Family travel: Five ways to stretch the vacation budget

When time and money are in short supply, it’s your cue to think outside the box. Here are five money-saving ways to make the most of your next family vacation.

1. Choose the right time. When you decide to travel can have a significant impact on the overall price tag of your adventure. Sign up for alerts from sites such as Airfarewatchdog and Kayak, which who will ping you when deals become available. Consider traveling during off or shoulder season when crowds are diminished, rates are lower and options for line-free fun abound. (Even if it means missing a few days of school.) Contact:;

2. Stay and save. Depending on your destination, consider chain hotel accommodations where breakfast, Wi-Fi, a gym and pool time are all free. Staying in an Airbnb or VRBO rental can provide expanded space and the option to cook all meals at home. Consider a home exchange with a friend or family member for mega savings. Or search for options using online exchange resources. For families interested in a lengthy list of sporting and dining options in a resort destination, all-inclusive hotels provide a good bang for the buck. Ask about value-added options, such as room upgrades or free services, when booking during off-season. If you are a AAA member, military or part of another large group, don't forget to ask for a discount. Contact:;;;

3. Free fun. Check the local convention and visitors bureau website for a menu of options available in your intended location. Be on the lookout for free concerts, expansive public playgrounds, farmers markets, art walks, hiking trails, festivals and library programs.

Access the services of engaging tour guides in cites such as New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York, Charleston, Chicago and Berlin. The creative outings, some designed especially for kids, are offered at no charge. If you learned something, were entertained or found the tour memorable, gratuities are encouraged and welcome. Bike and food tours are also possible. Contact:

4. Your ride. Do you really need a rental car? Before you choose to pay for the rental and possible parking fees, research public transportation options and available discounts. In destinations where Uber and Lyft are an option, do the math to determine which makes the most sense. Does your hotel provide free shuttles to and from the airport? Are bike rentals and walking paths a good option for seeing the sights? Even hop on and hop off bus tours can combine to provide an entertainment and transportation value. Contact:;

5. Hometown happenings. Given that the most important part of a family vacation is time together, consider making the most of your hometown or region. With a vacation budget to "blow," talk with the kids about enjoying nearby entertainment or attractions that might otherwise not be attainable. Buy tickets for a big-time sporting event or concert, stay at a fancy hotel (no airfare required) where water slides, game rooms and spa facilities offer special treats for each family member. Rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle and head into the backcountry to camp. Stop for ice cream and order dessert in the same day. You'll be having so much fun you may forget you are just a few miles from home. Contact:


(Lynn O'Rourke Hayes ( is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook, or via