My Top 10 Creative and Affordable Vacation Ideas

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4th of July Kids At BeachI think I was a gypsy in a past life. I was meant to be on the road or in the sky. We went on many vacations when I was a kid and I’m hoping to be able to offer the same opportunity to Kora & Logan. To travel as often as we do we have to rely on creative and affordable vacation ideas. Here are a list of my favorite ways to travel frugally and still have fun.

  1. Hotel Pool. We went to Disney World when Kora & Logan were 2 & 3. After the trip, whenever we asked them what their favorite part of Disney World was they replied, “The pool!” Ahhh, all that money spent…
  2. Online Coupons and Discounts. Before you leave for your destination hop online and Google “Destination Name Coupons.” You might be amazed what you’ll find. Convention bureaus usually offer a number of packages and discounts. Depending on the length of your stay purchasing an Entertainment Book might be of value, for about $30 you’ll get an enormous amount of buy one-get one coupons for the city in which you’re staying. Also daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social often have a Getaways page with deals as do major airlines. Be sure to check out TravelZoo and Airfare Watchdog as well for other deals.
  3. Kids Eat Free. If you Google “Kids Eat Free Destination Name” you’ll find a nice list of restaurants where kids eat free or cheap. This is especially useful if you are traveling to a big city, where restaurant prices can be high in comparison to what you’re little ones actually eat.
  4. Check Your Couch Cushions. In the months before your trip, start collecting all of your loose change in a see-through jar, jug, or bottle. As the pile of money grows, family members will be excited to add to it. Then a  day or two before you leave get it counted and cashed in. If your kids are old enough, have a family meeting and let everyone weigh-in on what you should do with the money on the trip. Try to agree on something that you might not have done otherwise.
  5. Visit Relatives. Do you have relatives you haven’t seen in awhile. Send over an email or place a phone call and let them know you are thinking of visiting their area. They may have an extra room or two and, if not, they will most likely know where to stay for a reasonable price.
  6. Buy Souvenirs Before You Go. This tip may not be for everyone because it is fun to pick something while you are away to remember the trip by. However,  if you’re looking to save money, check out eBay for souvenirs before you leave. Chances are you’ll get more for your money on eBay for the keepsakes then you would at the overpriced gift shop. If your children are young, they won’t care where it came from as long as they get to wear that Mickey Mouse t-shirt every day while you are away.
  7. Utilize Travel Review Sites. One of my favorite things to do when planning a vacation is to read reviews on travel websites. It really gives me an idea of what events and activities will best suit our family. I can find out whether other travelers thought a particular restaurant was child-friendly, if the hotel I chose is worth the extra $20 a night because it’s closer to downtown, or what unforeseeable and therefore unbudgeted transportation issues might arise.
  8. Use Public Transportation. Depending on the ages of your children, using public transportation could be an adventure in itself. Kora & Logan thought the trams and the monorails at Disney World were actual rides. A ride on a subway, bus, or train may just captivate your child as much as a $40 ticket to an amusement park. And if you’re somewhere with a ferry boat that’s a big bonus.
  9. Factory Tours. Prices for factory tours are generally minimal and you may even find discounts online. On top of being money savers, they are educational and memorable too. Also, you can almost always count on the “free” treat at the end.
  10. Keep It Low Key. Instead of staying in a big city hotel room look into a vacation rental site. Some of my fondest family vacation memories as a kid were from our stays in a cabin by a lake. We swam, played cards, watched as deer came up to our back porch, and best of all just relaxed together as a family.

What about you? What are your creative and affordable vacation ideas?

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  1. we love to travel.awesome tips.we even did the factory tour this summer at a chocolate factory in a lot of chocolate for free

  2. We do a lot of these but we haven’t thought about public transportation. That is an interesting idea.

  3. We almost always visit relatives for a more affordable vacation. Family is so very important!

  4. I went on a family vacation in July and seems like it was very expensive!! Love your ideas !!!

  5. Cheryll Shubert says:

    Thanks so much for this! It’s so hard to travel for family vacations without spending a fortune!! You gave us so many great ideas!!

  6. Leanna Morris says:

    Thank you for sharing these ideas. I’m always on the lookout for more affordable ways to vacation!

  7. These are some really fantastic tips for vacationing on a budget! I am always packing snacks and drinks to save on food when we travel.

  8. We most of the time stay with family or friends when traveling, and we book early if staying at a hotel. Awesome tips here that can really help. The factory tours one is awesome, never thought of this.

  9. David Lane says:

    When we travel we like to spend more time in fewer places. We look for apartment hotels or places with light cooking facilities and with washers and dryers. These places can be so much more reasonable than the fancier hotels were you get little more than a room.

