School's almost out, which means that families are gearing up for their upcoming summer vacations. Here are 10 tried-and-tested money-saving tips from the readers of WeJustGotBack.com for making family vacations more affordable.
Tip #1: Even after you book your hotel or resort, you should always go back and check online for any deals that get posted up until the time you leave. If you see a better deal, ask for it. We ended up saving $500 at an all-inclusive resort on our last vacation. --Pam from New York, NY
Tip #2: It's amazing how much of my family's travel budget goes toward meals. When we need keep vacation expenses low, the first thing I look for is a "kids eat free" family promotion (always available at Holiday Inn, and sometimes offered at Marriott and other chains). If I can't find such a promotion, I look for a hotel where I can get a room that includes a small refrigerator. Some hotels also offer microwaves in your room. You can save a lot on your food bill if you don't eat every meal out, so these two appliances really come in handy. --Danielle from South Bend, IN
Tip #3: For years, we frequently stayed at hotels that provided an in-room DVD player that we'd never use. Inevitably the hotel would have a DVD library that rented DVDs for $10 a pop or more. We finally wised up and started bringing our own DVDs. Now we stop at our local DVD store before we go and rent the films of our choice for less than half of what we'd pay at the hotel. If I know that our room will also have a microwave, I bring our own popcorn and presto! -- we have an instant movie night. --Valerie from Durham, NC
Tip #4: My uncle, who drove a semi for 35 years, gave me this trucker's tip: Always travel with a big thermos. Most gas station shops will let you fill it to the brim with coffee for just a dollar or so, which can save you big bucks on a long road trip. --Joanie from Tulsa, OK
Tip #5: I was planning for a trip to a nice resort in Arizona and considered doing some grocery shopping when I arrived. I discovered that Safeway has an online site which will deliver. I went online to order basics like diapers, fruit and baby food. I also added some wine for me. --Jayme from Arvada, COEditor's Note: A super tip! Ordering food and supplies online is a particularly savvy move for folks who will not have access to a rental car but will be staying in accommodations with a kitchen. For families flying with a baby or toddler, it's a brilliant way to avoid lugging a week's worth of baby supplies (food, diapers, wipes, and so on). Tip #6: Before our family trips, I like to go online to the newspaper at our destination to hunt for special promos. Before a recent trip to Boston, I went to Boston.com (site for the Boston Globe) and found lots of restaurant deals available around town. This works in nearly every destination. I just find the local paper's website, then search for a dining page. You can also find coupons for attractions like zoos, theme parks, and museums in the local paper, too. --Kerry from Rochester, NY Tip #7: Dying to try out a nice restaurant? Make lunch the big family meal out. A restaurant's lunch menu is usually less expensive than its dinner version, even when dishes are identical. Then keep it cheap and cheerful for dinner. --Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, WeJustGotBack.com Editor Tip #8: There's nothing my family loves more than a beach vacation. In the past few years, I've discovered that we can easily save over $1,000 on our one-week summer getaway simply by heading to a lake rather than an ocean resort. Many resorts on large lakes have gorgeous, sandy beaches, and nearly all the water sports you find at the ocean. We prefer fresh water to saltwater for swimming, and we don't have to worry about riptides, big waves, or unfriendly ocean critters. --Charlene from Charlotte, NC Tip #9: Pre-buy your souvenirs before you go to theme parks, and you can save huge money. Before you go, shop at major retailers like Wal-Mart and Kmart, where you'll find T-shirts, baseball caps, and bags with favorite characters on them. There are also stuffed toy versions of these characters. They'll cost a fraction of what you'll pay in the parks, guaranteed. Present these items to your kids on the first day of vacation. You may not get away without shelling out a few dollars for small gifts, but the mad hunger to have something--anything--with the characters will be sated. It works with nearly any theme park you can think of, from Sesame Place to Disney and Universal. --Nancy from Cape May, NJ Tip #10: It's difficult for my family of five to eat lunch in a restaurant for under $50, even at a moderately-priced chain. So eating three meals a day in restaurants really adds up when we go on vacation. To cut down on costs, we do a lot of picnics. One of us is always toting a backpack, and sometime mid-morning we find a grocery store and get some French bread, cold cuts, cheese, and beverages. Usually we will have chosen our picnic spot in advance--a nice park, riverbank, lake shore, or other pleasant location where the kids can have fun exploring. We typically save at least $35 per day, and some of our best vacation memories have been our picnics! --Sally from Colorado Springs, CO
WeJustGotBack.com is an award-winning family travel site. It features reviews of kid-friendly hotels and resorts, expert planning advice, readers' travel tips, vacation deals, and more. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.