Laity Lodge Family Camp: Bike the River
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Top 10 tips for getting away with great family travel deals

Travel. With the family. For some those are the most dreaded words ever uttered. To them the idea of a trip with the whole family translates to chaos, headaches, noise and lots and lots of money. And, quite honestly, it can be that way if approached haphazardly. The great thing is, with a little planning and organization, family travel can turn into one of the most enjoyable and memorable things you can do – for your kids and for you.

So, why don’t we spend a few minutes thinking about ways to “get away” with the family so you can start looking forward to those great memory making trips instead of dreading them.

1. Have a family meeting. Simple huh? Sit down with the family with notepad in hand and throw it out there … what sounds like a fun trip to you. Invite your kids to throw out ideas, talk them through, throw out ones that won’t work (respectfully of course) or table ones that might be for “when you’re a little older” or that fall into the “great idea but we’ll need to start saving now for that one” category.

2. Start a slush fund now! Get a large piggy bank, plastic 2 liter or larger jug or anything that can easily hold your loose change. ALL family members, littlest kiddos included commit to throwing any change they find or have in their pockets at the end of every day. You’ll be surprised how fast that change adds up to real dollars and that money can be used for fast food runs or even more expensive items down the road.

3. Don’t think big. Well, at least don’t ALWAYS think big. Sometimes the small, short trips can help to bring those fabulous memories. Often when families sit down to talk travel they immediately think “African Safari” or “Snorkeling in Australia”. When you start researching and seeing how much money you need for those big trips, however, all hope for “fun” is dashed. Remember that there are people in other parts of the country and even the world who are planning their vacations and their dream location might be only a few miles from your home. Look for great locations that are within a few hours or a days drive and enjoy the sights close to home.

4. Pack food. This may sound like a no-brainer but it’s often the thing that gets lost in the trip planning. When going on driving trips you can save a ton of money by planning and bringing food in coolers along rather than relying on restaurants and fast food stops along the way. Use the money you save for fun tickets to theme parks or other spots at your destination.

5. Consider a rental van instead of using the family car. Yes, it’s an added expense but with easy to find coupons you might find that, after factoring in the wear and tear on your car that a long drive would bring, using a rental will save you money in the long run. Plus, it’s part of the adventure to be driving a different vehicle than your day to day one.

6. Research. Put the kids in charge of researching your potential destinations. This is so easy with the help of the internet (please supervise your kids on all sites) but equally fun is a trip to the library for some research on places nearby and the opportunity to sent off a quick note asking for information by mail. I remember as a kid writing to various tourist spots and seeing all those great brochures and pamphlets coming in the mail addressed to me. Going through those as a family was almost as fun as the vacation itself and helped me to anticipate the trip even more.

7. Don’t overdo once you’re at your destination. It’s easy to think you need to cram everything in once you’re there but that mindset in itself can create misery for your kids and you. Kids get tired. Especially when surrounded by new sights and activities. Read their moods and just say no even if you think you’ll be missing out on something fabulous.

8. Consider alternatives to hotel stays. Check into bed and breakfasts or look into vacation home rentals at your destination which are often cheaper than hotel rooms and offer the benefit of a full kitchen and usually a private pool at the home. When we took our kids to Orlando the first time we found a company that is geared mostly toward a European clientele and got a fabulous 2 bedroom home with private pool just a short drive from the parks for the same price as the local hotels. When the kids were on overload we’d just drive back “home”, throw them down for a nap and then the adults could still relax by the pool without one having to stay in the hotel room with the kids. Fabulous!

9. Try a stay-cation. If your funds are really limited, use home as “home base” and take several day trips as a family. Mix things up a bit and have the kids stay in your room with you, unplug the phone and computer so you’re not tempted to just do regular life every day and order in take out for lunch or dinner to mix things up a bit. Or camp out in the basement.

10. Camping. It has to be said. Camping is cheap and kids absolutely LOVE it. Yes, it’s work for mom especially but there are ways to make it enjoyable for everyone … but that’s worth a post by itself!

So… what are you waiting for. Call a family pow-wow and get planning. This year is going to be the best ever for your family vacation.

Do you have any travel tips for families? Feel free to add your two cents in the comments below!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”