You’re probably excited about getting ready to go on a much-needed family vacation and now the process of getting your vacation on budget starts.

Do you actually know how much you need to save to have the best time possible?

The last thing you want is to get to your destination and find out it is much more costly than you initially thought.

That’s why I share my best tips on how to plan a vacation on a budget so you can start planning with confidence.

With these cheap family vacation budget ideas, you can learn what you need to budget for, so there are no surprises.

Plus, vacation budget planning can be stressful. So I’ll help you navigate the vacation waters with ease.

Why not take a look at my tips for how to figure out how much you need to get your vacation on budget.

vacation on budget

Step 1: Where Do You Want To Go

The first step in any plan to get your vacation on budget is to figure out where are you going on vacation!

Obviously, staying local is cheaper. Staying in the country will be a little more expensive. And leaving the country can be the most expensive. But it’s important to figure this out first.

Don’t know where you or your family want to go? Start searching! The internet and Pinterest are full of ideas of family-friendly locations to visit.


Create A Plan For Your Money

These FREE Budgeting Spreadsheets will help you keep a pulse on your money (from the palm of your hand).

What if everyone has their own ideas? Start a bucket list of places to visit or maybe even have a competition to see who can be swayed to visit their chosen place by telling all the great things about the city. Either way, there are plenty of choices your family will love.

Then, you’ll need to decide what you want to visit while you’re there!

If you’re heading to see Mickey in Orlando, are you going to the beach too? Will you visit another theme park or other parts of the state? While there are many decisions to be made, now is the time to figure it all out.

These decisions can play a huge role to get your vacation on budget. There’s no time like the present to research and start your vacation budget planning.

budget-friendly vacation

Step 2: How Are You Getting There

Will you fly, drive, or take a train…that is the next question to get your vacation on budget.


Plane tickets can be an astronomical cost if you don’t buy them at the proper time. You should read this article about when to buy your plane tickets and then decide if that is part of your cheap family vacation budget.

Here are 7 ways to save on your next flight and some insider tips to make your trip easier!

If you’re taking a plane, will there be layovers, plane switching, etc? Ask yourself is it worth the hassle and money or is driving more convenient for your family.

There are other items you don’t want to forget about, such as these fees and taxes: checked baggage, airline seat selection, priority boarding, etc.

If you decide on flying, will you need to rent a car to get to your destination? Or does your hotel have a complimentary pickup?

Will you need a car to travel to see the sites? Or will you be able to walk to your destinations?

Then there’s the thought of food, groceries, and medicine and how will you get those things. The time to plan is now!

budget-friendly vacation


If you’re driving, make sure to put away a little money each month to pay for your gas. It may not seem like a significant expense, but gas can be one of the most expensive parts of traveling if you’re not prepared for what you’re spending.

Check out how to save on gas before your trip comes. You can save a lot of money by following these simple tips on how to plan a vacation on a budget!

Decide early on what kind of transportation you’ll be taking and/or needing and take these specific variables into account, so there are no surprises in your future.

Don’t forget that even if you have a car there could be parking fees at your hotel, you might even need car rental insurance too. Here are some tips to read before you rent your next car on vacation.

Don’t forget the other types of transportation you might need to add to your budget:

  • Uber/Taxi
  • Train
  • Trolley
  • Tolls
budget-friendly vacation

Step 3: Where Are You Staying

Hotel, Airbnb or camping…you decide, but it’s the next decision that has to be made to get your vacation on budget.


Hotels can be really costly if you aren’t careful and prepared. They can be the most expensive ticket in your vacation budget planning besides airfare.

If you’re planning to go somewhere, you’ll need to decide where the best place is to stay to see the things you want to see.

Of course, there are a variety of different hotel chains to choose from that all have different pricing, so it’s easy to find something in your range if you plan ahead.

Here are some ways to save money on hotel rooms! Because, who doesn’t like to save money?!!


Our family normally stays in an Airbnb because we have a large family. It’s not as cost effective to stay in a hotel, plus we love having a full kitchen which saves us even more money on our food costs. Here’s how you can save money on your next Airbnb rental.

If your family has dietary restrictions or allergies, this is something you should consider too.

budget-friendly vacation


Camping is a whole other story.

Camping is a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel or Airbnb, but then you’ll need to bring all the gear to camp with you too. This probably means you won’t be flying, but driving instead. It helps to make for a cheap family vacation budget.

Some cost savers are that most camping sites allow dogs so you wouldn’t have to kennel them, you will most likely cook all your meals instead of dining out, and if you’re game to go camping, then you probably already have the stuff to do it.


Create A Plan For Your Money

These FREE Budgeting Spreadsheets will help you keep a pulse on your money (from the palm of your hand).

But don’t leave this decision to the last second! Hotel prices tend to be much higher the closer you are to your trip and some will even be booked to capacity during peak times.

Some camping sites even book up 6 months in advance, especially around the holidays.

Book now and save the money needed to pay it off. You’ll be happy you did once it’s vacation time.

Other things to consider for your budget:

  • Free Wifi
  • Parking Fees
  • Location
  • Resort Fees
  • Taxes
budget-friendly vacation

Step 4: How/Where Are You Eating

It’s no secret that food is one of the more significant expenses that people run into on vacations. I mean, you gotta eat! And at least 3 times a day…for the most part.

Figure out how many meals you’ll be eating, where they will be taking place, and what kind of funds you’ll need for each.

You’ll also need to figure out the type of restaurants that are available in that area and what your family will like to eat. Plus, it’s a good idea to determine how much it might cost for your meals. You don’t want to be surprised with an expensive meal that blows your food budget.

