Summer is looming and it’s time to start planning those summer vacations. Unfortunately, with the cost of camps, activities and childcare, it can be costly to add on a getaway. If you’re thinking of heading out of town for a family vacation, check out these ten tips for saving money.

  1. Book your trip at the end of the summer. Mid-August through the end of September is considered a non-peak travel time, and you’ll find lower rates on both airfare and accommodations. 
  2. Sign up for Groupon in your vacation destination before your trip for great dining, shopping and entertainment deals. On today’s Orlando Groupon site, for example, you’ll find a $20 deal that includes go-karting and an alligator farm visit; a $30 deal will give you a dolphin spotting boat tour for two.
  3. Save money on your car rental. As more families choose road trips over flying, car rental rates are fast increasing. Avoid renting a car at the airport, which feature the highest rates. And, while it may sound counter-intuitive, sometimes renting a car for five days is less expensive than a 3-day rental. Check out CarRentals.com or AutoSlash.com for a comparative listings of car rental deals.
  4. Earn perks with hotel reward programs. See if the hotel or resort you’ll be staying at offers a rewards program and join for free before your stay. 
  5. Save money on gas. Use the GasBuddy smartphone app to locate the cheapest and closest gas station, then follow GasBuddy’s ten tips for saving money on gas.  
  6. Stay at a home away from home. Renting a home or apartment in your travel destination gives you the chance to enjoy less-cramped quarters and truly experience living like a local. airbnb features private homes available for rent from over 34,000 cities and 192 countries around the world. From a 2-bedroom apartment on NYC’s upper East side to a grand Victorian flat in San Francisco, you’re bound to find an affordable home away from home for your family.
  7. Just camp! If your summer vacation budget is limited, forgo hotels and consider a camping vacation. Most simple tent sites at state or national parks cost less than $25 per night. Camp along  long stretches of pristine beaches, in a Redwood Forest, or surrounded by the stunning scenery of Yellowstone National Park, collecting unforgettable family memories. Don’t forget to bring along plenty of marshmallows for roasting over the campfire!
  8. Purchase your theme park tickets before you go . Even if you don’t live near the theme park, sometimes it’s a better deal to buy a season pass. Daily tickets to Six Flags, for example, cost $41.99, as opposed to a season pass that costs $66.99 if you’re buying four or more tickets. If you’re planning two days at the park, you’ll be saving $100. Many parks also offer discounts if you pre-pay for parking, too, saving you both time and money. Just make sure to check for black-out dates.
  9. Satisfy your child’s souvenir cravings by shopping before your trip. Many dollar stores have cute summer fun trinkets, including activity books and mini-craft kits, both great for on the road or in the airplane. Wrap up a little token for each day of your stay and surprise your kids with one per day at breakfast. Gift your kids with a small spiral notebook to be used as a travel journal. Encourage them to write down the interesting and funny moments enjoyed by your family each day of your summer vacation. This will make for one of the most beloved (and inexpensive!) souvenirs of your trip!
  10. Plan on dining only once per day in a restaurant while on vacation. Familiarize yourself with your destination’s local grocery store and stock up on easy breakfast treats – juice, pastries, fresh fruit, yogurt. For lunch, gather sandwich goods and sides and enjoy a picnic in a local park. 

How do you save money while on vacation with your family? Please share with us in the comments below!