Thursday, June 21, 2012

Disney World Family Vacation on a Budget

And Finally, We Saw the Castle!

One month ago, we took our first family trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  Since this trip was going to cost more than our typical family vacation, we tried to use as many money saving ideas as possible.  We enjoyed our trip and were happy with the results of our money saving ideas. 

We opted to drive rather than fly in order to save money.  It was about a fourteen hour drive for us.  We used two days to drive to Orlando and used points we had earned and purchased to stay for only $11 at a Quality Inn for one night.  Once we arrived at our destination, we stayed 7 nights and then drove straight home (which was rough!)  We spent one day at Magic Kingdom, one day at Hollywood Studios, one day at Animal Kingdom, one day at Sea World and a few hours at Typhoon Lagoon.    

Silver Lake Resort Condo in Kissimmee, FL
Living Room of Our Condo
We booked our trip online through a travel service that sold time share packages.  We stayed at Silver Lake Resort in Kissimmee.  We received all the promised tickets after attending the time share presentation.  We loved the resort and our condo was perfect!  As expected, the time share presentation was a little difficult especially while trying to keep our two little ones entertained.

We purchased four certificates before leaving home for two restaurants in Orlando and two in Kissimmee.  We used three of the four on our trip.  Overall, we were happy with the restaurants and the savings.  In the future, we will most likely just purchase certificates for the Kissimmee area since that seemed to be more convenient.  We did save a little on those meals, but also found it was a great chance to tip more generously!  We also took advantage of a Kids Eat Free meal at IHOP. 
We did take soda, milk and snacks into the Disney Parks.  I purchased a couple of cute Igloo cooler bags from Kroger that worked perfectly and fit well in our stroller.  We did save a lot by not having to purchase drinks or snacks in the parks.  We tried to avoid eating at the parks when at all possible.  We also used our own stroller rather than paying to rent a stroller from the parks.

Our total cost for our trip was around $2,800.  However, we did splurge on a princess makeover at Downtown Disney which cost about $200.  So, it is possible to take a family vacation on a budget at Disney World! 

One of the Parades at Disney

Monday, May 7, 2012

Almost Time for Disney

In a couple weeks, we will be heading to Orlando, FL for our next family vacation.  We are very excited!  This will be our first trip as a family to Disney World and Sea World.  This is also our first trip where we have planned carefully to try to limit our expenses.  We started planning in February for our trip in May.  We have always dreamed of going to Disney World but did not expect to go this soon.  We thought we would wait until our kids were a little older.  There were a couple reasons that we decided to go this year.
1) We are staying at a time share and feel like we are getting a good deal.  The total is much cheaper than what we expected for a trip to Disney World.
2)  Our youngest is 2 and is free to Disney World and SeaWorld which is saving us a couple hundred dollars.

There are a few other things that we have planned to save money while on our trip.
1) We used points that we had earned through Choice Hotels reward program to pay for most of the cost of a hotel room to spend the night on our way to Orlando.
2)  We are planning to drive straight home after our trip without spending the night.
3)  We purchased several vouchers from for restaurants in the Orlando area to try to reduce the amount of a few of our nicer meals.
4)  We are going to take lunches and snacks with us into the parks at Disney World.
5)  We are taking our own stroller instead of renting a stroller.
6)  We are loaded down with restaurant coupons and will try to use those when possible.
7)  The tickets that we purchased for Sea World come with either Free Meals for the day or a second visit to the park.  We are going to take the Free Meals option.
8)  We plan on eating at Steak and Shake on the weekend since kids eat free on the weekends.  (That is the promotion that runs in our state, so as long as that is true, we will eat there.)  We will keep our eyes open for any other restaurant promotions for Free Kids Meals.
9)  The place we are staying has a full kitchen, so we will buy groceries for our breakfast and may possibly cook our own meals a couple times.
10) Our time share promotion came with a Kids Eat Free card that is accepted at various restaurants in the area. We will use that when possible.

