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Traveling with family is fun, adventuresome, and builds lasting memories. However, for many, a family vacation may seem out of reach. Vacations can cost a lot of money, and the more people you have, the more expensive they can get. You may wonder how you can ever get away without breaking the bank.

With a little research and planning, you can be on a family vacation in no time. There are always ways you can travel without spending a lot, such as visiting during the off-season, booking cheap flights, and finding affordable accommodations.

Below, we’ve outlined a few family-favorite destinations with low-cost activities and travel tips to help start you on the right path.

Florida

Mother and daughter on her back smiling at the beach.

We love Florida for its sunshine and beautiful beaches. You and your family can catch some waves and soak up a healthy dose of vitamin D on any of Florida’s beaches.

Top Affordable Destination: Jacksonville

Jacksonville is a top destination for families. With 22 miles of beaches along the Atlantic coastline, Jacksonville can provide a lot of entertainment for the entire family to enjoy — including your pup! While visiting, take advantage of free rides on Jacksonville’s beachside buggies. These environmentally friendly electric cars or passenger vans can seat up to 14 people. They can take you to the beach, to dinner, and back to your accommodation at no cost — however, tipping your driver is recommended and highly encouraged.

When you need a break from the surf, head to the turf to enjoy historical spots, green spaces, museums, and the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, which is a little on the pricier side, but worth the splurge. With the largest urban park system in America, there’s plenty to see inland without breaking the bank.

Texas

Mother and daughter riding a horse together.

If you’re looking for a fun, affordable getaway, Texas is where it’s at! Whether you prefer laid-back and hilly, coastal fun, or sophisticated urban centers, there is something for everyone in the big state of Texas.

Top Affordable Destination: Texas Hill Country

Hill Country is home to the state’s capital, Austin, and many charming, historical, and easygoing towns. You can catch live music on Austin’s 6th Street, take a walking tour of the Alamo in San Antonio, or float down the river in New Braunfels.

You can find a wide range of rentals with amenities and prices that can match your budget. Vacation homes can offer two key advantages for families:

  • Save money on food. Skip going out for dinner and enjoy home-cooked meals in your vacation rental’s kitchen.
  • More space to stretch out. Have more room for yourself and your family. This can be especially important if you have small children who like to run around and play.

While visiting the Hill Country, check out Schlitterbahn Water Park in New Braunfels. This 70-acre water park features a designated kid-friendly area, lazy rivers, swim-up bars, and various dining options to feed even the pickiest eaters.

Europe

A mother and daughter stand in front of the Collesium in Rome.

When you’re wanting something more intercontinental, Europe is not out of reach. With some budgeting and planning, you can take your family on a European vacation they’ll never forget.

Top Affordable Destinations: Croatia, Hungary, and Portugal

While destinations like France or Italy often are first to come to mind, other locations like Croatia, Hungary, and Portugal generally offer lower-cost options for tourists, and just as much culture and history!

When it comes to vacation rentals — food, lodging, and even sightseeing cost much less when visiting Paris or Rome. Families can take advantage of free walking tours and learn the history and culture of the country, and then make their own meals back at their rental.

Suppose such close proximity to the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Eiffel Tower is too much to handle. In that case, you can take a day trip into the city via train or ferry. Make sure you take advantage of a city transit pass in cities like Paris. City passes give you access to local attractions and unlimited transport to the Louvre and the Picasso Museum.

6 Budget-Friendly Tips for Family Travel

No surprise here, but the biggest barrier for many families planning a family vacation is cost. When travel planning, there are several things you can do to cut down the seemingly endless torrent of costs to make your travel more affordable. From airline deals to local road trips, use these money-saving travel tips to plan your next family vacation.

1. Create a Vacation Savings Account

Excited family putting money into piggy bank.

You may not realize it, but there are a lot of budget-friendly ways you can travel with your entire family. You can even create a vacation savings account you can build over time. When it’s difficult enough to put money into savings, creating a vacation account may sound nearly impossible. Still, there are some ways you can go about this.