  10. Kate F. says:

    Thanks for the tips! I’m always looking to have a more affordable vacation.

  11. Tammy S says:

    We are trying to come up with a easy fun vacation we can do without to much major planning or a major budget. So I knew I had to come back and print this list of tips. Thanks!

  12. We try to take advantage of the local tourism office’s coupons and special offers. We have received discounts at hotels, department stores, and all kinds of local activities.

  13. Becky Greene says:

    Great tip about Public Transportation – don’t forget to check to see if there is a day pass that you can buy. They are generally a great bargain and you can then travel freely without worrying about each trip’s fare.

  14. Travel reviews sites are essential when we’re planning a trip!

  15. We love to visit relatives to save on hotel fare.

  16. Road tripping to a microbrewery is always a fun idea! This is, obviously, if you have a babysitter.

  17. We like to save up our reward points to pay for vacation hotels or flights.

  18. I love reading reviews on travel sites too. Great insight to lots of information and reviews before you get there!

  19. amy williams says:

    Thanks for the great post I have never really had a vacation where we had to travel and I would love to and keep it affordable thanks so much for the post.

  20. Katharina says:

    Love these tips… thank you! I’m too much of a chicken to get excited about being “in the sky” but I do love our road trips. :-) I do the travel websites like mentioned in your #7 and I’ve gotten some excellent ideas there. ~Katharina

  21. Jennifer Dysart says:

    Thanks for the tips, I like the idea of getting souvenirs ahead of time, esp things like shirts, you would save a bit doing that!

  22. It’s the little things we’ll long remember. I always try to check my expectations before I go, too. And stay in the moment.

    Great list!

  23. I love these tips! I’ve gone on some pretty fun and unexpected factory tours too…like the Dr. Pepper Museum.

  24. Shannon Morris says:

    These are great tips. I take advantage of number 6 a lot. There are a lot if cool things to do near relatives if you take the time to research it.

  25. Rich Hicks says:

    Love these tips for cutting costs. It really costs a LOT to go on vacation now days!

  26. Kristine E. says:

    The Kids Eat Free Can really add up!

  27. We take weekend trips to the mountains and even a few national parks within a reasonable distance.

  28. Lindsey Roberts says:

    Thanks for all of the great tips! I can use all the tips I can get before my hubby and I take off for our 2013 vacation to the the Caribbean ! :)

  29. Stephanie from CT says:

    Some great tips, traveling w/ kids IS possible.

  30. Donna Marie says:

    We make sure to get a hotel that has a refridgerator and I take a crock pot. It is great for making meals for the family and saves on eating out.

  31. Staying in rental homes is also a great idea so you can cook your own meals instead of staying in hotels and eating out all the time.

  32. Sherry Butcher says:

    The simple things to do while away are visiting small towns with a different hairatiage than the hometown. Visit the churches, cementary, and any art places.

  33. We love the factory tours. The kids learn so much when they see things they like being made.

  34. Thanks for the great tips! Some of my fondest memories are when we stayed in KOA cabins! They are very nice and yet you still feel like you’re camping!

  35. Jennifer Marie says:

    I like the idea of visiting relatives. My sons would be so excited to see their uncle and we wouldn’t have to pay anything to stay with him!!

  36. When I was growing up we had a 15 foot travel trailer that hooked on the back of our car. We drove all over the West staying at camp grounds.

  37. Vacation rental sites is a huge money saver compared to hotels that’s a big one to look into

  38. We have a big bucket that we throw coins into and when we are ready for vacation, it gets changed at the bank for spending money.

  39. Great ideas – Thank you so much!

  40. Tiffany Winner says:

    I like the idea of saving money by staying with relatives (or friends) near the place you want to vacation

  41. Thanks for the great tips!

  42. We save our change all year long and use it for something specific on vacation, like our meals. It really adds up all year long, and while it won’t pay for a trip, it WILL pay for some portion of it. It feels better to plan knowing we have that part of it handled.

    Thanks for these tips! Your first one (the hotel pool) cracked me up. Yep…sounds about right! They tend to like the box the expensive toy came in, too! :)

  43. Thanks for the tips & sharing this this will come in handy when we fly out to Florida :) soon hopefully to visit my husbands part of the family

  44. We love to stay with family while we vacation. I like to pack a cooler of snacks to save money when we stop.

  45. Thanks for the tips! I love traveling but we’re trying to save up for a house!

  46. Those are great tips!!

  47. Great tips. I always try to check the our destinations visitors website. There is usually several discounts or coupons posted.