Most importantly, we are planning on having a great time!  We can't wait to see the smiles on our children's faces!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lodging Help for Family Vacations on a Budget

Have you decided on your family vacation destination, but haven't figured out where to stay?  If your family is like ours, we really prefer to stay somewhere where we have a little more space than a standard hotel room.  We also enjoy having a kitchen.  It just seems to make our vacation a little more relaxing.  If so, Vacation Rentals By Owner may be for you.  This is a site where you can find homes to rent while on your vacation.  I have not personally booked lodging through this site, however I know people who have used it and were happy with their lodging.  This is a good place to start if you know your destination for  your family vacations on a budget, but are unsure where to stay.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Family Vacations on a Budget - St Louis, MO

Have you ever been to St. Louis, MO?  This city is full of things to do for family vacations on a budget.  We love the St. Louis Zoo.  Admission is FREE.  However, there are several things to do within the zoo that have admission costs and you must pay for parking in the zoo lots.  We have been to several other zoos and this one is really good compared to some of those.  Other good places for families are the City Museum, Science Center,and Grant's Farm.  General admission is FREE to the Science Center but there are admission prices for some of the attractions.  Admission is also FREE to Grant's Farm, but there is a parking fee.  These attractions are just a few of the available things to do in St. Louis.  With some attractions not charging admission fees, it is possible to take fun family vacations on a budget to St. Louis.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ideas for Family Vacations on a Budget

Are you having a difficult time deciding where to go for your family vacations on a budget?  Here are a few places that we have enjoyed on our family vacations.

1.) Branson, MO

2.) Gatlinburg, TN

3.) Chattanooga, TN

4.) Estes Park, CO

Monday, March 26, 2012

Try for Family Vacations on a Budget is currently offering $25 gift certificates for $2 when you use code BLOOM at checkout.  If you know where you are going on your next family vacations on a budget, you could save some cash on meals by purchasing several gift certificates to use on your trip.  The code is valid through 3/31.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ideas for Making Family Vacations on a Budget Possible

Vacations are a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with your family.  However, any type of trip seems to take quite a bit of money.  If your family doesn't have a lot of extra money, this can be a major source of stress during your family vacation.  If this is this case, try these tips when planning your family vacations on a budget.

1) Select a location that is within a couple hours of driving from your home.
2) Take snacks and meal items with you for the drive.
3) Be creative in your selection of a place to stay and meals.
4) Pick one or two activities that your family really wants to do that you will have to pay for and then try to find a few free things to do.
5) Limit the length of your vacation to 2 or 3 nights.
6) Spend a little time relaxing at your hotel or wherever you decide to stay.

Remember, the most important part of family vacations on a budget is enjoying your family.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Destination for Family Vacations on a Budget

Looking for somewhere different to go for your next family vacation on a budget?  Try Branson, MO.  Branson is a wonderful place with a lot of things to do.  It is similar to Gatlinburg, TN.  So, if you enjoyed Gatlinburg, then Branson may be a good choice for you.  Branson has a lot of options for lodging.  For ideas on how to save, check out my post on lodging and meals

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

What is Important for Family Vacations on a Budget

Each family has their own desires when planning family vacations on a budget.  What is important to your family when taking a vacation?  We have several things that are important to our family when taking family vacations on a budget.  We are particular when determining where we will stay.  Regardless of the destination, we like to stay somewhere that is a home away from home.  Therefore, we try to find a cabin or condo with a full kitchen and plenty of beds and bathrooms.  My husband really wants to have some relaxation time on vacation as well as several activities.  We make sure we are happy with the lodging before making any other plans.  We also like to see the area's attractions.  We still have not taken a beach vacation and I'm sure when we do, we will spend quite a bit of time doing other things in addition to a little time in the sun.  In order to plan the ideal family vacations on a budget for your family, you need to decide what is most important to your family, such as lodging, activities, or relaxing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Family Vacations on a Budget - Daily Deal Sites

