1) Spend less money on the drive.
Is there anything going on an hour away? If you're like me and have small children, they don't realize how far you drove, they just realize the fun that they have when they get there. Perhaps there's a festival or free summer events going on nearby that will leave you extra money for things like corndogs and funnel cakes.
2) Get a hotel with a pool.
We went on a trip in February and the kids didn't want to leave the hotel because all they wanted to do is swim. Go somewhere with a hotel that has a pool and you're pretty much golden!
3) You don't have to stay at the Hilton.
I am one of the cheapest people out there. Sure, I'd love to stay at Embassy Suites, but who can afford that? (Although the glass elevators and happy hour might be worth it.) I am constantly scouring the web for great prices on hotels and looking for the cheapest price that doesn't have horrendous reviews. Out of all the hotels I've stayed at, I'd say there was only one that had me sleeping with one eye open.
4) The internet is your best friend when planning a trip.
It astounds me that people still use travel agents! Those people are out to make money, not to save you money! I go to all the sites for lowest plane fares like expedia, cheaptickets, priceline, hotwire, etc. Then, I find the cheapest flights and go to that airlines website because 9 times out of ten, you can buy it cheapest on the actual airline website.
5) The internet can help you find things to do too!
Once again, ditch the travel agent, they are so 1972. If you're looking for a place nearby or far away, good things to do in the city, famous locations, fun restaurants, kid-friendly places. I don't know about all zoos, but a lot of them are free, and what kid doesn't love the zoo?
6) Save money on hotels and stay with a friend.
I have a relative in Florida, I have friends in California, Arizona, St. Louis, etc. It's not a guarantee, but I'm pretty sure they'd let me stay with them free of charge for at least a day (some have offered up a week before.) If you make a trip out of going to a place where you can stay with someone for free, that save a boatload of money that you're not paying to a hotel.
7) Bring some friends.
Whether you're single, married, have kids or not, you can always split expenses by bringing friends. Carpool and share a villa. Kids love sleepovers and don't require a king-size bed. When you are able to split all your costs in two (or more) it really helps ease the wallet strain.
8) Bring your own food.
Every year my parents go to Florida and stay in their timeshare. Some years I come and bring my family. They save so much money by bringing their own food in coolers (and shopping at a local grocery store) and doing a lot of cooking compared to eating out every night. Not only does this save money, but it is much healthier as well.
9) Kids are free!
Look for vacation spots that have discounts for children or discounted tickets for children with the purchase of an adult. Theme parks, restaurants, you name it- lots of places are family friendly and offer discounts for kids.
10) Continental breakfast.
My mom always points out to me the amenities that the hotels have, especially if they have breakfast. Being that it is the most important meal of the day, if you get a hotel that has a decent breakfast, take advantage! Compare free to how much it would cost to take a family of four to Denny's or Ihop... 'nuff said.
I wrote this blog post while participating in the Toyota Sienna and TwitterMoms blogging program for a chance to get a $30 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.