Family Vacations: Money Saving Tips

Family vacations can be expensive. The good news is that planning ahead can save you a bundle of money. These simple tips can help cut costs without sacrificing family vacation fun. Especially for people with larger families, the savings can be amazing. You'd be surprised at how these little tricks can stretch your dollar further.

Avoid Equipment Rentals: If possible try to avoid paying for equipment rental fees. For example, the cost of renting strollers in theme parks such as Disney can be very costly. These daily costs can be avoided by bringing your own lightweight stroller. An inexpensive umbrella stroller can be brought with you or purchased while on vacation at a nearby chain store. Usually you can find a stroller for under $20 (less than the daily rental fee!) An added bonus is that having your own umbrella stroller allows parents to conveniently & safely transport little children through busy airports or crowded parking lots before you get to your destination. These inexpensive strollers can then be reused for other vacations as well. When planning your vacation, inquire about daily equipment rental fees so you can make an informed decision.

Research Any Meal Plan Options:  Meal plans can be a great money saving option. Meal plans provide a "known" set of food costs during your vacation giving some extra "financial" peace of mind. Just make sure that you know ahead of time exactly what is and is not included in your vacation package. Are all 3 meals included? What is their definition of a "meal?" How about snacks? Can unused meals or snacks be banked and applied to the next day? We found that our Disney meal plan gave us more food than we actually needed especially for our younger, pickier eaters. We saved any extra snack or meal vouchers and used them instead for some light breakfasts, since breakfast was not included on our plan. We saved quite a bit of money by not having to cover our breakfasts. Another benefit of meal plans is the convenience of leaving the food shopping & preparation to someone else. However, if meal plans are not available, consider booking a vacation room which includes a small kitchen. This gives you the flexibility of bringing or purchasing groceries and cooking your own family meals.

Buy Souvenirs Ahead of Time: I know this sounds strange, but it really works! First you must anticipate the items that you might need, want or that will be sold at your vacation destination. For example, when our family went in June to Disney, I packed some battery operated water fan spray bottles that I purchased at our local CVS for about $5. Meanwhile, they were being sold for $15 each in the Disney Theme park. They didn't have the Disney logo, but worked just as well. As a matter of fact, people came up to our family inquiring where we purchased them. You'll find that places like Amazon or your local Walmart sell items such as Disney hats, Mickey t-shirts, Disney toys etc. for a fraction of the price at theme parks. Purchase them at home and enjoy them on your vacation for less. Other items you may wish to consider packing in your luggage are fancy flashlights ( for night parades and events), glowsticks (sealed so they don't leak) and a set of batteries for cameras or other electronics. Plan ahead to avoid purchasing these items at the park.

Save on Beverages: As you already know, beverages can run up the tab. Walking around a hot theme park makes people extremely thirsty. Purchasing water bottles or soft drinks all day long at theme park concession stands will cost you a bundle. Think about bringing your insulated water bottles or even thermoses from home and storing them in a small insulated tote bag while at the park. You simply fill them before you leave your hotel with ice & water and you're set for the day. If you want something a little sweeter, simply pack some single serving drink mix pouches or bring along a whole can of powdered drink mix to add to your water bottles. Usually tap water is free at concession stands so if you run out during the day, you can simply refill your supply.

Save on Snacks: Snacks can also cost a small fortune so come prepared. Pack a week's supply of your own snacks or purchase them at the nearest grocery store. Keep them with you during the day for a boost of energy whether you are at the park, the airport or the pool. Avoid the long concession stand lines and prices! These snacks are also great for a late night snack or an early on the go breakfast. Bringing your own foods & snacks is also a relief to mom's of picky eaters. Carrying along mini cereal boxes, granola bars, juice boxes, fresh fruit from the store or anything that your child likes gives you additional choices if the restaurant is not to their liking. Don't forget to pack some ziploc sandwich bags to transport snacks.

Bring Extra Sunscreen: It's annoying to have to purchase more sunscreen while your on vacation because you ran out. It's even more frustrating to pay the outrageous hotel or park prices for this necessity. They've got you on this one. You don't want to take the chance of ruining you vacation by going without it, so you're stuck paying their high prices. Instead, buy extra sunscreen at your local store when it is on sale and bring it with you on your upcoming vacation.

Contact the Concierge Desk: Call ahead to inquire about free events such as any scheduled concerts, fireworks or indoor water or light shows. Likewise request any for sightseeing & restaurant coupons or visit the concierge desk upon arrival to collect them. Don't be shy about asking for budget wise suggestions or special promotions. The concierge desk is there to help you make your vacation as pleasant as possible, so make good use of this free resource.


For additional family vacation suggestions, please see Family Vacations: Stress Free Packing at


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