By Alexandra Temblador
A vacation. You know you want to take one this year, and if you have kids, you better believe they will be asking about the family trip soon. The average cost for a family of four’s vacation is about $4,500 so if you want a hassle-free and affordable vacation for you and your family, it is best to start as early as possible on your vacation planning. To do that, four main aspects to consider when planning your family vacation have been provided below.
Pick a date.
Choosing when you will go on vacation is almost as important as choosing where you go on vacation. Did you know that when you take your vacation directly determines how much you can save on your family trip? Here’s some things to consider when choosing when to go on vacation.
- Travel between holidays and not on holidays and make sure you consider the holidays of the country you are traveling to if you decide to go international. Even though you may get an extra vacation day on July 4th, you can be sure to incur extra costs on your vacation as well.
- For domestic travel, the winter months are the best times to travel if you want to get a good price. Try to avoid June, March, July, and August. September, however, is the month that usually has the lowest airfare rates for you and your family. This is difficult for families with school-age children so shoot for taking your trip at the end of the summer. For international air-travel, try avoiding June and July if you want to save. February or March is much better for international travel. For a little more help, About.com broke down the cheapest places to visit according to the months of the year.
- Consider the weather when picking a date. Vacations in the winter months are going to be cheaper than summer months. For instance, if you want a cheap vacation to the Caribbean, travel during hurricane season (June-November).
- Last but not least, request off for vacation on the least busy days of the week, like Monday-Thursday. Traveling during these days, whether by air, car, or train, will be cheaper as will hotel stays.
Decide your vacation destination.
You can’t have a vacation without a destination. Here are just a few ideas to assist you and your family.
- National Parks, like Yosemite and Yellowstone, are great spots for family vacations. Help your kids learn about geology and nature by pitching a tent in the park and cooking hot dogs over the fire. Entry fees are usually low too. U.S. News estimates that you can spend around $500 for vacations to national parks.
- If your family is looking for an educational and cultural family trip, consider Washington D.C. Almost all of the museums and national monuments are free (for adults too!) and it’s easy to get free tours of the Capitol by contacting your state representatives. With their great transit system it isn’t difficult to stay in affordable hotels in the suburbs and ride a subway into the city each day.
- All-inclusive vacations are very ideal for family trips because they include your food and drink during your stay (if you find the right ones). Some all-inclusive resorts even let your kids stay for free! And don’t think that you have to fly overseas for all-inclusive vacations. There are many resorts all over the U.S. that provide all-inclusive deals.
- Disney World—the land of your children’s dreams! Traveling to Disney World during late summer will be cheaper. Also, be on the lookout for their free dining plan that they announce each year.
- Here’s a crazy thought—don’t choose a destination. Ask your children to choose a direction, north, east, west, or south, and then hop in the car and drive. Give your children the freedom to choose the next direction and let the family discover hidden treasures on the open road.
Budget your vacation costs.
If you know where and when you want to travel you should be able to estimate the costs of your trip according to your family size. If you do not want to rack up credit card debt and if you want to be financially ready for the trip, think about re-budgeting you and/or your spouse’s income now. Figure out how much from each month you are be able to set aside for your vacation and then do it. The earlier you start saving for your trip the better.
If you are looking to take an expensive vacation, consider picking up a few overtime hours at work or find odd jobs to earn extra income. Try to get your children involved in saving for the trip. Create a vacation jar. The spare change they find on the street or if they are older, their babysitting/lawn mowing money, can be placed in the jar. It might not amount to more than a bit of spending money for the children, but they learn valuable lessons of budgeting and are as invested in the planning of the family trip as you are.
Show me the savings.
The most important thing about planning family vacations is finding ways to save money. Here are some ideas to save you loads of cash on your next trip.
- Travel credit card loyalty programs can save you thousands. Did you know that you can get free airplane tickets or hotel stays for just paying your bills or by buying gas? It’s called travel hacking! And if you do not want a credit card, you can sign up for free airline and hotel loyalty programs by going to their websites, setting up an account, and following their instructions to gain miles or points toward your next vacation.
- Sometimes travel agents can find you the best price. They also take away the stress of planning your family vacation.
- Hotels can be expensive, especially in big cities. Why not rent out an entire house or apartment for half the cost? Airbnb.com allows you to rent houses, condos, teepees, tree houses, beach houses, apartments, and even B&Bs in almost any part of the world for a much cheaper price than hotels,. Plus these places usually offer free Wi-Fi and other perks like washer and dryers, free parking, full kitchen use, a pool, full access to cable and Netflix, and more. Get $25 off your first booking from yours truly when you sign up with this link: www.airbnb.com/c/atemblador?s=8.
- Always compare prices to find the best deal. To get the cheapest airfares use price comparing websites like Farecompare.com or Airfarewatchdog.com which can give you alerts on the lowest fares.
- Look for “Kids Eat Free” deals at the hotels you book.
- You can almost always find a coupon code for anything that you need to book for your family vacation. There are always rental car discount codes, hotel discount coupon codes, and sometimes there are even airline promo codes. Never pay full price for anything that you rent on your vacation! If your children are college students research the discounts they can attain when traveling by train, on metro rails, and buses, or see if they are eligible for a reduced entry-fee to museums or amusement parks.
It’s never too early to book your family vacation and the sooner you start, the sooner you will find the best vacation prices for you and your family. Even more important, you will find yourself with less stress and more energy toward creating everlasting family memories on your vacation.