  48. Thank you for the fantastic tips! Keep it low key/keep it simple is an important one. I think we as parents want to dazzle our kids and “make memories” so bad sometimes we forget that children, at the end of the day, are pretty easy to please. I’m a relatively new reader of your blog, and this site has helped me so much already!

  49. Amanda E. Buccieri says:

    Great tips! We are definitely waiting until our daughter is at least 5 to take her to Disney. We want her to remember it :)

  50. MD Kennedy says:

    Grat ideas! My step-daughter wants us to take a family break for a long weekend soon, including her 2 year-old, before she has her next baby (in May). I will send her your post to get her to find a good spot for us!

  51. My kids have said the same thing of the hotel pool, too funny! We usually pack breakfast supplies complete with a hot plate and toaster, that meal alone could save an easy $15 bucks a day for a family of four.

  52. Maria Malaveci says:

    Thank you so much for posting these! This is something that will definitely be helpful in planning our next family trip!

  53. Great ideas! We pack a cooler for food, especially snacks. If we’re staying in a hotel, we make sure it has a complimentary breakfast. For places to see, we look for specials or city passes ahead of time!

  54. saminder gumer says:

    i think these are great ideas. the only thing i need is wifi for free and it would be great.

  55. Great tips! Especially buying souvenirs beforehand…those parks will kill you in prices!

  56. ….it’s like babies, wrapping paper and boxes….there’s no need to buy them gifts when all they want is the wrapping!! Same goes with pools and extravagent vacations!!

    Great tips! TFS!

  57. Great idea on looking for kids eat free! We’ll think about factory tours too, save $ and they’re educational.

  58. After looking at this list I came to the realization that the only “vacations” I took last year were weekends when I visited my parents. Even though my kids love their grandparents I feel a little sad I never took them anywhere else.

  59. These are such great tips! Especially when we go to Disney, I try to buy souvenirs before we get there.

  60. Love this list! I second factory tours. They sound boring, ,but end up being fun!

  61. I’ve been a Rambling Girl, well since I was a girl! Definitely going to use the coupons search. We do the same thing with change, but we save all of it from spending money. All change goes into a jar. We’re always amazed at how much we get out it that jar.

  62. Christina Kelbel says:

    Great ideas, thanks for sharing. I love to travel, wish I could afford to do it more.

  63. Ha! The pool really is everything to kids on vacation.

  64. We like to drive to Biloxi. Much cheaper than a flight to Vegas.

  65. my kids were the same way…the pool. :)

  66. courtney b says:

    keeping it low key is really important :)

  67. Joni Mason says:

    I always search online for coupons and discounts to my destination. I also contact the local Chamber of Commerce for deals.

  68. Bridget A says:

    We put a lot of these great tips into motion when planning our vacations! Staying at a motel with a continental breakfast is a great way to save!

  69. I like the hotel pool idea, but sometimes it’s difficult to find a hotel with a clean pool. =(

  70. Debby Chandler says:

    thanks for the useful tips!

  71. april yedinak says:

    I really have to agree about keeping things low-key. It is easy to get caught up in trying to make every trip ‘the best ever’ and then you end up stressed and flat broke. I try to keep a list of free/ low-cost things I would like to accomplish on a trip, but I stay very flexible.

  72. The internet also makes it easy to find ‘vacation rentals’, especially for events like mardi gras …a home or apartment that is usually about the same price as a hotel but includes those luxuries like washer/dryer and a fully stocked kitchen. A bonus is that the landlord will generally have a wealth of tips about local traditions and attractions.

  73. Cabin by the lake… some of my fondest memories, too!

  74. Love these ideas! We take a lot of staycations – saves us some money, but still tons of fun! The hotel pool is always a big hit with our girls too!

  75. Before we go on vacation, I always search online for local activities and coupons to save money.

  76. We stay-stactioned last summer and explored some of the surrounding cities. The farthest we drove was 2 hours and we had a blast. The girls loved seeing more of the state they lived in and other then the gas and food a lot of it was free.

  77. These are great tips! I need to bookmark this for our future travel plans!

  78. I like the idea of the hotel pool! My kids would swim all day at the pool and forego the more expensive side trips!

  79. Elisabeth says:

    #3 is absolutely brilliant!

  80. Alexandra says:

    Ha, nice tip about checking your couch cushions. When I try, I find loose change in all sorts of weird places all over my house!

  81. That’s an interesting idea to get the souvenirs in advance. I never would have thunk it! And I LOVE factory tours!

  82. We have done several of these options. My kids were the same way about the pool. We would take them to the beach and they wanted to stay by the pool.

  83. Camping! You can rent tent campsites for under $20 a night. A good tent is worth the investment and pays for itself after 1-2 trips, especially considering the cost of hotel rooms lately. You can even camp at Walt Disney World! You still get hot showers/bathrooms/ect, but at a fraction of the cost.

