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How Families Can Afford to Travel on Vacation: Budget Friendly Travel Tips

By Jennifer Calonia · August 05, 2022 · 8 minute read

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How Families Can Afford to Travel on Vacation: Budget Friendly Travel Tips

As travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, some families might be considering their vacation options for the near future. In a recent report, Expedia Group found that 81% of respondents planned on taking at least one vacation with family or friends in the next six months.

However, a family vacation not only requires additional logistical planning, it often calls for financial planning, too. Here’s a look at how to afford a family vacation.

Calculating the Cost of Family Vacations

Cost is an inevitable part of planning a trip with your family. When calculating the total cost of your next family vacation, make sure to consider the following expenses:

•   Airfare (roundtrip)

•   Car rental (and/or gas)

•   Accommodations (including taxes and fees)

•   Food and drinks (whether dining out or meal prepping)

•   Activities

•   Souvenirs

•   Travel insurance

•   Miscellaneous costs (e.g. parking fees, passport fees, currency exchange, etc.)

Additionally, you’ll want to account for expenses incurred at home, such as pet-sitting costs, and lost wages if you don’t have paid time-off available for some or all of your vacation days.

By having the total cost of your family vacation in mind, you can better plan ahead and ensure you’ve appropriately budgeted to cover all of your costs. From there, you can more strategically allot the funds you’ve saved or the different credit card rewards you’ve accrued.

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How to Take a Family Vacation on a Budget

Being a frugal traveler with your family in tow is, of course, an added challenge, but there are ways to make your next vacation more affordable.

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1. Have a Strict Budget

After tallying up your essential monthly expenses, such as your rent or mortgage payment, bills, and other household expenses, see how much of your discretionary income is left.

Using that number, break down how much you’re able or willing to allot toward the travel categories listed earlier. Although your budget in each subcategory can be somewhat fluid, make sure your total family travel costs don’t exceed your maximum budget.

2. Keep a Dedicated Vacation Savings Account

An important part of creating a travel fund is ensuring that your vacation savings isn’t accidentally tapped into for anything other than your trip goal. One way to avoid this is by opening a high-yield savings account that holds savings exclusively for your next trip.

3. Use Credit Card Bonuses and Miles

If you already use a rewards credit card for many of your day-to-day purchases, applying your earned cash back rewards and miles toward your trip is a must. This can help shave down your costs, especially if you stash up your rewards earnings for a while in preparation for your trip.

As another bonus, your card may offer credit card travel insurance, which can help protect you against any unexpected financial losses when you’re away.

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4. Be Flexible With Travel Dates

The travel dates you choose for your trip greatly affects the total price of your family vacation. If you’re willing to be flexible about when you travel, you might be able to save a good amount.

Compare flight costs on weekends versus weekdays to find travel deals. Also consider traveling during the shoulder season or off season. This can be more affordable than traveling to your destination during peak season when other families are arriving in high volumes.

5. Explore All-Inclusive Cruises

Exploring cheap cruises is another way to afford a family vacation. All-inclusive cruises offer families a package deal that generally includes food and non-alcoholic drinks, as well as activities that adults and children can enjoy on board.

Some cruises even offer “kids sail free” promotions that offer a complimentary pass for children under a certain age on specific booking dates. (Taxes and fees will still apply though.)

6. Find Ways to Budget on the Trip

Once your family arrives at your destination, cut costs on variable expenses, like food and beverages, as well as activities. Find ways to meal prep, like assembling sandwiches for lunch while on vacation, or focusing on shareable meals, like pizza, that can be split with the family.

Additionally, research free or low-fee activities to do ahead of time. For instance, you could take a free walking tour of the city, visit tourist attractions that offer free children’s or elderly admission, and more.

7. Travel in Groups With Other Families

Coordinating a vacation with other families is an effective budget family travel option. For example, as a group, you might decide to split the cost of food, gas, and accommodations for the trip. If your group is large enough, certain attractions might also offer group discounts for admission.

8. Be Flexible With Your Destination

Although your preferred destination might be known for a particular setting, like nature or an urban sprawl, chances are that you can find an alternative destination that provides the same sentiment for less.

If you’re on a budget, consider what your dream destination offers. Family beach options in Mexico, for example, might be more affordable than a beach trip to the Maldives.

9. Work a Side Gig for Extra Income

Bringing in supplemental income is another way to afford a family vacation, if you plan ahead of time. Consider your own skills and expertise, such as tutoring, crafting, or freelancing.

Offer your services through platforms, like UpWork, or within your local community for a fee. Use the extra money you earn toward your family trip.

10. Leverage the Sharing Economy

Innovative sharing communities are another way that families afford to travel. For example, to save money on hotels, consider a modest Airbnb with a full kitchen or kitchenette where meals can be affordably prepped.

There are also domestic and international house-sitting opportunities that your family can participate in through sites like Nomador and Mind My House.

Are Timeshares Worth it in 2022?

One option that some families consider for future travel is a timeshare. A timeshare is a vacation property wherein you — and other people — purchase the right to use it at a specific time. Generally, when it comes to budget family travel, timeshares are not always the best option.

Although a timeshare simplifies certain aspects of your travel planning, such as deciding on a destination or finding accommodations, it can be restrictive in other ways. For example, your timeshare dates might not align with your available days off. Or you might want to change your destination later, and time shares can be difficult to sell, if needed.

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Tips to Avoid Debt While Going on a Family Vacation

Although you can pay for your family vacation on a rewards credit card and earn credit card points in the process, proceed with caution. Like any large expense put on a credit card, your total debt can balloon if you don’t have the savings or income to pay it back quickly and start to rack up interest charges.

As much as possible, avoid putting your next family vacation on your credit card. Instead, give yourself ample time to save up toward your trip. Also, don’t forget to apply your any credit card miles or cash back that you’ve earned toward your travel bookings to immediately cut your out-of-pocket travel expenses toward flights, accommodations, or car rentals.

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The Takeaway

Creating cherished memories with your family through travel can be more challenging when you’re on a budget. However, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to accomplish this goal. With a solid budget and using strategic tips to cut travel costs, like using credit card rewards to travel for less, you can plan a vacation that fits your needs and your financial situation.

For instance, the SoFi Credit Card offers cardholders 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. Cardholders earn 1% cash back rewards when redeemed for a statement credit.1 It also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, making it a handy companion for families traveling abroad.

See if you qualify for a SoFi credit card today.


How do people afford to travel every year?

Dedicating a portion of your budget each year toward travel might be possible if traveling is a priority and you’re planning a realistic vacation within your means. Calculate how much discretionary income is left after you’ve allocated funds toward non-negotiable expenses, like monthly rent and bills. Once you have an approximate number, explore your options based on your budget.

How much does it cost to travel the world with a family?

The cost to travel the world with your loved ones varies greatly. Factors like the number of adults and children in your party, your destination, the duration of your trip, when you travel during the year, and your travel activities will all determine how much you’ll spend.

How much does the average family spend on travel per year?

The average person in the U.S. expects to spend an average of $2,353 on their next vacation, according to Expedia Group. For a family of four, that’s as much as $9,412.

How do I get enough money to travel?

Taking on extra shifts at work, selling things you no longer use, earning extra income through a side hustle, and cutting your existing non-essential expenses are all popular ways to save money for travel. However, you’ll need to find a tactic that works for your financial situation and lifestyle.

Photo credit: iStock/Nutthaseth Vanchaichana
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