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Affordable Adventures: Vacationing on a Budget

Posted by: Nick L. in Tips

Many American families dream of that once in a lifetime vacation or enjoy an annual trip. What most people don’t realize is that these types of trips can really set you back. According to USA today, Airfare prices on domestic flights average $367.79 per person. Popular locations at peak season times can cost far more. According to GoGo Charters, the average family of four can plan on spending a whopping $7,936. For some families, this is simply more than what they can afford.

With the cost of family vacations escalating, many are finding the vacation of their dreams out of reach. Rest assured, you can still create meaningful memories and spend quality time with your family without breaking the bank.

Maximize Your Budget

Determine what you can afford. Avoid spending money you don’t have. The only thing worse than seeing your vacation end, is finding a big credit card bill in your mailbox when you get home. When you have determined what you can afford, do some research to find out how to maximize your dollars. Price out different lodging options at different times. Warm weather destinations are much more affordable in mid-October than they are in mid-March. Consider working with a travel agent who may have access to lower pricing or may know the tricks of the trade to make your money go farther. Don’t assume using a travel agent adds cost. It may be just the opposite.

Consider all your options for transportation. While it may sound better to jet set off to your destination, if it is possible, driving can trim thousands of dollars off the cost of your trip. Take into consideration the time, number of people traveling and the distance. Will you need to budget for meals or a roadside hotel along the way? Can you trim off these costs by driving longer hours and taking a cooler along? What is the expected cost of fuel? These details all factor into your overall cost. It may be cheaper for a couple to fly, but a family of 4 may save a lot of money by driving.

Slay the Staycation

If you are looking for a smaller budget option, consider what sort of things your family would love to do on vacation. How many people have talked about booking a fancy vacation for their kids and the kids only wanted to swim in the hotel pool? If this is your family, your kids may have been excited to just stay in a hotel close to home and swim in the pool. Also be sure to check out rental properties that can be the main event of your vacation through Airbnb and Vrbo. Cottages and Cabins could be available only a short drive away from where you live.

Perhaps there is a destination that is closer to home that you have never been to. Consider attractions that are within a few hours’ radius. By looking at your own town or state, you may just find a gem that you have overlooked. Natural wonders, museums, baseball stadiums and theme parks in your area can make a great place to visit with your family. Turn “we should do that sometime” into “we can’t wait to do that again”.

Go Where the Wild Things Are

Vacations focused on nature are a great way to get back to simpler times and can be very affordable options for families. Consider national and state parks as a fantastic opportunity to see this beautiful country we live in. Whether you drive far or stay closer to home, a 1-year car pass for national or state parks generally costs less than $100 and gets your whole family in for the whole year. For those interested in national parks, if you are permanently disabled, or an active or retired armed forces member, you can qualify for a free National Park Lifetime membership. Discounted memberships are available for those over 62 or for families with 4th grade children. National Park memberships grant access for not only national parks, but also national monuments and federal fee recreation areas.

While lodging in national park areas can be pricy, it can swing significantly and be more affordable in shoulder seasons. If you are of the adventurous variety, you may want to even consider options for camping. State and Federal camping sites can be very low cost. They do fill up early, however sometimes last-minute cancellations will create booking opportunities. If you are set on camping, you can book up to 12 months in advance. No RSVP, no problem. Most National forests allow for free camping in undeveloped areas. Be sure to check out rules about dispersed camping areas at www.fs.usda.gov. If you have an RV or camper, be sure to check out the rules for boondocking (disbursed camping for RV units).

There is really a vacation option for every family on every budget. By getting creative and focusing on what matters, you can create a memorable family vacation. While you won’t remember how much or how little you spent, you will remember the memories you created with those you love.


Rebecca Agamaite

Investment Advisor Representative 

Rebecca joined the firm in 2011 as an Investment Advisor Representative. In this role, she works with clients to manage their investment assets and help them obtain their financial objectives. Rebecca brings a great deal of experience to the team having worked for several years at Marshall & IIsley Bank and MetLife. She earned a Masters of Business Administration degree (with an emphasis on finance) from Concordia University.

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