For instance, if you’re staying at a hotel, figure out if they include free breakfasts. It may be one deciding factor when searching for a hotel. It’s a great way to save money on your vacation and a time saver in the morning.

budget-friendly vacation

Do You Need A Kitchen Or Kitchenette?

Or does your hotel room have a kitchenette? It can also help you save money on your food costs and one thing to look for when searching for a hotel.

If you’re staying at an Airbnb, then you can easily eat breakfast there, then all you’ll need to figure out is your lunches and dinners. You can even plan on packing lunches to take with you so you can save even more money.

If you’re planning to have a fancy dinner every night, save a little more each week so you’ll have plenty of money allocated towards this category.

Or, are you staying at an all-inclusive resort where the food is included in the price? This is why vacation budget planning is so important.

Break these categories up and save a little overtime to get your vacation on budget. Your food costs are sure to be paid off if you do it this way.

Learn how to save more money on your vacation food!

Don’t forget to add snacks and drinks to your budget. Those can be a huge budget buster!

budget-friendly travel

Step 5: Adding Up Your Entertainment Costs

If you’re going on vacation, chances are that you’ll be enjoying some type of entertainment while you’re traveling.

Entertainment is an incredibly massive factor in the expenses you’ll have to get your vacation on budget. If you don’t start saving now and planning ahead for these costs, you’ll be more likely to spend more money out of pocket than needed.

Sit down and write out a list of everything entertainment-wise that you plan to do or want to do. Estimate the cost of each one, or look it up, and make sure those funds are built into your financial plan. Once you see the price tag, you may need to increase your budget or find some more budget-friendly alternatives.

Here are some entertainment costs you might take into consideration:

  • Movies
  • Shows and Plays
  • Theme Park Tickets
  • Parking Fees
  • Trinkets and Souveniers
  • State and National Park Entrance Fees
  • Presents for loved ones
  • Tours and Excursion Costs
  • Toll Road Costs
  • Parking Meter or Parking Garage Fees
budget-friendly travel

Step 6: Don’t Forget The Furbabies/Animals

If you don’t have any animals to worry about, then you can skip this step. If you do have animals, then you can’t forget these costs to add to your budget! It can be a huge factor in getting your vacation on budget.

Kennel Costs

You can expect to pay anywhere from $25-$40 per day up to at least $150 per week to board a dog. A cat can cost less at around $15-$30 per night. But you can expect to pay more if your furbaby has special needs, such as taking medications or if you want them to be groomed.

Pet &/Or House Sitter:

If you have too many animals to kennel, then you may consider a pet sitter or an in house pet sitter. While you may have some family or friends that can do this for you, a fee should be determined in advance to pay them for their services.

budget-friendly travel

Step 7: Figure Out Your Cost Per Day

If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty, figure out how much you’ll plan to spend each day you’re on vacation.

The best way to do this is to break it down by category in order to get your vacation on budget.

Here is an example of a single person and how you could break these categories down:

  • Food costs – $30 a day (or $10 per meal)
  • Hotel costs – $50 a day
  • Entertainment costs – $40 a day
  • Transportation – $20 a day
  • Presents and trinket costs – $20 a day

In total, you’d be spending about $160 each day. If that seems like too much, go over your list again and make cuts where applicable.


Create A Plan For Your Money

These FREE Budgeting Spreadsheets will help you keep a pulse on your money (from the palm of your hand).

Or you could even plan it out by the day.

Monday Itinerary For A Family Of Four:

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner – $10 per meal/per person = $120
  • Ice Cream Shack – $5 per person = $20
  • Hotel costs – $50 per day/per person = $200
  • Transportation – $10 per person = $40
  • Jet Ski Rental – $50 per person = $200
  • Additional Kennel Cost for Fido – $25 per day
  • Cushion For Fees/Unexpected Costs – $20

By listing out these variables early on, you’ll be able to save your money instead of blowing it in one fell swoop and having to cut your vacation short.

budget-friendly travel

Step 8: Use A Savings Calculator To Get Your Vacation On Budget

A savings calculator is an excellent way to know how much you should be allocating each month for your vacation. It’s the best way to make sure you get your vacation on budget.

Don’t leave this up to guesswork. Vacations are expensive, and unless you know how much to put away each month, you likely won’t end up with the exact amount you need or any extra.

Check out this savings calculator to discover how much you should be putting away each month until you’re vacation time arrives.

budget-friendly travel

Step 9: Don’t Forget To Add A Budget Cushion

Hidden fees and emergencies that can break your vacation budget fast. It’s important to get your vacation on budget, but also to have some extra cushion in your budget just in case.

Check out these fees and other expenses that you may have not added to your budget:

  • Currency Exchange Fees
  • ATM Fees
  • Passports
  • Emergency Expenses
  • Vaccinations and Medications
  • Mobile Phone Charges
  • Tourist Fees owed to the country you are visiting
  • Upgrades
  • Extra excursions you might want to take
  • Extra amenities you want might want to take advantage of

While you may think your vacation budget is set in stone, these little fees and costs can add up quickly. Make sure to research any hidden fees so you can be prepared.

Vacation spending isn’t as hard as everyone assumes.

The critical thing to take away is that planning early is the way to go.

Break everything down into smaller bits, so you don’t get overwhelmed and let me know where you stand.

I hope you have learned from my best tips on how to plan a vacation on a budget so you can start planning with confidence.

With these cheap family vacation budget ideas, you can learn what you need to budget for, so there are no surprises.

Plus, vacation budget planning can be stressful. So I’ll help you navigate the vacation waters with ease.

I’d love to hear your responses and where you’re planning on vacationing!


YOUR TURN: How else would you get your vacation on budget? Let me know in the comments below!

vacation on budget
How To Get Your Dream Vacation On Budget This Year