John, Brittney, and Eleanor Naylor standing together in swim suits on the beach in gulf shores, alabama. Traveling on a budget.

Traveling on a Budget: 6 Ways to Save Money

Are you dreaming of a family vacation but worried about breaking the bank? Planning a trip on a budget may seem like a daunting task. However, it’s possible to have an affordable and enjoyable experience while traveling on a budget. In this article, we’ll explore six ways you can save money and still have a great time on your family vacation. From booking off-season to taking advantage of free attractions, we’ll show you how to travel smart and enjoy your adventure without sacrificing quality. Let’s dive into the tips and tricks that will help you plan a memorable trip for your whole family.

1. Choose an Off-Season Travel Time

One way to save money on your family vacation is to choose an off-season travel time. This means traveling during a time when there are fewer tourists and prices are lower. For example, if you’re visiting a beach destination, consider traveling during the shoulder season (the time between peak and off-peak seasons) instead of the summer months. You’ll still be able to enjoy the beach and warm weather, but without the crowds and high prices.

Off-season travel times also apply to other destinations such as theme parks, ski resorts, and cities. By avoiding peak travel times, you’ll find cheaper flights, accommodations, and activities. Plus, you’ll have a more relaxed and enjoyable experience without the hustle and bustle of peak season.

Keep in mind that off-season travel may also mean weather changes or reduced hours for attractions. However, with a little planning and research, you can still have a great time on your vacation while saving money. So, before booking your trip, consider choosing an off-season travel time to stretch your budget and make the most of your vacation.

We recently experienced Jackson Hole during a shoulder season (late September) and it was absolutely incredible. We were still able to enjoy everything and the crowds were non-existent. Read more about that trip, here.

Jenny Lake at Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole in September

2. Consider Alternative Accommodations

Another way to save money on your next family vacation is by considering alternative accommodations. While hotels are a popular choice, they can often come with a hefty price tag. Instead, think outside the box and explore options such as vacation rentals, hostels, or camping.

Vacation rentals (VRBO or Airbnb) can often provide more space and amenities than a hotel room, while also allowing you to save money by cooking your own meals. Hostels can offer affordable dorm-style accommodations with communal spaces for socializing and even free breakfast. Camping can provide a unique and low-cost experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in nature and disconnect from technology.

Before booking traditional hotel accommodations, consider these alternative options and see how they can help stretch your budget even further. And when you do find the right accommodations for your family, remember to plan ahead and book early to secure the best deals and availability.

Brittney Naylor and daughter cuddling on porch swing at Airbnb in Saint Augustine

3. Plan Ahead and Book Early

To maximize your savings on accommodations, it’s important to plan ahead and book early. This not only ensures that you have the best selection of options available to you. It also allows you to take advantage of early bird discounts and other promotional offers. Keep in mind that many hotels and vacation rentals offer non-refundable rates that can save you even more money, but only if you’re sure of your travel plans. By booking early, you can also avoid the stress of last-minute searches and potentially higher prices. Once you have your accommodations secured, you can shift your focus to packing smart and saving on luggage fees.

gulf shores alabama, traveling on a budget

4. Pack Smart and Save on Luggage Fees

Packing for a family vacation can be a challenge, especially when you’re traveling on a budget. The last thing you want is to arrive at your destination and realize you’ve packed too much or end up paying extra fees for overweight or oversized luggage. However, with a little planning and creativity, you can pack smart and save on luggage fees.

Start by creating a packing list for each member of your family, taking into consideration the activities you’ll be doing and the weather forecast. Pack versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits, and opt for lightweight fabrics to save space and weight.

Consider packing travel-sized toiletries and laundry detergent to avoid paying extra fees for checked bags. You can also pack snacks and drinks for the trip, which can save you money on airport or gas station food stops.

If you’re flying, be sure to check your airline’s baggage policy and size restrictions before packing. Some airlines allow a free carry-on bag and personal item, while others charge for checked bags. To save on fees, try to fit everything in your carry-on bag, or use compression bags to maximize space. Check out my ultimate packing list, here.

By packing smart and avoiding hefty luggage fees, you can stretch your travel budget even further and have more money for fun activities and attractions. Speaking of which, taking advantage of free activities and attractions is another great way to save money on your family vacation.

monos travel carry on suitcase

5. Take Advantage of Free Activities and Attractions

Taking advantage of free activities and attractions is a fantastic way to save money on your family vacation. Many popular destinations offer a range of free options, from museums and galleries to outdoor parks and trails. Research the area you’ll be visiting before you go, and make a list of free activities and attractions you can enjoy.

For example, if you’re heading to a beach destination, spend a day building sandcastles and swimming in the ocean. If you’re going to a big city, take a walking tour or explore a public park. National parks and historic sites are often free or have a small entrance fee, and offer incredible opportunities to learn and experience new things.

