It’s important to know that budget family vacation doesn’t have to mean one-tank trip, and it doesn’t have to mean camping (although that is a fun option too!). Here are 20 tricks that will save some serious cash on vacation.
20 Ways to save money on vacation
I love taking family vacations, but sometimes there is more room in the budget for traveling than other times. In order to save money on vacations I do a handful of things before and during the family trip. As I come up with more ways to save on travel I will come back and update this post! 

20 Ways to Save Money on Vacation

1. Use Discounts!

Do you qualify for a discount on anything?  AAA, AARP, military, local government, are you part of some sort of club that can get you a discount, or does your child’s age get them a discount. Using your discount on everything you can: hotel, flight, tickets, meal, or activities is a great way to save.

2. Hotel Breakfast 

Stay at a hotel that serves breakfast. 9 times out of 10 you can find a hotel that serves breakfast for the same price as one that doesn’t. If you are on a week long family trip this could save you money on 5-7 meals.

3.  Combine Attractions 

Buy a multiple use pass. Decide ahead of time some of the things you plan to do on vacation.  Then see if they are selling these activities together.  One price covers all, like CityPASS. CityPASS is an American thing and available in many of the bigger cities.  In Europe you will find similar deals.  In Rome we got the Roma Pass that got us 3 days bus and subway use and into two of the attractions.

4. Take a podcast tour

Quit paying to go on tours if you can help it. You can download free podcast tours of the destination you are visiting. The podcast walking tour will tell you where to start, where to go, and what to look for.  Often you can find multiple podcast tour of the same place.  Listen to all of them if you like, each one will tell you a little something new. I recommend Rick Steve’s podcast for places in Europe.

5.  Extra ear buds

If you go on a museum tour they often have audio guides.  Instead of having to rent one for each person take some extra ear phones.  Most audio tour devices have a place to plug in a second set of ear buds.  You may have to walk closer together, but you will save money on each device you don’t have to rent. Even if they don’t have a second place to plug in you can just use a headphone splitter.

6. Subway

Use the subway, bus, train, plane, or a car. Take the time to figure out what is the cheapest way to get around. A subway system can be very intimidating if you are not familiar with it. Download a subway app to your phone and it will pinpoint where you are and tell you which subway to use. It’s easy!

7. Use Cheap Transportation 

Don’t assume that one form of transportation is cheaper than another.  When we were in Europe, we thought we would take the train everywhere, but it was so expensive.  Instead, we found Ryan Air and flew from one destination to another.  We took three separate flights and it was less than half what the train would have cost and took about a sixth of the time.

8. Get a Hotel Deal 

Watch various websites for the best hotel deal. Use which ever site you need to. I use Travelocity and Expedia.com the most.

9.  Daily Deals 

Once you know where you are going on vacation you can sign up with daily deal websites for that city.  Everyday is a different deal.  You can get up to half price restaurant, spa, hotel, and tours. LivingSocial’s Daily Deals are available in most cities.

10.  Use Restaurant.com gift certificates 

Utilize restaurants.com to your benefit.  Look up your hotels zip code and search for restaurants available nearby.  If there is one you want to go to or one that is recommended get a $25 certificate for it. I do this all the time and pay $2 per gift certificate.  There is usually a minimum of 2 entrees or $35 that you have to spend to use it and they add a tip.  If you sign up with them, they will send you coupon codes. I never pay $10 for a certificate, because I always use an 80% off coupon code.

11. Free admission 

Almost all museums have times when they admit people for free.  Look up the museum you want to visit and find out if they offer this. Even some of the most famous museum in the world do this, like the Prado.

12. Ebates

Ebates is a website that will give you a percentage of what you spend back. For example, if you use their site and book a hotel through Travelocity you get 6 – 14% back. They send it back to you through PayPal.

13. Costco

Buy gift cards to local restaurants at Costco. For $75 you will get $100 worth of gift cards.

14. Make Your Own Meals 

If you are staying somewhere that has a kitchen you can make meals instead of spending money eating out. Amazon Fresh will deliver groceries to most tourist locations.

15. Use a Vacation Planner

Now this may sound crazy, but travel agents often have access to deals that no one else can access. This means it’s more than worth it to get a free quote. Fill out this form for a free quote, just for Mommy Travel readers!

16. Fly on Weird Days, Weird Times of Year or to Another Place

If you want to fly during the summer or school breaks or just on Saturdays, you will pay the premium. If you can fly in the off-season, shoulder season or weekends, you can save hundreds (especially when a whole family is flying). The more flexible you can be, the better. You don’t have to travel outside school days. Check with your child or children’s teachers first about what is allowed.

You also should search other airports, even other cities (particularly if you already plan to rent a car). Sometimes one airport change can save a fortune on four or six tickets. 

17. Be Spontaneous

Some of the best deals pop up at the last minute. Keep a travel fund tucked into a special account, and start signing up for alerts. There are some great alerts from major travel booking sites like Expedia and Travelocity, but you can also get alerts from major hotel chains, tourism offices and last-minute travel sites. TravelZoo.com is a wonderful source with a wide range of deals, sometimes major bargains. 

18. Go Against the Grain aka Go Off Season

Everyone hits the beach in the summer, the mountains in the winter. Do the reverse. You’ll get off-season rates many times. Plus, there’s something so serene about the beach in the winter and something so refreshing about the mountains in summer. 

19. Revise Your Lodging Notions

If you always stay in your comfort zone at chain hotels, rethink that. Some of the most wonderful accommodations are small independent inns, bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, and AirBnB.

Better yet, consider camping. You can save literally hundreds off a vacation budget, and kids just love camping. If you aren’t the outdoorsy type, look for upscale campgrounds. You might be surprised at the amenities. 

20. Go Somewhere Else

If you’ve always dreamed of visiting France, it doesn’t have to be pricey Paris. There are many smaller, wonderful cities where everything from lodging to dining is a fraction of the price. The same goes for many popular destinations. Doing Hawaii? Hit a less-visited island. Go off the beaten tourist track a little and you will save money and, quite possibly, have a more interesting vacation. 

Hopefully these tips will help you and your family save lots of money so you can afford that dream vacation. If you need help making a travel budget, here’s a free Travel Budget printable.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.