A few years ago the New York Times came out with an article showing families what they could get for $5000 or less when it comes to a family vacation budget. It was a preposterous article that spent way too much on trips that could be taken for at least half the price.
I wasn’t sure where the NY Times got those numbers, but I decided to prove to families, just like yourself, that you can take a family vacation in style, on a budget, and still see more of the world than you ever imagined.
Yes, $5000 is a lot of money.
However, when you see just how far that money can get you on your family vacation budget you can start to imagine and plan trips on a smaller budget that have just as much of an impact on you and your family.
I’m not the only one who believes that family vacations can be had on a budget. I’ve asked a few friends to show you where they have taken a family vacation on $5000 or less (some a whole lot less, although one family vacation on a budget is just under $6000).
Multigen Trip to Kauai, Hawaii
Who: Amy from Pit Stops for Kids
Where: Kauai, Hawaii
Length of stay: 7 days
Number of Travelers: 11 — Multigenerational trip with grandparents, siblings, and cousins (grandparents + two nuclear families of 4 and 5)
What you will get: Lodging in a vacation home on Kauai’s quiet North Shore, away from the mega-resorts, access to numerous public beaches, snorkeling and bike rentals, two family excursions, and several special dinners out.
Budget Breakdown (TOTAL: $3670 for a family of five)
- Lodging: Home rental through HomeAway.com in the retirement/resort community of Princeville was less than $200/night, split between the three family units. (Our biggest cost savings was the Kauai home rental!)
- Transportation: Airfare from west coast US to Lihue (round trip): $450/pp on Alaska Airlines
- Food: We shopped for our own food, spending approximately $500 for groceries for the week. We supplemented this with local take-out meals ($100 per meal), food trucks, and plenty of shave ice.
- Activities & Shopping: We enjoyed the Smith Family Luau ($75/pp for adults, $30/pp for kids) and tubing with Backcountry Adventures ($100/pp). Everything else we did was free: hiking, beach days, snorkeling!
Ohio to California Road Trip
Who: Tonya from The Traveling Praters
Where: A road trip from Ohio to California and back
Length of stay: 9 days, 8 nights
Number of Travelers: 2 adults, 3 teens (16, 18, 19)
What you will get: With Los Angeles the targeted destination, Tonya and her family followed much of Route 66, stopping at many roadside attractions (to the dismay of her children), national parks and areas of historical significance along the way. Much of the trip was unplanned and flexible.
After arriving on the west coast, the family decided LA wasn’t an ideal destination so they relaxed at Venice Beach and moved on, spending time along the coast before turning their rented SUV towards home.
The Praters’ spent very little money on entertainment, opting to explore free attractions and national parks. The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, and Death Valley are only three of the parks explored with their National Parks Pass (purchased on this trip).
To save money, a minivan was reserved from a bidding site and the family accepted an upgrade to a full-size SUV at the airport for $100 more.
They packed snacks from home, stayed at hotels that offered complimentary breakfasts, and prepared several meals in their hotel room with supplies they also packed from home.
Coupons and discounts were used to obtain the lowest hotel prices at the time, but additional money could have been saved with some advance planning.
Budget Breakdown (TOTAL: $2817.74)
- Hotel: $791.48
- Transportation: $1469.66 (gas, rental car, parking & tolls)
- Food: $452.32
- Activities & Shopping: $104.28
Hilton Head, SC
Who: Karen at Family Travels on a Budget
Where: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Length of stay: 7 days, 6 nights
Number of Travelers: Six, 5 adults and 1 child
What you will get: Hilton Head Island in South Carolina is a wonderful off-season destination. Situated on the gulf stream, the (relatively) warm waters of the Atlantic help keep temperatures mild — even in December!
Karen and her family welcomed in the new year here, enjoying a 2-bedroom condo at a resort with many included amenities including a New Year’s Eve party, kayaking, biking and low country dining. For more information and some great savings tips, read her post “Our Hilton Head vacation by the numbers” at Family Travels on a Budget.
Budget Breakdown (TOTAL: $2226)
- Hotel: $1462
- Transportation: $97 (includes lunch stop)
- Food: $226
- Activities & Shopping: $441
Christmas Markets in Germany
Who: Kirsten from Kids Are A Trip
Where: Christmas Markets in Germany (Heidelberg, Freiburg, Munich, Nürnberg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Dinkelsbühl, Frankfurt)
Length of stay: 14 days, 13 nights
Number of travelers: 2 adults, 3 kids (ages 13, 11, and 8)
What you will get: Kirsten went from Chicago to Frankfurt with her husband and 3 kids over Thanksgiving break of 2015. She spent two weeks traveling around southern Germany exploring the Christmas markets and visiting local attractions.
Budget Breakdown (TOTAL: $6751)
- Airfare: paid $125 taxes per ticket because we used points. Total cost for 5= $625
- Lodging: $3126
- Heidelberg: (2 nights) $458
- Frieburg (3 nights)= $990
- Munich (4 nights) = $800
- Nuremberg (1 night) = $300
- Colmberg Castle outside Rothenburg (2 nights) = $320
- Frankfurt (1 night) = $258
- Transportation: $800 (Eurail passes, rental car (3 days), various taxis)
- Food: $1950 (13 days for family of 5)
- Attractions and souvenir shopping: $250
In hindsight, we would have made a bigger effort to stay in apartments. We stayed in mostly Western hotels and it was very costly as most required us to take two rooms per night.
Staying in an apartment would have saved money by allowing us to prepare our own meals as well. We usually travel in this manner, but we booked the trip at the last minute (2 months in advance) and since it was a popular time for travel, many apartments were already booked.
Who: Debra from TravelingWellForLess.com
Length of stay: 8 days
Number of Travelers: 2 adults + 2 teenage boys
What you will get: Debra Schroeder from Traveling Well For Less and her family normally use airline miles and frequent flier points for “free” summer vacations. But this time the airfare deal was too good to pass up.
Debra flew from San Diego to Belize for a 8-day trip last summer with her husband and two teenage sons. They flew into Belize City, rented a car, and drove to San Ignacio where they spent 3 nights in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath home booked via Airbnb.
On the drive to San Ignacio they went to the Blue Hole National Park and St. Herman’s Cave. While in San Ignacio they did the ATM (Actun Tunichill Muknal) Tour, visited the Mennonite town of Spanish Lookout, and went to Guatemala to see and hike Tikal National Park.
Then it was time to leave the jungle and head to the beach. They drove back to Belize City and flew to Ambergris Caye and spent 3 nights at a beach front resort. On Ambergris Caye they toured the island via golf cart, rode bikes, went snorkeling in Shark Ray Alley and Hoi Chan Marine Reserve, and got a beach massage.
After 3 relaxing days on the beach they flew back to Belize City and spent one last night.
Budget Breakdown (TOTAL: $4340.09)
- Airfare: $1830.94 (includes round-trip airfare from San Diego to Belize and round-trip flights from Belize City to Ambergris Caye)
- Lodging: $757.58 (includes continental breakfast in Ambergris Caye)
- Car Rental: $358.94
- Food: $317.40
- Activities: $1075.23
- Blue Hole National Park and St. Herman’s Cave: $15
- ATM Tour: $380
- Tikal National Park: (includes cost of driver, guide, and border crossing fees): $300
- Snorkeling at Shark Ray Alley and Hoi Chan Marine Reserve and golf cart rental: $297.76
- Beach Massage: $82.47
Moss Covered Oaks in Hilton Head via ShutterStock.com