Summer is here and that means the kids are out of school. Many families choose to take advantage of this time off from school by going on a vacation. However, vacations can pack a mean punch to the pocketbook. Luckily there are ways to keep yourself from needing the rest of the year to pay off your few weeks of vacation. Here are some ideas for taking your kids on a vacation they will remember forever, without having to pay for it forever.
Camping - I know that some people balk at camping, but those people are likely adults. Kids tend to love camping and a spot at the campground generally costs around $20 a night. Kids can have a great time while learning to appreciate nature, and adults can get away to peaceful surroundings without having to worry about cleaning the house or the latest crisis at work. Don't forget, depending on where they are from, camping might be a novelty for your au pair. Be sure to prepare him or her for what they will need bring (and not bring) depending on the level of "roughing it" you'll be experiencing at your campsite.
Before I started to take my kids camping I was worried about how I was going to keep them entertained, but that ended up being a non-issue. Between hiking, swimming, roasting marshmallows, books, and games, they had more than enough to keep them busy. For parents I recommend investing in an air mattress. It has made all the difference for me and now I look forward to camping.
Smaller Driving Distance Cities (Day / Weekend Trips) – This year my family and I are going on vacation to Cleveland! We don’t have friends or family there, but it is a doable drive and it is easy to find relatively cheap accommodations. Families with more than one kid know that airline tickets can really add up, so someplace drivable can really reduce costs. Also, smaller cities tend to have less expensive hotel options so that is another way you can save money. Pretty much anywhere you haven’t been before can make a great destination. We plan to visit museums, the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and a nearby amusement park. The internet can help you find the unusual or unique sites around the town and you can eat cheap by sticking to mom and pop places, diners, or a hotel with a kitchenette. These quick and inexpensive weekends can still result in a date night for you if you are bringing along your au pair. These little trips are great adventures for your au pair and a way for them to see even more of our country, the state you live in or the ones nearby.
Staycation – During winter break we had planned to take our kids to a town a few hours away to spend time with family. Unfortunately, bad weather hit so instead we ended up renting a hotel room in town. The kids had just as much fun there as they would have had somewhere else! They enjoyed taking advantage of the hotel amenities and especially swimming in the pool. It was fun for everyone and we didn’t have to brave winter conditions. If you have a little extra money you can find deals at Great Wolf Lodges ( if you are lucky enough to have one locally) and an entire family can have waterpark style fun (and much more) for 2 days and 1 night for about $300 plus food.
Grandma’s (or Another Relative’s) House - My kid’s favorite times are when we are visiting family or friends. It gives them the chance to be spoiled by relatives and to be on “vacation rules”. (Vacation rules mean that they get more junk food and later bedtimes.) They especially love visiting family and family friends that also have kids their age. Even though we have a large family, relatives and close friends like us enough to offer hospitality so we don’t have to pay for a hotel. The kids love “camping” in the living room with their cousins or other relatives and my husband and I love escaping for a date night with built in babysitters! Meeting your family also makes your au pair feel more included and gives him or her even more opportunites to share culture and traditions.
House Trade – This option may not work for everyone because it requires cleaning your house (which is often a deal breaker for me!), but it can be a great money saving idea for a really memorable vacation. If there is somewhere you want to go you can look into an arrangement where you “trade” houses. You can stay in a house in your destination, while the owners of that house stay at your house. This will be easier if you live in a desirable vacation destination, but you would be surprised at how many people would enjoy a trip to wherever you live.
Air B&B, HomeAway, Etc. There are now many websites that allow you to rent a whole house at your destination. While you will still need to pay for the house, it can often be cheaper than a hotel and one of the biggest benefits is that you have access to a kitchen and can cook your own meals greatly reducing costs.
Family vacations don’t have to break the bank! Use these ideas to save some money this summer!