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4 Creative Ways to Fund Family Vacations

Fund your family vacations even when you're on a bare bones budget. This post is SO helpful with really practical tips!

Guest post from Alicia of Turquoise Grace:

Are you living on a bare-bones budget, but wish you could afford to take your family on vacation?

If so, you’re not alone.

For my husband and I, we recently decided that we would like to prioritize traveling for our single-income family of 6. Some people think we’re crazy. The stress, the added costs, the sheer exhaustion – all while traveling with a brood of boys – it just doesn’t make sense.

But we have our reasons. We think it’s important.

While there are plenty of articles out there with ideas on how to save money on traveling or how to take budget-friendly family vacations, this isn’t one of them.

You see, I’m writing for those of us who don’t have any wiggle room. Who desperately want to travel with their family, but can barely make ends meet. The ones for whom it’s not a matter of saving money on travel, but simply being able to travel at all.

I realize if you’re in this position, some of these tips might not be the most sound financial advice. But when we’re prioritizing travel without a travel budget, we must get creative! At the end of your life, what’s most important to you? If it’s not traveling with your family, this may not apply. But if it is, then read on…

Why do we travel with our family when we can barely afford it?

We have 4 children and our finances are very tight pretty, no matter what we do. It makes logical sense to tighten the purse strings, put our heads down, fight the uphill battle that is stretching a budget three ways to Sunday, and never look back.

But that often leads to one thing – burnout. And when burnout sets in, despite our best efforts, it’s really hard to make forward progress.

Everyone eventually needs a break. So instead of waiting until we hit rock bottom, we head it off at the pass, and plan breaks with our family throughout the year.

We feel that traveling with our family creates invaluable memories that will last a lifetime. 

Sharing unique memories create a bonding experience which deepens relationships.

Deeper relationships with your kids foster greater mutual trust and respect for years to come.

Now that we’ve established why traveling as a family is important for us, let’s take a look at some ways that we can make it happen.

1. Use a portion of your tax return.

Your yearly tax return just might be the perfect opportunity to set aside some money for vacation plans.

Yes, there is most likely something more pressing to put a chunk of money towards; however if traveling is important to your family, and this is the only time you receive a chunk of unbudgeted money, a family vacation might be just what you need.

2. Budget a little bit from each paycheck.

Even if all you can manage is $5 per paycheck, that’s better than nothing! After a year of setting aside $10/month, you could easily have enough to pay for gas for a short family road trip!

3. Use a coin jar throughout the year.

We primarily use cash. Because of this, we have a lot of loose change!

Instead of spending our change on a weekly coffee or some other habit, we designate a Coin Jar to hold any and all loose accumulated change.

We take a family road trip every summer. Throughout the year we add our change to our communal change jar. Believe it or not, by the time our road trip comes around, we usually have enough money to cover our gas expenses for the entire trip!

It’s an easy thing to do that doesn’t require much thought, and generally adds up quickly!

4. Host a garage sale.

Another idea to earn some fast cash is to organize a yearly garage sale. Not only will this help you purge a year’s worth of accumulated clutter, but whatever proceeds earned can be designated to your family vacation fund.

These tips are simple, easy, and quick to set up — which is exactly the point!

If you don’t have wiggle room in your budget for anything except the bare necessities, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to fund a vacation budget. But I believe bonding as a family is THIS important! Don’t let your budget (or lack of!) stop you from getting creative!

If you truly believe in the importance of creating lifelong family memories and bonding experiences by traveling together as a family, consider implementing some of these tips throughout the year to help make it happen.

What tips do you have to help fund a family vacation on a bare-bones budget?

Alicia is a firm believer in family travel, a good cup of coffee, and raising her four boys to become strong Godly men. You can find her at Turquoise Grace, blogging about all things raising boys with a coffee mug in hand, a baby in her lap, and a pile of laundry at her feet.

photo source

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  • Lana says:

    When I was growing up we took a road trip every year and I know my parents had no extra money. We camped and ate from the cooler and often stopped at produce stands to get local produce for our meals. I have no idea where the money came from but I know we did not spend much and we have such crazy fond memories of those trips. So, cheering you on!

    We are empty nesters after raising five children on one income and our answer was to buy a share of a vacation house on a lake 2 hours away which cost us only $20 a month in fees since all the owners are frugal. (The fees are now up to $40 a month.) We went four times a year and had such a great time getting away. We still own that house and now the grandchildren are enjoying visiting us there. Since God allowed us to pay cash for our share we have 4 weeks in an entire house for only $480 a year!

    • Lana says:

      Another thought. We run every purchase through a 2% cash back credit card and those rewards average $400 to 500 yearly. That is a good chunk of money that could fund a vacation every year.

    • ALicia says:

      These are awesome tips, Lana! My family did something similar. My parents went in with their siblings and purchased a share of a condo which equals 8 weeks per year. Some of my best childhood memories are at that condo. They still own it to this day, and now we ALL benefit from their purchase 30 years ago ! It’s so fun to see my children having the same experience and sharing the same memories that I did as a child. I truly believe we can find ways to make it happen if it’s important enough.

