Our family loves to visit new places. We get asked all the time how we can afford to take our family of nine on a vacation every year. I must admit, it hasn’t been easy, but we have learned a few tips and tricks throughout our 20-year marriage.
Here are seven ways we’ve learned to save.
Read more: Clark’s #1 rule of cheap travel
1. Go camping
Staying in a campground can save you $100 or more per night off of local hotel prices. When we go camping, a typical night with water and electricity costs between $20-$25 per night at a state or federal campground. While private campgrounds can be a bit more expensive, they often offer more amenities that will keep you busy.
2. Use hotel deal sites
If you must stay in a hotel, consider booking on some of the online discount hotel sites. Keep in mind, though, that you will not always be able to request two beds, so if that is a requirement, you may not be able to book on certain sites.
3. Pack your food
Packing your own food helps you to save money and time, especially while you’re traveling. A typical meal that we pack will include a sandwich, chips and a piece of fruit. This is so much cheaper than having everyone go into a popular fast food restaurant and order a large combo. When I was a child, for dinners in hotel rooms, my mom would bring her crockpot and cook up a tasty feast.
4. Find restaurants where kids eat free
Since we always travel with children, we often search for the restaurants that advertise that kids eat free. Typically, before we leave on the trip, I will do a search online for the town we will be in that day, followed by the words, “kids eat free.” There are websites that regularly update which restaurants do this. On one of our past vacations, we were able to eat out on a daily basis, due to all of the free food my kids were getting.
5. Subscribe to restaurant newsletters for money-saving coupons
About five to seven days before you leave for vacation, visit several of your favorite restaurants’ websites and subscribe to their newsletters. Typically, they will email you a coupon for something free from their restaurant. Sometimes it’s just a dessert, but other times, it’s a full meal. Be sure to do it well before you leave on your trip, because sometimes, you won’t receive your coupon for a few days. Keep in mind that the coupon will often expire within 14 days of the date that they send it to you, so you don’t want to sign up too early.
6. Find things you can do for free
With a family of nine, we typically cannot afford to spend money on all of the attractions that you see others spending money on. Instead, we usually pick out one major activity that we want to do, and the rest are activities found by searching the web for free or cheap things to do in that area. We have had many adventures relying on these free (or cheap) activities, including at our regular vacation stop, Branson, Missouri.
7. Drive, instead of fly
Most of the time, if you are traveling with a family, it will be much less expensive to drive, instead of fly. We like to research where the cheapest gas prices will be and fill up in those locations. We have also researched how to save money on gasoline and have implemented many of these tactics while traveling.
Hopefully, these ideas can also help you to stretch your vacation dollars while still enjoying fun activities.
[Editor’s note: You can monitor your financial goals, like building a good credit score, each month on Credit.com.]
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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.