By taking advantage of free activities, you can stretch your vacation budget even further and create lasting memories with your family. Plus, it will leave you with more money to spend on food and other experiences.

Brittney Naylor and daughter at the lazy river at Gaylord Palms in Orlando Florida

6. Be Savvy About Food Costs

Food is a necessary expense on any vacation, but it can also be a major drain on your budget if you’re not careful. To save money on meals while still enjoying the local cuisine, there are a number of things you can do.

First, consider staying in accommodations with a kitchen or kitchenette. This will allow you to prepare some of your own meals and save money on eating out. Look for local grocery stores or markets where you can get fresh ingredients to cook with.

If you do want to eat out, look for restaurants that offer lunch specials or early bird menus. These typically offer lower prices than dinner menus. Another option is to eat at food trucks or street vendors, which are often less expensive than sit-down restaurants.

You can also save money by avoiding tourist areas and instead seeking out local favorites. Ask locals for recommendations on the best hidden gems for food. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also get to experience more authentic cuisine.

Finally, consider bringing your own snacks and water with you when you’re out and about. This will not only save you money on buying snacks on the go, but it will also help you stay hydrated and energized throughout the day.

By being savvy about your food costs, you can save money on meals and put that extra cash towards other experiences on your family vacation.


Traveling on a budget with your family doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By implementing the six tips we’ve shared, you can enjoy a memorable vacation without breaking the bank. Remember to choose an off-season travel time, consider alternative accommodations, plan ahead and book early, pack smart, take advantage of free activities and attractions, and be savvy about food costs. With a little bit of creativity and planning, you’ll be able to make the most of your family vacation without sacrificing the quality of the experience.

Do you have any other great tips for traveling on a budget? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

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The Comments

  • Kimberley
    April 21, 2023

    Such a great post. We love traveling and make an effort to travel a few times a year, but since we’ve had kids, it just ads up so much. These tips help! Thanks for sharing

  • Lesa
    April 22, 2023

    Great tips for saving money when travelling, even for the solo traveller. Simple tips but you never really thought about them, thanks for sharing

  • Stephanie
    April 22, 2023

    Excellent tips on how to save money while on the road. I often wait until the last minute and then have to pay top dollar – you’ve inspired me to finalize the summer family vacation plans!

    • Brittney
      → Stephanie
      April 22, 2023

      Sometimes waiting last minute can be cheaper. I know we’ve booked last minute flights once for a really great price. But I’ve found, especially for Europe, booking accommodations early will definitely save you money. Our reservations we made in October (6 months before our trip) are now double or more if you were to book the same dates today.

  • Stephanie
    April 22, 2023

    You’ve basically described how we vacation and how we are able to do it often! Luckily our school calendar has a few extra breaks that most don’t, so we like to travel on those breaks since it’s cheaper. It’s also less busy so we can do more since we aren’t waiting in lines. And I always go for either a VRBO if it’s more than just the four of us (we often travel with our parents, too) or a hotel with free breakfast to save that expense.

    • Brittney
      → Stephanie
      April 22, 2023

      Yes! Our daughter isn’t in school yet, so we’re able to travel often during off seasons. We’ll definitely have to be more creative once she starts school this fall.

  • Ivana
    April 22, 2023

    These tips are all very helpful, thank you. Also, I really love the photos you have shared, the little one is so adorable… surely knows how to pose for the camera. how cute!

    • Brittney
      → Ivana
      April 22, 2023

      Thanks so much! 😊

  • Alita
    April 22, 2023

    Its always good to travel off season. You save money and also avoid the crowd.

  • Monidipa
    April 22, 2023

    Your blog post was incredibly informative and helpful! I appreciated the practical tips and tricks you shared for traveling on a budget. Your writing style is engaging and easy to follow, making it a pleasure to read. Thank you for sharing your expertise with us!

  • Julie
    April 23, 2023

    Wow, this article has provided me with some great tips for saving money while traveling! As someone who loves to travel but is always on a budget, I appreciate the practical advice offered here. Choosing to travel during the off-season, considering alternative accommodations, and taking advantage of free activities and attractions are all great suggestions. I do feel more comfortable in vacation rentals such as air bnb, it’s quieter, and I appreciate being able to cook for myself. Overall, this article has inspired me to be more creative and strategic in my travel planning so that I can have amazing experiences without breaking the bank. Thank you for sharing these tips!

  • Brian
    April 25, 2023

    Yes to all! Especially 1, 5, and 6. You don’t have to go during peak season!

  • Ntensibe
    April 25, 2023

    Aaahhhh…I now understand what my brother talked about, travelling off-season! The ticket prices and prices in general are lower than during the usual seasons’ time! Thank you for this, mama!

  • abzstylz
    April 26, 2023

    These are awesome saving tips! I definitely agree that you should take advantage of free activities. My husband and I definitely love staying in hotels that have complementary breakfast .