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Saving on family trips

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amily trips can be great ways to make memories, bring your family closer, or just get out of the house for a while. Deciding how much to spend on a family trip, however, can be difficult. According to cnn.com, some families spend nearly 7% of their annual income on an annual family vacation. Most people, however, would prefer not to blow through thousands of dollars on travel, but they still want to have a great time. If you’re one of them, try these tips to save on travel this year.
1. Have a vacation fund and budget. The key to saving money on a vacation is to have a plan for the money you spend. While some families spend as much as 7%, most people try to limit family vacation to about two to three percent of their annual income. Plan how much you’ll spend on every part of your vacation, and you won’t be surprised by a large bill when you get back.
2. Look for package deals. Many places offer a discount on airfare when you book a hotel room, or free meals when you buy tickets to an affiliated attraction.
3. Look for deals on family or suite hotels. If you have a large family, you may find yourself frequently booking two rooms in order to fit everyone. A better alternative is to look for hotels offering family suites. These rooms are more expensive, but they offer several bedrooms, making them more affordable than a set of rooms for a large family.
4. Pay attention to points programs. Everyone is familiar with airline miles, but gas stations, hotels, and restaurants now offer similar programs. You can save a lot if you’re willing to take advantage of these promotions.
5. Borrow or rent equipment and gear. Odds are, your family doesn’t use a tent or skis year round. If you are trying an activity for the first time, rent the equipment first before making an investment.
6. Look for travel promotions in unexpected places. The reason heavily advertised tourist destinations are so expensive is that they spend so much on advertising. Consider staying in a town next to the one you want to visit. You may drive a bit more, but you could save hundreds of dollars.
7. Consider an off-season destination. Ski resorts in the summer time often offer deep discounts, and they are usually located in very scenic areas. While you can’t ski, your family could hike nature trails, go swimming in a lake, and/or shop and enjoy great restaurants (that are also desperate for business).
8. Consider an all-inclusive vacation. These are packages that include all meals, hotel, entertainment, and sometimes even airfare. Club Med all inclusive vacations are the most well-known provider in this industry. If your family likes to live large on vacation, this might be the deal for you.
9. Have a vacation emergency fund. A flat tire, missed flight, or canceled reservation doesn’t have to ruin a trip if you have some money set aside to cover it. Ideally, set aside at least ten percent of your total travel budget to deal with only unexpected expenses.
10. Travel on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. These are the three cheapest days to book airfare and hotel rooms, since so many people prefer to travel on the weekend.
11. Cook for yourself. Eating out for every meal can add up quickly. If you are willing to cook even a few meals for yourself, you can save hundreds of dollars.
12. Look for discounts on local attractions. Many museums and zoos have a discount deal in the middle of the week. Make plans to see these attractions when its cheaper.
13. Avoid summer travel. This can be hard to do when you have school-aged children, but many family destinations offer big discounts. Consider taking a few weekend trips during the school year instead of a long summer vacation.
14. Carefully research travel insurance. While some of these policies offer great protection, others charge a lot of money for relatively little.
15. Don’t go too far away. Traveling a short distance saves you money on gas and wear and tear on your vehicle. While you can still get out of town, you won’t waste money on actually getting to your vacation.
16. Don’t pay for unnecessary upgrades. If your family doesn’t plan to spend a lot of time in a hotel room, why pay for a bigger one? Really think about if your family will use an upgrade before paying for one.
17. Look for deals on travel accessories throughout the year. Prices on luggage, camping gear, and even pool toys go up before big travel seasons. If you know you need to replace these items, look for them on sale after the travel season is over and use them for your next trip.
18. Pack your own toys. Buying beach balls, pool towels, and other toys can be expensive in a tourist area. Bring your own from home and save a bundle.
19. Consider one long trip instead of several smaller ones. The problem with smaller trips is that you have to pay for gas and airfare every time. By booking one long trip, you pay travel expenses once. A longer length of stay also makes it easier to get a good deal on hotel.
20. Be willing to trade. Swapping your home with a friend can be a good way for both of you to take a vacation somewhere new without paying for hotel. People also trade passes to attractions and gift cards to local restaurants.
Traveling with the family doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Careful planning and budgeting are the keys to having a great time and not spending too much money.

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