My family took two vacations this summer. And we paid for both with cash. Our first vacation was to Missouri, where we are both from. We stayed with my parents, so that saved us a bunch of money . Our second vacation was to Washington state, though, where we know no one. We were still able to save a bunch of money.
Travel by car if it's cheaper.
We travel by car when we travel because we often take our
two dogs. We also live in the Minot, ND area, where it costs around
$500 per person to fly anywhere. It's MUCH cheaper to drive where we
need to go, even counting stays in a hotel. We also like the
freedom to stop in various places.
Travel with others.
Even though we are only a family of three we own a minivan. That means that we are often able to invite others on vacation with us. In addition to having more fun with extended family, they can also help pay for gas and even hotel stays so we save money that way. My sister lives with us now and was able to get off work to travel with us to Missouri. When we went to Washington in July, we invited one of my other sisters and my aunt, and met my sister in law there. We were able to rent a larger suite and saved a lot of money over paying for just a hotel room. We stayed in a 2 bedroom suite in one area and a 4 bedroom beach house in the other.
Pack your own snacks and meals.
Another way we save money while traveling is to pack a cooler. My family isn't necessarily big into sandwiches, but we also pack fresh fruits and easy to eat veggies, along with beef jerky, sunflower seeds, and trail mix. Throw in some juice boxes, soda, and bottled water, and we are set! We limit our eating out to once a day or less, and maybe one additional drink from a gas station (if they are cheap, like they often are in the summer), while we are on the road. When we are at our destination we try to stick to the same limits on eating out, but if we are busy, we sometimes have to eat out twice in one day. That works on a budget if you plan carefully.
Look for good deals.
Another way we saved money was to look on groupon and livingsocial for the area we knew we would be traveling. We ended up getting vouchers for 2 different area restaurants this time, but there were other options as well, just none that we wanted to do this time.
I always start planning for a vacation several months in advance. In fact, we are already laying the groundwork for our family vacation next summer! By planning ahead you can often find a great deal on lodging. We ended up paying $125 a night for a 4 bedroom cottage just a few minutes from a beach on the Washington coast. Just outside of Seattle, we got a 2 bedroom suite (with a pull out couch in the living room) in a decent hotel for just over $100 per night, by booking early and using an additional discount. They even upgraded us for free! If you are traveling with others, this can really save you money. We had full kitchens in both units, so that made eating in much cheaper and more appealing.
Plan to relax.
We did a lot of things in Washington, but we made sure to leave some free time, to just sit on the beach and relax, or play games in our room. That helped us recharge our batteries, and helped us save money.