How To Plan a Family Vacation On a Budget ($5,000 or Less) 

Laura Hall

Dreaming of adventures with the kids but figuring out how to plan a fun family vacation on a budget? 

Camel trekking across the Sahara, climbing Inca temples in Mexico and learning to surf in Portugal are all bucket list activities that you and your family could be doing this year – on a budget of $5,000 or less. It takes a little planning and you need to set aside some time to do that, but the stories you’ll have to tell at the end of it will be well worth it.

A family of 4 look out at the sea from a beach.

1. Determine Your Budget

OK, there’s a few caveats. Depending on where you’re starting from in the world, you might need to budget more for air travel to get where you want to be.. Bear in mind that you’ll always have the 4 core costs: flights, accommodation, food and activities. Which is more important to you? Try listing them in priority order to get you started.

2. Don’t Just Stick a Pin In a Map!

This is a no-brainer: choose a destination that isn’t too far away (cheaper flights!) if you want to save your budget for more luxurious accommodation or higher-priced activities.

If you’re willing to travel for the most unique adventure, here’s a brief overview of the most and least expensive destinations right now.

EUROPE

  • Greece and Italy are still notoriously higher priced than other areas in Europe. Stick to the smaller Greek Islands for better value, and visit Italy’s lesser-known islands for less tourist traps.
  • London can be expensive still, but there are cheaper family vacation rentals if you look slightly outside the city center.
  • Portugal and The Azores offer great value for money compared to neighboring Spain and The Balearics, with lots more under-developed and unknown villages.
  • If you fancy visiting France, move away from pricier Provence and look at South West region for the best deals.
  • Visit outside of the high season (July & August) for the best rates.

USA

  • The Hamptons continues to be one of the most popular (and most expensive) parts of the East Coast in summer. Consider North Fork or the islands of Georgia or South Carolina instead.
  • While Miami is a high-cost beach spot, it’s only a short flight over to Mexico, where you’ll find the same Caribbean blue waters with more varied price options.

If you’re looking to reduce your accommodation costs, but happy to pay out for flights, head to South America or Asia where you can find the most luxurious properties for a fraction of the cost you’d find in Europe.

So whether you’re hankering after sinking your toes in warm sand, wowing the kids with wildlife up close, exploring museums and castles or getting active on camel treks or in surf schools, there are exotic options to suit just about every taste on your budget. 

3. Choose a Family-Friendly Place To Stay

A cute kids bedroom from a family vacation rental in London.

Finding somewhere to stay is next. Family vacation rentals and family homes are usually a most cost-effect option than hotel suites when you’re away with kids. 

Essential: having some space where you can relax as an adult when the kids are in bed, and finding somewhere where everyone will get a good night’s sleep. 

Extras: a playroom, toys, books and games, the beach on your doorstep and a great host to help with any needs. 

4. Book Flights The Smart Way 

Plenty of websites offer flight comparison options. Skyscanner is one of the best, and can help pinpoint the best month to travel for cheap flights. You can customize the search if you only want direct flights and have preferences on airlines as well. 

  • If you have in mind a big trip, booking your flights a long way ahead of time can save a lot of money. 
  • January is a great month to book a summer break and typically international flight sales during the month will save you money. 
  • Signing up to newsletters from major airlines is one way to hear about those flight sales first. 
  • Prices may vary by time of flight but one word of warning: consider if it’s really worth getting up at 2am with the kids to save $50.

If you’re able to travel outside peak family vacation times (July & August in Europe, for example) you will find that prices are better. Shoulder season (Easter-May and September-October) can be the best time to travel overall. Prices are lower, beaches are less crowded and the weather is usually still reliable. 

5. Save On Dining and Entertainment

Booking a self-catering vacation rental will often save on dining, especially if you have kids who are constantly hungry. Make sure you’re staying somewhere with a good kitchen for food prep, with some options for grocery shopping nearby.

When it comes to entertainment, planning an outdoor vacation in good weather is the best way to spend less – visit the beach, swim in the pool or hike in the woods for free!

Tip: Local tours and activities are almost always better value bought in your destination but it doesn’t hurt to research and find out what’s out there and which tours have had great reviews. If you’re staying in a family home, ask the host if they have any local knowledge on this.

6. Stick To An Itinerary 

Not everyone loves a spreadsheet, but it helps to plan an itinerary. Marking out how many days you’ll be away, and what you’ll need to pay for, will help you budget. Make sure you factor in meals, snacks, drinks, travel costs and activities for each day, as well as your accommodation costs for each night. There’s a great free template on Google Sheets to help you with this.

Don’t forget your first and last day home travel costs – taxis to the airport, parking or dog sitters etc.

7. Make Your Vacay Pay 

A smart way to make your stay pay for itself is to rent out your own home while you travel. On Kid & Coe you set per night rates along with dates that suit you while the team takes care of your listing and promotion. London-based blogger Vanessa Boz, host of The Mas de la Roubine Residence, was able to cover airfares for her family of five to Mauritius by listing her home on the platform, and she’s one of many globally-focused parents doing the same. 

You can also opt in to the Kid & Coe Exchange program. For an annual subscription fee of $99, homeowners listed on the site can swap their homes with others listed on the site. It’s a really easy way to find family-friendly accommodation on a budget and a great way to start a traveling habit as a family. 

8. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Making last-minute decisions or panic buying snacks on a flight is going to add more costs to your budget. Take the time to prepare in any way you can and book ahead to save even more money.

  • Book travel insurance as soon as possible to cover any eventualities, and book car rental and/or parking in advance.
  • Rack up those rewards points. Some airlines such as British Airways run loyalty schemes or credit card products to help you build up points you can transfer into flights.
  • Look into public transportation. Check your options for public transport on arrival, to avoid paying for taxis or car hire unless you really need it.
  • Check the weather ahead of time so you know what to pack, and won’t have to buy emergency layers.
  • Use a travel app. Store all of this information on a fantastic travel app such as Tripit, so you don’t forget! The app can store all the details of your trip, from flights and accommodation to check in times and insurance details, and makes it easy to keep everything in one place. 

Book Your Next Affordable Stay With Kid & Coe 

When it comes to travel, it pays to plan ahead. Check out our collection of Affordable Getaways to help you find the best family-friendly vacation home and plan the best family vacation on a budget.

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Laura Hall

Founding Director, Kid & Coe

    Stay in the worlds most

    Kid-friendly Homes

    View our top destinations and book your perfect family vacation today.