – for you and your vacation budget!

3. Remember to be flexible! Be able to change your plans if need be and “go with the flow”.

4. Buy your children journals – cheap notebooks – and give them fun pens so they can record their thoughts and experiences as you go through your travels. They’ll appreciate it later plus it keeps them busy!

5. Once you've selected a destination, share copies of your travel brochures with your family. Then watch the excitement skyrocket.

6. Make lists. Planning a family trip often sparks more questions than answers. Thanks to lists, however, you'll have the answers at your fingertips. Some "Last-minute List," which to use before departing can include: "Don't Forget," "To Do," and "Pack Now." It's a great time-saver, and ensures non-replaceable essentials like medications and such aren’t left behind.

7. When traveling in the U.S., contact local tourism departments for free brochures and maps, and any money-saving coupons. Also contact the local Chambers of Commerce where you will be vacationing to see if they have any resident packets that might include valuable money-saving coupons and tips on where to visit.

8. Cruise the Internet for reduced prices on everything from lodging to airfare to car rentals to entertainment - and everything in between. Wherever your dream destination, you can point and click your way into an affordable, enjoyable vacation without ever leaving home.

9. Maintain a routine while on vacation. It's tempting to set aside bed times and other daily routines while traveling. But sticking as closely as possible to normal routines—like meal times, and bed times—will help your family to enjoy each day's activities and return home less stressed.

10. Schedule some down time. Because family travel can be so expensive, parents often attempt to book as much activity in a day as humanly possible. Unfortunately, that whirlwind approach can be more tiresome than fun—for parents and children. One option: schedule a mid-day "rest stop" to unwind, or finish activities by 7 p.m.

11. Be prepared. Being on vacation doesn't exempt you from emergencies. Thus, be prepared to respond to emergencies while away.

Pack needed medications and related equipment for family member who require them. Carry more than enough for your planned trip. Save on over-the-counter medication by bringing it with you, rather than buying them "on the other side."

Carry a copy of your medical and dental insurance cards, physicians' contact information, and a list of illnesses, prescription drug and food allergies of which any family member suffers. While this may come naturally at home, in an emergency situation you could easily forget pertinent information while under pressure. Also bring along at least one emergency contact number for a family or friend who can reached should emergency personnel need to contact them for you. Thinking about such eventualities aren’t pleasant, but it's better to be prepared should they arise.

Leave a copy of your complete itinerary, including your airline and hotel reservations and daily activities, if known, with at least one extended family member. It will come in handy should someone need to contact you concerning an emergency back home.

12. When vacation is over, take time to regroup and reconnect. Coming home can be anti-climatic after spending days living out of suitcases and participating in new, exciting activities. After each trip, carve out a portion of the first day or two to unwind. Doing so will help everyone to gently return to your family's routine.

13. You may want to take a credit card along for safety and convenience. However, it is important to remember that credit should not be used as an extension of your income. No matter how much fun you had on a vacation, it’s never fun to still be paying it off years later. For example, if you put a $2,000 vacation on your 18% interest credit card and make only the minimum monthly payments, it would take you more than 18 years to pay it off.

14. Decide on the ground rules. How many times have you been on a family vacation and seen parents and their children arguing? Vacations are supposed to be fun, not a battleground. Parents should establish the rules in advance so that arguments don't take away joy from the day. For example, take children's spending. To them, nothing in a souvenir shop is too tacky or overpriced. How do you solve this dilemma? It’s simple. They can buy what they want with their own money but they can't ask for more. A few months prior to vacation, begin reminding them that they should be saving their funds. Some do, some don't. On the eve of departure, you can give them each $20 to supplement their savings. After that, they're on their own. If they spend it the first day, they're out of luck. Knowing in advance the ground rules on spending, fast food restaurants, and sharing the Game Boy saves countless arguments and embarrassing moments.

15. Publish it. Regardless of what you've done or where you've gone, it's always fun to remember it. Take a large scrapbook with you. As you are driving, dictate what happened that day and leave space to paste in photographs, postcards, admission tickets, etc. When you read about vacations past, you can relive the memories. Some entries are exciting—such as when we saw a bear. Others are funny ("You know you're in trouble when the highlight of the day was when your pediatrician phoned in an anti-diarrhea prescription"). No event is too small to document. It all looks humorous in hindsight.

16. Alternate pricey attractions with those that are free--a hike in the woods, the best playground in the area, a tour of the local potato-chip factory.

17. Set the souvenir budget before you leave home and stick to it. Suggest the kids start collections along the way-postcards, pins, patches, for example.

18. Always ask when you call for reservations if there are any other discount deals available-kids eat free, a room upgrade, a second room at half price, etc.

19. Get out a map and talk about where you want to go and what you want to do. Even the four-year-old will have an opinion. Make sure everyone gets at least some of their picks on the itinerary. If the kids are old enough, suggest each one plan a day's activities.

20. Consider inviting a friend for an only child or for a sole preteen or teen in the family. He or she will be much happier.

Family traveling together


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