Creating Great Family Vacation Memories Without Breaking the Bank
Posted Apr 09 2012 7:00am
Changes and instability in the economy are not only effecting individual travel and vacation plans, but are also affecting family travel and vacationing, which, for this parent is one of the best ways to build family bonding and memories. And though things seem to be challenging when it comes to obtaining a nice vacation for your family, the travel industry is subject to the same economy. Because of this, many businesses related to the travel industry are finding ways to make quality travel and vacations more affordable, giving rise to concepts and packages such as a vacation travel club membership . The trick is, doing a little extra home-work, perhaps making some changes, and knowing where to find the discounts and deals. With a little preparation and a willingness to ask questions, we (as parents) are still able to get great vacations without breaking the bank. Here are some tried and true pointers to help lighten the financial burden without giving up quality vacation and invaluable memory building experiences – the “stuff” that the good life is made of.
Setting the Limit:
1. Get the kids involved! Discuss the spending limit with the whole family beforehand. For younger children, it may be a simple discussion of which days they may chose something, like a restaurant for lunch or a souvenir or toy. For older children, set a daily limit (or several day limit, depending on their capability to grasp the concept) of what can be spent. Let them know that if they save some money on the current vacation, they will have extra to spend the next time. Then set your own limits – and stick to them. This is a great opportunity to teach fiscal responsibility as well as help your children decipher between a whim and something they really want. Communication and laying out expectations as a team can help reduce the budget-breaking impulse buying that often happens while on vacation.
2. Plan your trip financially as well as physically. Know where you are going, and how much it should cost. Always give yourself a cushion, as prices may vary. Also, you are vacationing, and may find something you want, or see something you want to do, that wasn’t in the original plan. You want to be flexible enough to allow yourself a little fun while still sticking to your “economic guns”. Be sure that you do budget for some “blow money” for each person to be able to “blow” on one item or experience, it you can fit it. This allows for a little more freedom and opens the door to enjoying a few possible spontaneous memory building opportunities. Also, you can register in advance for online discounts and incentive groups like “Groupon”, “Social Living” and “Google Offers”. These cost nothing to join and if done in advance, you can find some great 50% off deals to help spread the dollars.
Penny Pinching on Attractions:
3. If there is a nice zoo or state park nearby, make a day-trip of it. You save yourself the high price of the tourist attractions while still building great memories and bonding time with your children. Near St. Louis, there is actually a large free park with many attractions. Some cities have safe and fun locations and opportunities for tourists. Checking with the tourist centers beforehand can be a great way to discover things like this.
4. If your kids are older, try a water park. Most water parks offer day passes if you want to skip the high price of lodging there. And what is better (or more fun for many kids) than swimming in the summer?
5. Museums are usually not too expensive as well, and your children can learn a thing or two over vacation. Make sure the museum houses things they are interested in, and you will create a great memory for the entire family. Some museums have great interactions and attractions for kids as well. Doing a little extra research can help you spot these extra vacation gems.
6. There are often festivals and carnivals going on in the summer. If you time things right, you can be vacationing close by as festivals occur. When the kids beg for overpriced festival toys or food, remind them of their vacation limit and of what they still have to look forward to. But go ahead and splurge on something small. Save the rest for an end of vacation treat, like dinner out with dessert or a couple of souvenirs.
Hotel or hostel?
7. Depending on your price range, you have some options with lodging and accommodations. For the lower end of the price range, you could check out a hostel and get a cheap, overnight stay at dormitory-type lodging. If you don’t like the idea of bunking with strangers, there’s the option of renting a camper -or roughing it in a tent- and going out for day trips.
8. If you have a little more in your budget for lodging, you could always look into renting local housing (through real estate companies) or unfilled timeshares to rent . This is still usually cheaper than a hotel, and you get the added space and privacy of a home or a nice vacation condo. House swaps are available too, but look for accreditation before you take that plunge.
9. If you just like the idea of getting away and staying in a hotel, there’s money saving options for that too. There are a lot of online discounts, and if you call hotels, they will usually compete for your business if they hear another chain is offering you a better deal. You might be able to get yourself a great deal with all the amenities; free breakfast, use of the facility pool and gym, and perhaps a larger room. You’ve just got to ask. You are bringing business to them, and it’s ok to have them compete a bit more for your hard-earned dollars, but you’ll never know unless you ask.
10. Keep and eye out for what is available through local papers and advertisements, and ask for the best deals, coupons, or incentives wherever you go. The worst that could happen is that you don’t get one. But most likely, at least some of the time, you will, and you’ll benefit through the extra savings. What you do and save on your vacation is really all up to you and the effort you want to put into it. So. . . go for it! You can rest easy then knowing you have the best laid plans for your family vacation.
About the contributor: Aaron Schulman is a husband and father who enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, especially when on a nice vacation. He enjoys web development and publishing, researching, writing, cooking, guitar and jazz music with his wife. He also writes acoustic guitar reviews from over 25 years of music experience. If you are a traveler and enjoy playing the guitar, he recommends the Baby Taylor Guitars for a great travel guitar sound at a great value.