  84. Evelyn Goettner says:

    I never thought of looking for coupons for vacation. Thanks for all of the tips.

  85. Paol Trenny says:

    Thank you for this list. Now that we have 4 children, traveling can be so costly that we often have a staycation instead of traveling. I like #6 tip because I have never thought to do that.

  86. We did this one time when I was a kid. Basically, we lived about 30 miles outside of Oklahoma City and one year our whole vacation was doing local things in OKC that we had never done or maybe didn’t know about. It was really interesting, not very expensive and you learn a lot about your own home town/State

  87. My only problem with travel review sites is that opinions are often split, and the horror stories can scare you off a decent place.

  88. Jennifer Marie says:

    we visited my brother in law in colorado last year and it was nice to save money by staying with him!!

  89. I’m going to have to remember about buying souvenirs before you leave. this is a great idea, I can even hide them and pass them out when we get to where we are going.

  90. Trasina McGahey says:

    Great tips! LOL @ their fav part being the pool too!!

  91. Mary Beth Elderton says:

    Great ideas! We are a little out f practice travelling with small kids, but now that the grands are old enough to enjoy vacations, we want to take them places. I forget about the “kids eat/sleep free” deals–thanks for the reminder. And factory tours sound like a great idea! Speaking of checking the couch cushions–when my son was young, we didn’t have a lot of money, so one of the ways I saved to go places was to keep a change jar–people who have never tried that don’t realize how much you can save in a few months just by dropping change!

  92. Jennifer Marie says:

    we’ve had the same experience with the hotel pool this year with vacation….really that’s the best part? guess we don’t need to travel across the world for that :)

  93. debbie jackson says:

    Great ideas, I wish I had read this before vacation.

  94. So many great ideas. We’ve bought Entertainment Books a few times when we’ve planned a vacation far enough in advance and it’s always ended up being a big money saver.

  95. Katharina says:

    Excellent advice! We never do a vacation without thorough research… especially for coupons. I’m always amazed at just how many discounts *are* available. Travel review sites are great, too! We’ve used them extensively. Katharina angelsandmusic[at]gmail[dot]com

  96. Great tips on ways to stretch your dollar and take a family vacation. We are huge fans of finding a vacation rental no matter where we go, whether it be Asia, Europe, Canada or just going down to the beach for a long weekend. I also got addicted to travel vouchers this year. It has saved us a bundle and let us explore more than we ever could have.

  97. We do the check your couch cushions idea. We start throwing change in a clear bucket 6 months before and usually wind up with around 300.00!! Great tips :)

  98. I like these ideas. With the economy the way it is, one needs to be frugal when vacationing

  99. Stephanie says:

    great tips!

  100. Yes, we have been fortunate to visit family relatives to keep costs down….and everyone seem to enjoy our time together.

  101. Betty Baez says:

    Lol the kids always love the pool! Our last vacation we stayed with relatives whichcut down our cost and we drove.

  102. Love your tips – I’ll look for factory tours as we plan our next getaway!

  103. We too always stay at a vacation home, makes you feel more at home and relaxed!

  104. betty wojnar says:

    I never thought to buy souviners before we went what a unique idea.

  105. Heather Hayes Panjon says:

    Saving/Collecting Loose Change is a great idea, I do that for christmas shopping, and it adds up !:)

  106. Usually when we go on vacation, we take our camper. Saves a lot on food and lodging!

  107. Thomas Murphy says:

    Great ideas, I’ll put them to use!

  108. Mary Williams says:

    I love these ideas! I know that my son and I never get to go on a vacation so something as simple as staying at a hotel with a pool would be an awesome experience for us! Or just going somewhere close for the night would be like a vacation for us!

  109. These are great advices.
    “the pool”? Wow really surprising

  110. Heather Hayes Panjon says:

    I like visiting relatives for vacation !:)

  111. Great list…thanks!

  112. Every state and big city has a visitors bureau you can find online and request a visitors’ guide. Also, whether I use them to book or not, I like that gives me a nice list of hotels with a picture of each — I can quickly scan the list and see if anything jumps out.

  113. Great ideas! thanks for sharing!

  114. Great tips! Thank you!

  115. Cynthia says:

    These ideas will be very useful for our upcoming trip to Florida. Thank you :)

  116. Jessie C. says:

    Love this list, great ideas, especially the factory tours which I have never thought of.

  117. There is always the “stay-cation” idea which is a hit if you plan to do fun things within driving distance. Where ever we have lived there are great places to visit which we never seem to get around to experience even on the weekends. Get the family involved in deciding what will be on the agenda

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