Vacations are a special time for families to explore new surroundings while spending time together.  For many, these trips provide a lifetime of memories.  Unfortunately, the high costs of travel can be daunting and discouraging but there are a few ways to make planning a family getaway a lot more affordable.

Stay Close to Home

You don’t need to pitch a tent in your backyard (although, it could be lots of fun) to enjoy a more local vacation.  Most people look at distant locales when planning a trip and are not even aware of all of the goodness that surrounds them.  A three hour drive can be a lot more cost-efficient than a three hour flight.  Gas prices might be high right now but a half tank of gas will almost always been cheaper than a few plane tickets.

Plan in Advance

Many savings can be found just by booking far enough in advance, particularly on amusement park tickets.  Sign up for newsletters from your planned destination since the emails will often contain advertisements for upcoming sales and events.

Check Last-Minute Deals

Yes, just like planning in advance can save money, so can deciding to take up a last-minute offer.  Sometimes flights and hotels experience low-occupancy and, in order to avoid having half-empty flights (which can barely justify the fuel costs) and unoccupied hotel rooms, they offer hugely discounted prices to bring in more travelers. Their loss is your gain!

Coupons, Coupons, Coupons

Incredible savings are everywhere – you just need to know how to find them.  Search for coupons for attractions that your family intends to visit (sometimes they are printable right from the official website).  Also, consider purchasing an Entertainment Book filled with coupons or subscribe to online coupon services like Groupon for your destination city.

Travel During the Off-Season

Virtually everything is more affordable during the off-season.  To help attract visitors during a time when weather might be less than stellar or no major events are occurring, hotels, airlines, restaurants and even some theme parks lower their prices.

Stock Up Before Leaving

Pick up necessities including snacks for the drive/flight, sunscreen, pain relievers, allergy medications, and insect repellant before leaving home.  These items cost a lot more at tourist spots (if you can even find them) so that they are ready when you need them.

Find Accommodations with a Kitchen

Having a kitchen within your travel accommodations can be priceless.  While you may not want to cook every meal on your trip, being able to buy a box of cereal or bread for breakfast saves a lot of time and money when getting a family ready for a long day of fun.  Also, it makes it easy to heat up soups or teas for someone who might be feeling under the weather. Many hotels are now offering kitchens but another cost-friendly way to find a place to stay with this hot commodity would be to rent a vacation home or condo.  Often, a weekly house rental, which can be found on sites like Craigslist or VRBO, is a lot less expensive than staying in a hotel while a family can enjoy the privacy of having individual bedrooms.

Find a Petsitter

Having a pet boarded can be a stressful and expensive experience.  Why add another few hundred dollars to your vacation budget when you can ask someone you know to keep an eye on your animal.  Find someone trustworthy and don’t forget to bring them a fantastic souvenir from your trip!