8 Easy Tips For Saving Money On Your Next Family Vacation


With summer upon us I am guessing a family vacation might be on your mind. Getting away for a few days or a week of fun is a great thing – but not so great if you are on a budget! Thankfully, there are lots of ways to save money and still have a great vacation.  I travel a lot, so I have picked up some helpful tips along the way. Check out these ideas for saving money on your next family vacation.

Minnehaha Falls
We loved exploring Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis…the best part was it was FREE!

Tips for Saving Money on a Family Vacation

1. Know Where To Search For The Best Prices

There are a lot of websites out there to help you search for flights, hotels and rental cars – almost too many. It can be overwhelming trying to find a good deal.  I’ve gone through a lot of the sites to compare prices and here is what I have found.

  • Kayak is a great place to start!  This travel search engine shows you the prices for all of the other online travel agencies out there so you can compare prices easily.  The Kayak “Hacker Fares” generally offer pretty good savings.
  • Hotwire offers Hot Rate hotels which can be at a great price – the catch is that you won’t know the exact hotel until after your booking is complete.  Hotwire can also save you money when booking one of their package deals.
  • If you are booking a chain hotel like Marriott or Hyatt, booking a member rate directly through their website will generally get you the best deal. 

2. Pay Attention To Baggage Fees

Southwest is my favorite airline and one of the reasons I love them is that there are no baggage fees!!  These can really add up when you are traveling with kids, so if I am headed to a destination where Southwest flies, they are always my first choice.  If you didn’t know, in addition to domestic routes, Southwest also flies to vacation destinations like Cancun, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and the Bahamas!

When you fly  Southwest, you can check two bags completely free.  And, this includes things like golf clubs, skis and car seats!

Southwest Airlines
I love Southwest Airlines because I can check two bags for free!

3. Bring Empty Water Bottles…And Snacks, Lots of Snacks

Whenever I am flying, I always bring an empty water bottle. Most airports have water bottle filling stations now, so you can take the empty bottle through security and fill it up in the terminal. This saves you from purchasing the overpriced water in the airport gift shops.

Airport Water Bottle Filling Station
Filling up your reusable water bottle at an airport filling station is better for your wallet and the environment!

And if you have been a parent for at least 3 seconds, you know that kids are always asking for snacks…I mean all the time! So, I always bring snacks whether we are driving or flying. Even if we are staying at a hotel where snacks are readily accessible, I still bring my own so I don’t have to purchase them at over inflated prices.

4. Get Free Breakfast At Your Hotel

Feeding your family on a vacation can get expensive! That’s why it’s important to choose your hotel wisely. Looking for a hotel that offers free breakfast is a great way to save money. Even having one meal included can be a big break for your budget when traveling with kids.

These hotels all offer free breakfast with your stay:

  • Hyatt Place
  • Hampton By Hilton
  • Holiday Inn Express (IHG)
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott

These hotels are all suites – meaning more room for your tribe – plus they offer free breakfast:

  • Hyatt House
  • Homewood Suites By Hilton
  • Embassy Suites By Hilton
  • Staybridge Suites (IHG)
  • SpringHill Suites by Marriott
  • Towneplace Suites by Marriott
  • Residence Inn by Marriott

5. Try An All Inclusive

Another great option is to try an all-inclusive resort.  Fellow Columbus Moms Blog contributor Tiara shares in my love for these everything-for-one-price getaways!  All-inclusive resorts are a mainstay in the Caribbean and can come in all price ranges.  Believe me, there are some expensive ones out there, but there are plenty that are very easy on the budget too.  I love these types of resorts when you have a large group of people traveling – you never have to worry about how the check is going to be split up!

I stayed at the very budget friendly Iberostar Punta Cana last year for my cousin’s wedding – the beach here is amazing!

Iberostar Punta Cana
You can still find a fantastic beach at a very budget friendly resort!

6. Don’t Buy Souvenirs

This one is personal preference, but we are definitely not a “buy lots of stuff” family. We go on lots of vacations, but usually, the only thing we bring back is memories. I would much rather spend money on a cool activity while we are on a trip than a t-shirt to wear once we are home.

7. Focus On Free Activities

Where ever you go, you can find free things to do. First, if you are at a beach resort, use the beach and pool that are there!! There’s no need to do anything more than loaf around – you are on vacation!

If you are looking to get out, find a hiking trail or go on a self-guided walk.  Look for local parks or public art installations.  And before you go on your trip, just Google “Free things to do in _____”.  There are tons of bloggers out there with great posts about free things to do all over the place.

And here’s a pro tip.  If you do have an activity you want to do, Google it first to see if there is a Groupon or online discount code.  I can’t tell you how many times we have thought to do this right after we book an activity (oops!)

8. Stay Close To Home

Vacations don’t have to be grand to be memorable.  Especially for your children – they will be happy as long as they get to spend time with you (well, unless you have teenagers…).  Even if you aren’t on a tight budget, check out some of the great day trips from Columbus.  There are so many fun things to do right in your backyard.


However you plan to vacation – budget, luxury, exotic locations or right here in Columbus – I hope you have an awesome time.  Happy Travels!


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Katie is a travel obsessed stay at home mom. She grew up in Central Ohio, but moved to New York City after high school to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology to pursue her dream of being a fashion designer. Thankfully, dreams can change. After working in the fashion industry she realized it wasn't what she was looking for. So, she moved back to Columbus to be near family. While in New York, Katie met and married her husband, Jason. Katie is now mom to 4 year old Ellie. She and her husband love to travel... a lot. Her love of travel combined with her desire to stop her brain from turning to mommy mush inspired her to start her blog, www.zenlifeandtravel.com. This platform lets her share her own travels as well as tips about her hobby, "travel hacking", aka how to use points and miles to travel for (almost) free! While traveling, Katie and her husband love to explore cities by foot which is great since she has a mild obsession with her daily number of Fitbit steps! She also recently got her open water scuba diving certification so destinations near water are high on her list of travel musts! Katie loves palm trees, yoga, fat cats and is a sucker for anything lined in leopard print. She believes that leggings are pants and purple is the best color. Her ultimate goal is to live a simple, happy life...and to travel as much as possible! In addition to her blog, you can find Katie on Instagram (@zenlifeandtravel) and (@zencolumbus) Twitter (@zen_life_travel) and Pinterest (@zenlifetravel).