The other day while in the drive-thru at McDonalds, I noticed a sign regarding livingsocial deals.  I had not heard of that before, so I did a quick search online.  livingsocial is another daily deal site with great deals for various products or services.  Some of the deals available are for vacation packages.  The savings on these packages are significant.  This seems like a good idea for planning family vacations on a budget.  I have not personally used this site yet but have used a couple of the other daily deals sites.  Browsing the daily deal sites may help you decide where to go for your family vacations on a budget and hopefully get a great deal.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Quick Tip for Family Vacations on a Budget

If there is a hotel brand that you prefer to stay at when traveling, check to see if the hotel offers a reward program where you can earn points for each stay.  Sometimes the points can be redeemed for FREE nights which could be a big help for family vacations on a budget. The program that we joined offers points for each stay.  Once you have earned enough points, you can redeem for a free night.  However, there is also an option to purchase extra points if you do not have enough to redeem a free night.  Family vacations on a budget are possible with a little extra planning.

Why Bother to Take Family Vacations on a Budget

With all of the expenses of having a family, the idea of even attempting to take a family vacation can be overwhelming or completely disheartening.  When my husband and I got married, we both wanted to take annual vacations.  So far, I think we have only missed one year.  However, the cost is very important to us when deciding where to go for our family vacations on a budget.  Our budget for vacations is usually about $1,500 to $2,000.  That still may be a lot for many families and often we could use that money for other things.  However, I want to share what I believe is important for families trying to spend time together.  We have found that our family vacations on a budget are a special time with just the four of us.  We have an opportunity to enjoy each other without the distraction of the chores to be done at home and worries of work.  We enjoy doing activities together on our trips while making wonderful memories for all of us.  It is a perfect time to focus on loving each member of your family.  And, if you drive, plenty of time to talk! 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Quick Tip for Family Vacations on a Budget

In the early planning stages of your family vacations on a budget, a good way to save money is to determine when the off season and peak seasons are for your destination area.  Many lodging options offer discounted rates during the off season.  In addition to saving on lodging costs, there will not be as many people vacationing in that area as during the peak season which may result in more enjoyable family vacations on a budget.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Chattanooga, TN - Family Vacations on a Budget

As I mentioned earlier, I am going to put together a few posts on ideas for places to visit for family vacations on a budget.  Regardless of the location you choose for your family vacations on a budget, keep in mind the suggestions I posted earlier for making almost any vacation a little cheaper.  Last year, we took a short trip to Chattanooga, TN.  We found plenty of fun activities that our whole family enjoyed.  In order to save a little money, we only picked a few activities, but there were several others that we would like to do and maybe will some day on other family vacations on a budget.  For a good place to start for planning your vacation to Chattanooga, TN, check out .  Some of the attractions we visited were the Tennessee Aquarium, Imax 3D Theater, Creative Discovery Museum, and the Incline Railway.  Remember, when purchasing tickets, it is cheaper to purchase a bundle instead of each ticket individually.  While we were there, we found a coupon booklet at our hotel that offered discounts for restaurants.  Also take a look at  There are several restaurants in Chattanooga on this site where you can purchase gift certificates for less than face value.  Do not forget to purchase from when they are running a sale to save even more. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Each year when we start discussing where to go for family vacations on a budget, we struggle deciding which location to choose.  We always search the web for ideas, but still have a difficult time coming up with a new location.  We also discuss ideas with family and friends and Facebook friends, and still have difficulty.  So, over the next couple weeks, I am going to put together posts on various locations where I believe you could plan fun family vacations on a budget.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Family Vacations on a Budget - Major Areas to Save - Part 4

Finally, to Part 4 of Major Areas to Save for family vacations on a budget.  The final area that I wanted to discuss is what will you actually "do" on your vacation.  Some families prefer to relax while others stay busy seeing the sites.  We try to do a little of both on most of our vacations.  So, if you are a family who likes to relax, you will probably be able to take cheaper family vacations on a budget than those who like to see everything they can see.  Here are a few ideas for those families who want to save on their vacation activities.

