How to Take a Vacation for Less Than $1,000

My family recently spent a weekend at Great Wolf Lodge. This hotel boasts a huge indoor waterpark, restaurants, an arcade and other attractions. We’d wanted to go for a few years but the price kept us away. Neither my wife nor I get paid time off, so our vacation budget is pretty tight.

But that doesn’t stop us from having fun! We manage to take our kids on one or two vacations a year. And just so you know, we aren’t talking Disney World. We only go to Orlando when Grandma and Grandpa shell out the big bucks!

For whatever reason, many families don’t take vacations. My guess is most people think they can’t afford to. After all, times are tough and things are expensive! That’s especially true when you have multiple kids like we do.

The good news is you don’t need to max out a credit card to take your family on vacation. Our trips usually cost less than $1,000. It might not be Disney World, but we still make memories and have a lot of fun.

You can too. Your family could probably use a vacation. Who doesn’t need a break from the monotony of quarantine? Whose kids aren’t stir crazier than kids ever should be? For crying out loud, we can’t even take them to the play place at McDonald’s anymore!

So take them somewhere better. Here’s how you can take your family on vacation for less than $1,000:

Stay Local

We live near St Louis, MO, so we stay in the Midwest when we take trips. We limit our destinations to six hours away or less. This helps us save money by driving; it also saves time because we don’t spend half our trip on the road!

There’s also nothing wrong with a stay-cation. Your hometown likely has attractions you’ve never visited. I can’t tell you how many St Louis residents have never been up inside the Arch! We also have a world-class zoo, botanical gardens, an aquarium, children’s museums and beautiful parks.

Your city offers more than you think. If you can’t afford to travel, take the paid time off and do something local.

Plan Ahead

I plan our trips months in advance. We usually travel on weekends to avoid missing work. Unfortunately, rates for everything are cheaper during the week! Maybe we would save enough to make up for the money we’d lose, but I’ve never done the math. We don’t want our kids to miss school anyway.

Planning ahead also helps me find deals and compare prices. We could afford Great Wolf Lodge because I found a 50% off flash sale on Cyber Monday. I’ve gotten discounts with our AAA membership too. And I reserve most of our hotel rooms with Priceline. It cuts down our rates and sometimes gets massive discounts if we can book ahead with a non-cancellation policy.

Split Costs

The only thing better than taking a trip is taking a trip with friends. Kids occupy themselves much better when there are others kids to play with. Mom and Dad get to relax more too! And it can help save money.

Consider riding together in a single vehicle and splitting gas costs. Instead of booking separate rooms, try finding a larger suite for both families and splitting hotel costs. We’ve done both. It’s worth crunching the numbers a second time to see if you can save money by sharing expenses with another family.

Go Cheap

As a family of five, going out to eat gets pricey! We save money by bringing food with us. Lunchables, Uncrustables and Hostess donuts are staples on our road trips. We find the local Wal-Mart and do some grocery shopping when we get there too. And I only book hotels with free breakfasts.

We’re also selective about which attractions we visit. Big theme parks are fun, but we usually opt for something more affordable like a children’s museum or zoo instead. Some places even offer passes that include admission to multiple attractions.

Get Help

Don’t shy away from asking others to help with your trip. Ask the grandparents to babysit if you want a weekend getaway with your spouse. Or ask for cash/gift cards instead of presents if there is a birthday or anniversary leading up to your trip.

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