Simple + helpful tips for a frugal family vacation!

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Planning a family vacation is never cheap, especially if it requires a hotel stay. Save money (and time!) on your next trip with these easy travel tips:

1. Pick a semi-local destination to avoid airfare. Have you ever heard the phrase “Be a tourist in your own town”? A local trip might mean a commute of 45 minutes or 7 hours. Pick a destination that feels far enough from home that you can truly relax.

2. Book Sunday through Friday. If you’re able to adjust your schedule, book the hotel during the week. This will save you a great deal of money. The real benefit of this schedule is that you get Saturday to pack and you come home to a weekend rather than a work day. You’ll also enjoy a more peaceful period of the week: fewer lines, crowds, better room selection, and more.

3. Try to find accommodations with a decent & free breakfast. Nowadays many hotels go beyond the traditional bagels and cereal spread. Call and ask if they offer hot choices like waffles, eggs, or oatmeal. Save money by eating breakfast at the hotel.

4. Stay at a water park hotel. The nightly cost of staying at a water park hotel can feel steep, but you’ll have built-in family fun all under one roof. This is also a great way to keep little ones entertained with a nice, quiet room just steps away to crash or nap or snack whenever needed.

5. Review hotel entertainment packages. Check your hotel’s website for custom local offers. If you are staying at a large chain and your location doesn’t have custom information, take the old-fashioned approach: Get the phone number and call.

On a recent trip, the resort we stayed at partnered with the amusement park across the road. The package they offered was better than anything we found online. We also ended up buying an in-house fun package that included arcade tokens, an art project, and a spa treatment. The package was a fraction of the price of doing the items individually and also included 10% off all kids meals within the hotel. Win-Win.

6. Make sure your hotel room has a mini-refrigerator and microwave. These tiny detail allow you to save (and re-heat) leftovers, as well as keep a wider variety of fresh drinks and snacks. In other words, you won’t be at the vending machines spending absorbent amounts of money on unhealthy choices.

7. Stay at a hotel that offers shuttle service. This will save you money on gas and, more importantly, on parking fees. You’d be surprised how quickly parking costs add up when visiting a larger city! Most metropolitan hotels offer shuttle service.

Not only will you save money, you’ll save time and your sanity. Most large museums, galleries, and amusement parks will offer a “front doorstep” drop-off zone for hotel shuttles. Put away the GPS and your wallet and enjoy the ride. Little kids will love shuttling around the city.

8. Use an Entertainment Coupon Book. Check to see if the area you are visiting offers one of these classic print books. It includes hotel, restaurant, and (you guessed it) entertainment coupons. The savings from BOGO food coupons add up quickly!

9. Stay with friends or family for a portion of the trip. If you have friends or family in the area, save by starting your vacation with an overnight visit. Even one night’s savings will allow you to reallocate money to either a better hotel choice, nicer restaurants, more activities, or just saving.

10. Pay for your room when booking. When making reservations online, pay when booking. This can usually save you between $10 and $50 depending on the hotel chain. Only pay in advance if you are 100% sure your dates will not be changing. Heads-up: small-print stipulations almost always make the transaction non-refundable.

Over the years, these simple things have been really helpful in making our family travels affordable. I’d love to hear any additional hotel tips you have in the comments.

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