Sometimes going on a vacation with the family requires crunching some numbers. Fortunately, there are several ways families can enjoy an affordable vacation. With some careful planning and an eye toward spending less, you can manage to find options that include any interest, be it the outdoors or the beach
, the arts or delicious dining. The only activity the vacation can't include is shopping, unless it's for groceries.
All-inclusive vacations and prepaid packages are one way a budget-conscious family can still afford an international vacation. By prepaying in dollars for the trip, you are immune to fluctuations in currency, particularly against the Euro. Having transportation, breakfast or meals included also reduces the chance of spending spontaneously or beyond your budget. The article, "How to Understand Money Exchange Rates" (see Resources section below) provides additional insight on currency conversion and budgeting.
There are several creative approaches to saving money on lodging, which tends to be the biggest expense on a long trip. You can do a home exchange where you swap a stay at your house for a simultaneous stay at another person's house. You can try last-minute bidding on hotels online through Priceline or Hotwire, which includes international destinations. But it can be challenging to successfully bid low during high season. You can also opt for camping or stopping along the way at homes of friends and family. If you stay at budget places, break up the trip with a stay in a bigger room or a suite that gives the family some breathing room.
One option in bargain family vacations is to stay where you are and explore the region. This approach does not work if you attempt to keep up with work, errands and other business, however. Try to mix up the staycation with a night or two away at a spot a few hours from home to make sure you shake the stay-at-home feeling.
The national park system is a treasure trove of discoveries, from the geysers at Yellowstone to the canyons of Arches. Some parks, such as Yosemite, become packed to capacity in high season (which tends to be anytime there is a break from school). Beat the rush by skipping the last couple days of school before a vacation or visiting less popular parks, such as Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California, Washington's North Cascades National Park and southern California's Channel Islands National Park.
Low season travel
The magic of low-season travel is that prices are lower plus things are less crowded. Of course, you run the risk of certain attractions, such as amusement parks or beach businesses, being closed altogether. Quick trips to Puerto Vallarta or even Europe can be had at half the price. The article, "Tips for Booking Travel Online," (see Resources), offers additional strategies for how to get the most for your travel dollar.
Nina Makofsky has been a professional writer for more than 20 years. She specializes in art, pop culture, education, travel and theater. She currently serves as a Mexican correspondent for "Aishti Magazine," covering everything from folk art to urban trends. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mills College.