Traveling With the Family Without Breaking the Bank

One of the great things I’ve found about homeschooling is that we don’t have to take vacations when everyone else takes vacations. We can plan our school schedule and take vacations during the whole year- not only in the summer. By planning vacations this way, we can avoid summer crowds, and we can often save money by traveling off season.

Whether we travel in the summer- when everyone else traditionally travels- or make time to travel throughout the year, family vacations can get rather pricey. With a larger family- six of us- we’ve had to get creative about how we spend money on a vacation. With some planning and preparation we can have a fun vacation without too much expense.

Consider alternative places to stay.

Our family is too large for one hotel room. Most hotels won’t allow more than four in a standard room. We have six. And now two of our kids are teens, so we have four “big people.” There’s no way we fit in one standard room. That makes staying in a hotel pretty pricey. So we’ve looked for alternative ways to stay when we travel.

Vacation lists vacation houses available all over the country. These are regular houses rented by the home owner or by rental groups on behalf of individual owners. On a trip to Disney a few years ago, we were able to stay in a private home ten minutes from the Disney property for six nights for about one third of the cost of a stay at Disney. We had plenty of room for eight people- our family and my parents. And we had a full kitchen to make our own meals.

Limit eating out.

Eating out is one of the biggest expenses we run into when traveling. No matter how diligent we try to be in searching out a reasonably priced place to eat, we just can’t eat out cheaply. And if we do try to eat as cheaply as possible, we usually end up with fast food that isn’t good for us. Throw in the fact that I have a gluten intolerance, and three of us eat gluten free; and we find eating out to be much more trouble and expense than it’s worth.

As we plan the trip, I plan easy meals that I can prepare- tacos, spaghetti, sub sandwiches. We take or purchase groceries when we arrive, and then we rarely eat out. Having a home with at least a small kitchen is important to make this work. But we have stayed in a hotel suite with a fridge and microwave and at least eaten breakfast and lunch in the room.

Budget for activities ahead of time.

Another way that we find ourselves spending too much money is when we decide on the fly what activities to do. When we don’t have a plan, here’s what we find…We get up in the morning and have kids start asking-“Where are we going today? Can we go…?”. And, because we don’t have a plan, we break down and agree. And, before we know it, we’ve spent way too much money on activities.

Instead, we talk before the trip about exactly what money we can afford to spend. Once we know what we can spend, we look at the activity options for the place we’re going, and we have a plan laid out before we go. As the kids have gotten older, we include them in the decision. We have a family meeting and talk about what we have to spend. We then vote on what we want to do.

Whether we decide to travel in the summer or off season, we can save money traveling when we plan ahead. 

Leah Courtney is a homeschooling mom of four. Her days are filled with being a mom, homemaker, and teacher. In her (very rare) free time, she enjoys blogging, reading, and reviewing books and curricula. These days she’s learning the joys of being a mom of teens. You can read about her family and homeschooling life at As We Walk Along the Road.