The first and probably most obvious step is to cut out unnecessary monthly expenses. Coffee runs, music or television streaming subscriptions, takeout lunches, and expensive dinner bills can all add up. Removing some or most expenses can really cushion your vacation savings account. Other ways to build up cash flow include selling things you don’t use, planning weekly meals, packing your lunch with leftovers, and limiting purchases.

2. Start a Side Hustle and Earn Extra Money

Mother working from home while dad and daughter having fun.

Launching a side hustle can also add dollars to your vacay stash. There are many ways you can do this without interfering with your full-time job. It might be selling items on eBay, offering driving services, blogging, or tutoring — the list goes on. Just about anything that you are passionate and knowledgeable about can earn you money.

3. Take Advantage of Cheap Flights with Price Alerts

A couple booking a flight holding passports.

There are great deals on flights, but you just need to find them. Google is a great place to start. You can set up price alerts on Google Flights to any destination around the globe. Simply enter the number of tickets and hit “Track Prices.” You can receive timely updates on ticket price changes right to your inbox!

Sites like Skyscanner can also help you find low airfare for your next getaway. Simply plug in your destination and dates to compare flight deals around the world.

Another option is earning airline miles with your credit card. You can use the card for all your regular purchases, pay it off each month, and end up with a lot of airline miles that may cover all your travel fees!

4. Consider Off-Season Travel

Family going on a trip traveling on an airplane.

It’s summer, and the kids are out of school, so it’s the best time to travel, right? Wrong. In reality, everyone else is thinking the same thing. This is especially true if traveling to Europe. Not only does Europe draw international tourists, but locals travel during the summer months as well. To save money, plan and book your travel during the off-season.

If your travel destination is within the United States, the off-season can differ from region to region. In Florida, tourism slows down during the later summer months because of the heat and high humidity. If you’re looking at Texas beaches, fall is the perfect time to get low rates.

Traveling during the peak season will always cost you more. Plan your visit during the slower months to take advantage of the lower flight and lodging fees. Even planning your departure on a weekday rather than a weekend can add hundreds of dollars back into your vacation budget.

5. Take a Road Trip

A family gearing up for a road trip.

Another option is to do it the Griswold way and hit the road! With a tank full of gas and a cooler packed with snacks, you can head to your destination of choice. Whether it’s visiting the Grand Canyon, hitting campsites, or visiting America’s many roadside attractions, a good old-fashioned road trip never goes out of style.

Keep in mind that road trips can get expensive. Gas prices vary from city to city and often cost more in larger metropolitan areas. If you’re not packing a full day’s worth of meals, or you want to splurge now and then at a restaurant, find a restaurant where children eat free. Many restaurants still do this, and you can find locations by simply researching ahead of time. Places like IHOP, Denny’s, and Applebee’s offer free or inexpensive meal options for kids.

And don’t forget about the entertainment! No, not wax museums or snake farms — they are always interesting but also expensive. While on the road, catch local festivals and free activities, such as local community events. You can find these on city websites, local magazines, or simply by searching the internet.

6. Take Part in Free Activities

Mother with her son looking at wild animals in the museum.

Free activities aren’t just for the road trippers. You can find free events just about anywhere in the world. For instance, in places like Washington, D.C. and New York, most premier attractions and museums are free. While visiting either of these urban destinations, you can peruse the Metropolitan Museum of Art or take in the 17 museums, galleries, and zoos at the Smithsonian Institution.

Several large cities have followed suit by opening museums to a wider audience for free. The Dallas Museum of Art in Texas offers free admission to the public. You can enjoy a wide range of historical art periods and participate in hands-on children’s activities in the family center. Afterward, enjoy a stroll through Klyde Warren Park and grab a bite to eat at one of the many vendors.

With a little planning, you can find free experiences for the whole family to enjoy!

Find Family-Friendly Vacation Rentals

A budget-friendly family vacation does exist, and you can begin yours with VacationRenter. Whether a relaxing cabin in the woods, fun in the sun, or visiting a bustling metropolitan area, we’ll help you take the stress out of planning your next vacation.