How to Save For a Family Vacation

Family vacations are great for bringing families closer together, creating beautiful memories of happy times and opening doors to new experiences.


According to research, it is better for parents to spend money on travel and vacations than on toys. However, for many parents, the suggestions to take a vacation brings dread and anxiety over money.

How much will it cost?

Where can we find a discount?

What tricks can I use to save up enough money?

Research shows that the benefits of family vacations go deeper than just happy times and excellent photos. There are mental and emotional health benefits as well, such as:

  • New experiences that promote social, physical, cognitive and sensory interaction
  • Enhancement of brain functions like stress regulation, attention, concentration and the ability to learn
  • Better grades – studies show that kids who travel, score higher grades than their peers who do not travel
  • Creation of positive memories, called “happiness anchors,” that help individuals deal with stressful and unhappy situations

Other studies have shown the benefits of play time, for kids and adults. Vacations often include the same elements as play time: anticipation, surprise and pleasure. The downtime that vacations provide, away from chores and the stress of everyday life, are an opportunity to turn your attention to your spouse and children. In this kind of situation, children feel love, support and safety and the relationships in your family are enriched. So with all these benefits, you probably want to get started saving for the family vacation right away.

How much do family vacations cost?

How much do you need to save up before you can go on vacation? A family vacation does not have to put your family in debt. The average cost of vacation is $1,145 per person. For a family of four, that is $4,580. Of course, the cost will change if you drive rather than fly, if you stay with friends instead of rent a hotel, or if you go all-inclusive instead of a budget motel. Here are the main items to factor into your vacation budget:


  • Travel and transportation – Airline tickets for destinations within the United States cost between $300 and $500. Driving may save you money if you can get there in a day. Otherwise, the cost of lodging and food for an overnight driving trip may cost more than airfare.
  • Lodging – The cost of a hotel runs between $125 and $300 per night. All-inclusive resorts will be closer to $300 but remember, this includes all of your meals. Renting a vacation house may save you money depending on your location and if you need more than one room for your large family.
  • Food – You can count on approximately $60 per day for each adult and $45 per day for each child in your food budget. Remember, dining out is significantly more expensive than cooking – but the family cook may want a vacation, too!
  • Entertainment and attractions – This category is entirely discretionary and up to you. It is good to start with a budget – what you have saved to spend on fun excursions – and find activities that fit within that budget.

How can you reduce the price of a family vacation?

You do not have to pay full price to have a full vacation. Here are a number of ways you can find discounts for your vacation plans:

  • Time your trip in the off-season when prices are deeply discounted or the shoulder season – that is the time just before or just after the peak season when crowds are thinning, the weather is still pretty good, but the price is discounted.
  • Take the mid-week or red-eye flights – Airlines offer savings for mid-week flights or overnight flights. If you can be flexible about your arrival and departure dates, use the “flexible-travel-date” search to find the best fares.
  • Rent a house – Vacation rental houses are available across the globe these days. There are several services established to allow you to search and book renting an entire home in your destination location. With a vacation house rental, you will get significantly more square footage for your money, which can be a huge savings for families who have to rent more than one hotel room. Plus you will save on dining costs by cooking and eating in.
  • Find deals on excursions – If your trip involves activities, search for coupons and discounts. Your insurance company or AAA may provide discounted rates for attractions in your destination city. You can also try the city’s chamber of commerce or visitor bureau.
  • Call when booking – Many hotel booking sites claim to offer the lowest prices but calling the hotel may get you an even better price. Human contact and asking for help, still go a long way.
  • Get tickets to attractions in advance – Getting admission ahead of time can save you time waiting in line, ensure that you get into the attraction before it sells out and enables you to search for any discounts. Maybe you planned to visit the museum on Tuesday, but Wednesday kids’ tickets are half price.
  • Check you see if any of your memberships are valid – If you hold memberships to your local museum, YMCA, health club or zoo, that membership may be applicable in your destination city, or it may get you a discount.
  • See the free stuff – When you are in a brand new place, the free stuff can be just as exciting and adventurous as the paid attractions. Visit the parks, take hikes on the trails, walk the boardwalk or the downtown area.
  • Have a staycation – Remember that a vacation does not require travel. For a fraction of the cost of travel, you can stay close to home and explore areas you may have never visited before. You will enjoy all the benefits of a family vacation – even without the travel.

Tips for saving towards a family vacation

The average American family will spend five to ten percent of their annual income on vacation. So if a family earns $50,000 per year that is a budget of $2,500 to $5,000. How do you discipline your family to set that money aside and how do you find that extra money in your budget? Here are some ideas to help you out:

  • Open a special savings account just for vacation. An account separate from your other household finances will help you track how much you have saved just for vacation and will also help you track how much you spend. You will know you have exceeded your budget when you have to start dipping into your other accounts.
  • Cut back on your monthly food budget and put the difference in your vacation savings. If you are a family with a good working monthly budget, this strategy is easy and effective.
  • Get an extra job on the side and put that income toward vacation savings. There are many work-from-home part-time opportunities as well as grocery delivery or driving services like Lyft or Uber.
  • Sell some of your extra things. Simplify and clean your home while you make extra money selling the clothes, toys, appliances and furniture you no longer need or use.
  • Build your credit card reward points. There are a number of reward credit cards available that can earn cash or airline miles. Commit to setting aside these rewards for your vacation.

Family vacations are essential for building healthy relationships and happy memories. No matter how much you can save, you can plan a spectacular family vacation on any budget. It is the time together, trying new things, playing and having fun that makes any vacation great.


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