The Traveller's Magazine icon
The Traveller's Magazine
  •   3 min read

Planning a memorable family vacation doesn’t have to be expensive. You also don’t have to go far to have a great trip. For many of us globe-trotters travel is associated with far-off destinations on the edge of the earth, anywhere far from what we call “home.” But for most families packing the kids up for a trip across the USA or a culture shock in Thailand isn’t affordable or comfortable. There are great ways to plan fun and very memorable trips though, right in your backyard (maybe even literally)! Most of all it’s cheap!

Modern families don’t have the resources or the time to take trips around the world or at least to another continent. If you’ve ever travelled the world as a child you may remember it, but maybe you don’t. The truth is that kids just want to have fun and for most it doesn’t matter if its having fun riding on the back of an elephant in Africa or riding the tilt-a-whirl until they puke at a travelling carnival. How to plan a family vacation that is both cheap and fun? Well, that’s where you have to get creative! Don’t worry, we’re here to help you out.

  • National Parks:

    With a little research you will find that National Parks offer cheap accommodation and great opportunities for physical activities. Hiking, walking, cycling, maybe even canoeing or rock climbing are all excellent possibilities that don’t cost a dime (and if they do, it’s always reasonable).

  • Your own backyard:

    Camping out is a great budget option! (img: sxc)

    Many fail to notice what’s in their own backyard: museums, zoos, public gardens, biking paths, local monuments, festivals, etc. If there is a special event going on in your region, take advantage of it and plan a mini-family vacation around it. If you have a back garden, camp out for a night, cooking your food over an open fire and telling stories all night long! Take a trip by bike, camp overnight and then cycle back. Sightsee in your own city like you would in another one. For sure there are spots and places you’ve overlooked or just haven’t made the time to see/do.

  • Road trips:

    This is an inexpensive and great way to explore your region. Pack up the car and plan a route in your area, driving a few hours a day or if you plan to go further, plan appropriate stops along the way. Just remember to tune up your car beforehand, keep an open mind (one that is open to spontaneity), bring a map and music/audio books for the ride and add gas to your list of travel expenses. Make it themed if you like with a treasure map or following the footsteps of an important historical figure. If you don’t have your own vehicle, there are great cars for hire at great prices too. Plan your trip during the week instead of weekends to avoid peak prices.

  • Rent a cottage/villa:

    Staying in a hotel room every night can be costly, even if you do find deals on cheap hotel rooms. Why not rent a villa or a cottage instead? In bigger cities there are fully furnished apartments for rent too for short term stays which are cheaper for families and give you more room too. With a kitchen you can still make your world-famous lasagne while travelling instead of eating out for every meal.

  • Home exchange:

    Becoming more and more popular after the film The Holiday, home exchanges are set up through internet sites or friends of friends. One family switches houses with another family simultaneously, enjoying a free stay in each others homes in a different city and making use of their amenities, kitchen, yard, etc. It’s one of the best ways to save money which means you can stay longer or travel further. All you need to worry about are a couple of cheap flights to your swap destination and you’re set!

Wherever you decide to go and how, get the kids involved in the planning process. Have each of them pick out an activity or a sight that they would like to see. While on the trip, encourage them to keep a travel journal or scrapbook. It will keep them busy in the car or on the plane and they’ll have a keepsake afterwards. Travel doesn’t have to take you far and if you’re a little creative and have an open mind, a stay-home holiday isn’t as dreadful as you may think! Spice it up a little, who said a trip to Mexico had to cost a lot? As far as I know a couple of sombreros and order-in Mexican did the trick when I was young!

Have any more budget ideas for family vacations? Share them below! We’d love to read about them.

Looking for your next trip? Find the best flights with us!

7 responses to “Cheap family getaways: How to plan a family adventure on a budget

  1. Hi Walter, I agree, Denver has a lot of great hiking and it's free too! A return to the great outdoors is never a bad thing, especially since we've become so “connected” the past few years. Unplug and relax, I say and spend time with your family instead of just “poking” them on Facebook 🙂

  2. Surely, vacations do not need to take a bulk of the family's budget. I'm glad that you're able to mention great ways to enjoy without going to a far place. Local scene truly has its own charm.

    Our family is particularly fond of hiking. In most parts of the country and in Denver Colorado, parks and recreation centers often attract families who wanted to spend time with each other. Indeed, (Denver Colorado) recreation centers are one of the best options that can provide fun activities for parents and children alike.

    I'm also interested about the rest of the suggestions that you gave. We'll probably try that this year. Thanks!

  3. When the budget gets tighter, families still need a getaway — perhaps … Doing a family trip in July?

  4. These are great ideas Super Nan! Thinking local is a great idea, some may scoff but if you're creative you'd never believe how memorable a family picnic can be or a day-trip with some of your friends. The library always has local events postings, a great place to find inspiration and ideas. Thanks for your comment!

  5. The Poppit and I are always off on “Adventures”.

    The places that we have discovered over the past two years have really surprised me. I have lived in Melbourne, Australia all my life and I am making new discoveries every time I venture out.

    So much so that I have turned our adventures into a website, so that I can share my findings with everyone.

    Sourcing out cheap family getaways has now become a passion for me and my Poppit much to her pleasure. What a wonderful way of teaching your grandchild about the place she is growing up in.

    I agree there are some incredible places not too far away from where you sit right now.

    Check out the street directory, the local community center, library, school, daycare center or local paper for some ideas. Then hit Google Maps to see how to get there, pack a picnic and off you go.

    Never know what great Family Memories you may inspire!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

footer logo
Made with for you