  • Check the websites of places you plan to visit before you leave home to see if there are any coupons available.
  • Keep your eyes open for coupons in newspapers, on soda cans, etc.  In our area, there are often coupons for Six Flags in St. Louis on soda cans.
  • Some attractions offer a discount if you purchase tickets to several places at the same time.  When we travel to Gatlinburg, TN, there are discounts available if you purchase tickets for several of the Ripley attractions in one purchase.
  • Timeshares - Timeshares not only offer discounts on lodging, but also on attraction tickets.  We are planning a trip to Orlando, FL in May.  We are going to stay at a timeshare resort where we are receiving a good price on lodging, tickets to Disney World and Sea World.  
Check back often for more ideas for taking family vacations on a budget!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Family Vacations on a Budget - Major Areas to Save - Part 3

Another major area where you may be able to save money for family vacations on a budget is travel expenses.  Travel expenses are costs such as airline tickets and gas.  For savings on airline tickets, it is important to check the price of flights from different airlines.  You may find cheaper tickets just by flying with a different airline.  Another option is to book your flight through travel websites, such as or  An idea to save money on gas is to purchase gas from stations who may offer discounts.  For instance, Kroger customers with a Kroger Plus card can get cents off gas by scanning their Kroger card.  Another option is to purchase your gas with a credit card that offers cash back on gas purchases.  We have a credit card that offers 5% cash back on gas purchases at different times during the year.  While that isn't a big savings, it will help a little.  Keep in mind, however, that if you do not pay off the balance of the credit card each month, you will not be saving any money.  Family vacations on a budget are possible with a little creative savings thinking.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Family Vacations on a Budget - Areas to Save - Part 2

As I mentioned earlier, one of the major areas where you can save money during family vacations on a budget are meals.  Typically, when we go on vacation, we eat most of our lunches and dinners at restaurants.  However, we either bring breakfast items with us or stop at a grocery store when we arrive to purchase our breakfast items.  If we are not going to be staying in a cabin or condo, we try to find a hotel with a free breakfast.  So, breakfast is an easy meal to save money for us.  Plus, we save a little time by having a quick breakfast.  Another way to save on meals, when taking family vacations on a budget, is to eat lunch at sit down restaurants rather than eating dinner there.  Those types of restaurants should have a special lunch menu with cheaper prices.  Other ideas include checking restaurant websites and Facebook pages for coupons and using  While driving through the city you are visiting, look for specials posted on the restaurant signs.  We have eaten at several restaurants while on vacation based on the specials listed on their signs.  It does take a little effort, but it is possible to save on meals while taking family vacations on a budget.

Family Vacations on a Budget - Areas to Save - Part 1

On any vacation, lodging is a large part of the total cost of the vacation.  When you are trying to take family vacations on a budget, there are several avenues you can pursue to reduce the cost of your lodging.  Here are a few ideas.
  • Camping
  • Timeshare
  • Book cabin rentals when specials are available, such as stay four nights get one free
  • Travel with another family to split the cost of a vacation home or cabin rental
Although the above lodging ideas may not be exactly what you would prefer to do on your vacation, these are a few ideas to cut expenses if that is important to you.  For families who need to take family vacations on a budget, as we often do, these suggestions are great tips to research in order to save money.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Family Vacations on a Budget - Major Areas to Save

There are a few major areas on which to concentrate when planning family vacations on a budget.

