For the Tiny Travel Budget
• Instead of selecting a destination that requires travel by air, find something within driving distance.
• Choose destinations with free attractions - like swimming at the beach, hiking in the mountains, wildlife viewing in public parks, or playing baseball in a nearby recreational area.
• Investigate attractions off the beaten path, places that are not tourist traps.
• If you are planning a road trip and you own a gas-guzzler, try to swap it with a friend or family member who has a vehicle with good gas mileage.
• Vacation rentals are often much cheaper than hotels - and you can cook all your own meals, saving even more money.
• If you travel with friends, you can take turns babysitting for one another.
• Try a camping trip. There is a nightly charge in public campgrounds, but it is a small fraction of what you would pay for a hotel. The family can enjoy hiking, biking, and boating during the day. After dark, everyone can bond around the campfire while they toast marshmallows and tell spooky ghost stories.
For the Larger Travel Budget
• Check currency exchange rates and select a destination where the conversion is favorable. You can buy a lot more with much less money in some countries.
• Try to avoid peak-season travel. Unfortunately, a family with school-age children will have to pay higher rates during summer holidays and other school breaks.
• Some airlines have a "kids fly free" program. Investigate and take advantage of the savings if appropriate for your travel dates and destination.
• Investigate the reduced cost of flights to smaller airports. Sometimes, you can save several hundred dollars per ticket by landing in an airport that is within an hour or so of your destination. The car trip to your final destination can often be a scenic drive that everybody enjoys.
• Remember to pack eBook readers, portable gaming systems, and other creature comforts that will keep your kids occupied during inclement weather or airport delays. Buying gadgets in another country can be expensive.
• If you plan to travel by air, check the price for airport shuttle service (usually a per-person fee) and compare it with taxi fare. The taxi might cost a lot less.
• It may be cheaper to rent a car than to hire taxis if you plan to do a lot of local sightseeing.
• Many popular destinations offer coupon books with discounts on local attractions, hotels, car rentals, and restaurants. Ask the local chamber of commerce or tourism board for information.
• Try to find a hotel that offers free breakfast and/or a "kids eat free" program.
• Food is often the largest expense on a family vacation. To economize on meals and snacks, make sure your hotel room has a refrigerator and microwave oven.
• When dining out, eat where the locals eat. The prices will be lower and the food will be better.
• Ask the hotel concierge or tourism board about local family attractions that are inexpensive or free.
• Always inspect your hotel bill before checkout to make sure it does not contain any unusual or unauthorized charges.