    • Alicia says:

      These are great ideas, Lana! Thank you! My family did something similar. My parents bought a share of a condo 30 years ago. As kids, we went 2-3 times per year. Some of my most special memories are of our trips to the condo. And now MY kids get to experience it, too! It’s so special, and SO worth it. Thank you for sharing!

    • Alicia says:

      I love those ideas, Lana! My family actually did something very similar. When we were kids, my parents purchased a share in a mountain condo. We grew up going there 2 times per year, and it is still some of my most cherished childhood memories. Now, 30 years later, MY kids get to enjoy and experience the same memories by visiting along with us! It’s truly a blessing! !

  • Beth says:

    We have tried various things over the years. We once shared a hotel room with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Keeping the trip short and during the week helps to keep the cost down too. While we love amusement parks, we have discovered that it is many times cheaper to attend our state’s fair. Tent camping has allowed vacations to Colonial Williamsburg, Myrtle Beach, Virginia, and Gatlinburg to be affordable. When we have done “staycations” we use Groupon to keep the cost down for a local attraction or two and intersperse those with a day at the pool or a home movie day. We once got our car repaired while we were on vacation so that we could use the rental car to travel (covered by insurance).

    Creative saving strategies have also allowed us to travel. Once, we opened a bank account that offered a $100.00 bonus for opening. We often apply “found money” to our vacation fund–refunds we weren’t expecting; unclaimed funds we discovered we were owed; Ibotta rebates; Ebates rebates; surveys; etc. We only use our credit card for fuel for our car, but we have carefully selected a card to get 5% back, and that rebate money is used for both vacation and Christmas.

  • Kathy says:

    When our kids were little we went tent camping and stayed in state parks. The state parks offer a Junior Ranger program with cheap activities for the kids. Some of those activities were $1.75 to $2.00 each at the time. Very reasonable for supplies for the craft. My oldest son learned how to tie a fly fishing lure and still uses that knowledge to this day. Family game times led by the ranger were so much fun. Sack races, kickball games and scavenger hunts are memories my grown children have fond memories of to this day. One trip all we had was $50 for the week and we managed to not go over that budget! It can be done!

  • Sdr says:

    I have to take issue with #1…if you’re getting any kind of significant tax return (more than $100-200) you’re simply giving an interest free loan to the government and would be better off keeping that money in real time. There are SO many calculators out there; if you’re really on top of it you shouldn’t never owe or get back more then a few hundred dollars each year.

    • Stephanie says:

      I used to agree with this philosophy, and we changed our taxes. The good idea ended in a bad idea, and we had to pay in and it was very disappointing. There was a job change that messed or so called plan up. I think if the tax refund helps fund a vacation or a new appliance. Then go for it.

  • Rebecca says:

    My husband and I share 1 credit card and we always pay it off right away each month. I check it every week to make sure we are staying on budget and the charges are accurate. We let our rewards add up and it pays for a really nice trip every year or every year. This year we get to go to St. Louis for a 3 night stay with our kids for free! We are staying at an Airbnb completely reimbursed to us by our rewards points. I am packing all the food so we dont have to spend money to go out to eat. We are doing all free activities and I let each of our kids pick out 1 meal item they wanted and 1 snack they wanted from the grocery store. We did budget a little bit for one meal out but that and the gas to get there are the only expenses for the whole 4 day trip. Our rewards points over the past few years have paid completely for flights and hotels/Airbnb’s in Seattle, wa; Chicago, IL; and Lincoln, NE.

    • Jenn says:

      What a great idea, Rebecca! I live in STL and there are SO many free things to do here that are fun for families. It is one of the best things about living here. Even with an entire summer off for activities, we can’t do them all! I don’t think people realize how fun and affordable STL is!

      • jess says:

        Thank you for sharing this, jenn! I had NO idea about STL having so many free or close-to-free attractions! We’re going to have to look into this!

    • That’s awesome! We JUST tried Airbnb ourselves with our family this year, and we really loved the experience! It can be a great way to save money! Thank you for sharing!

  • Pamela says:

    We use our “extra” paychecks. My husband gets paid every other week, so we live on 2 paychecks a month. Twice a year he gets 2 paychecks. We use one for vacation and the other for Christmas.
    This works if you get paid weekly also because you get 5 paychecks a month 4 times a year.

  • I love that idea of using your extra paychecks ! We JUST started setting aside this money as well, because my husband is also paid every 2 weeks!

  • Emily says:

    We were able to take two vacations last year (one with my husband and the kids and another with my mom and the kids) that were primarily financed through cash back rewards from our credit card. I fully realize credit cards aren’t for everyone, but as someone who pays it off in full each month and is very aware of every purchase made, I realize it works for our family! Our second trip was very random, and we saved sooo much money by being willing to book hotels last minute. We stayed in bigger cities (New Orleans), so this worked fine.

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