1.) Lodging
2.) Meals
3.) Travel expenses - Gas, Airline Tickets, Car Rentals
4.) Things to Do

Over the next few posts, I will create a list of ideas to save in each of these areas.  Hopefully, some of my suggestions will help your family be able to take many family vacations on a budget in the years to come.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Disney World Family Vacations on a Budget

We are currently planning our next trip in May to add to our years of family vacations on a budget.  We are very excited to be going to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  A couple months ago when we started discussing where we could go for vacation this year, I checked the cost of packages at Disney World on their website.  The cost was about $1,500 to $2,000 more than what we were prepared to spend for our typical vacation.  My aunt suggested looking at timeshare offers.  We did and found that it was perfect for us to enjoy another of our family vacations on a budget.  We will have to attend a 90 minute presentation where they try to convince you to buy a timeshare, but the savings is worth 90 minutes to us.  The timeshare package we booked includes a seven night stay in a two bedroom condo, 3 three day tickets to Disney World, 3 tickets to SeaWorld (includes free food for the day at SeaWorld), and 2 Kids Eat Free Cards.  In addition to the savings the timeshare offer presents, we also are taking advantage of our youngest child being FREE to Disney and SeaWorld since he is only 2.  That saves quite a bit!

Destination Favorites for Family Vacations on a Budget

One of our family's favorite vacation spots is the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area in Tennessee.  We love staying in the cabins in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville.  There are many cabins available for rent.  This is a wonderful place to go if you enjoy relaxing and prefer not to stay in a hotel.  We have vacationed in that area four times in the past nine years.  Each time, we have rented a different cabin in either Pigeon Forge or Sevierville.

For family vacations on a budget, this area has several things to offer.  Whether you prefer to hike or drive, you will love the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The park is FREE to visit.  This is a wonderful place for those of all ages.  If you do visit the park, you just might see a black bear.  We were excited to see bears on two of our visits.  If you have young children, another FREE activity is to picnic or just play at the local parks.  Our children are both under five and they are always happy to have some time to simply play.

We always stay in a cabin that has a full kitchen.  So, we enjoy a couple of meals at the cabin to help save on the cost of meals.  Plus, it is a great time to just enjoy each other as a family.  Many cabins are equipped with pool tables, hot tubs, and DVD players which also provide some relaxing entertainment without additional costs.  There are a few Redbox Movie Rental Kiosks for cheap dvd renting in Pigeon Forge.

Family vacations on a budget can be a reality, with a little online research and creative thinking.

Saving on Meals for Family Vacations on a Budget

As we prepare for our next trip to add to our memories of family vacations on a budget, we are thinking about ways to save money on our meals.  We are planning to go to Orlando for seven nights and stay in a time-share resort that has a full kitchen.  So, for this particular trip, we are going to save on meals by
1. Taking breakfast items with us from home or stopping at a grocery store in Orlando. 2. We received a Kids Eat Free Card when we booked our lodging.  So, we will use that whenever possible.  3. We may try to prepare a few meals in our suite.  4. We are going to buy several gift cards from for various restaurants in Orlando hopefully when they are running a good sale on the cards.  5.  We will also look for any restaurants running Kids Eat Free promotions.  With all of these possibilities, we should be able to save quite a bit.  We will be keeping our eyes open for any other ideas to help save on our family vacations on a budget.

Family Vacations on a Budget

Each year when deciding where to go for our family vacation, we always have the same questions.  Where can we go that will be fun, but affordable?  How can we cut costs to add another trip to our memories of family vacations on a budget?  Following are a few ideas to help make your memories of family vacations on a budget.

1.) Select a destination that is within your comfortable driving distance to avoid the cost of airline tickets.
2.) If you prefer not to stay in hotels, search online for deals for cabins, etc.  In the past, we have stayed in places that offered, buy 2 nights get 2 free.
3.) Research the off-season for your destination.  This may help with lodging costs.
4.) Stay in a time-share resort.  You will have to attend a presentation, but it might be worth it in order to stay within your budget.
5.) If you do stay in a place that has a kitchen, choose to eat some of your meals there instead of eating out.
6.) Stay at a hotel that offers FREE breakfast, or bring breakfast items with you.
7.) Eat at restaurants that offer FREE kids meals.
8.) Search online for discounted attraction tickets.
9.) If you have very young children (under 3), look for attractions where that age group is FREE or heavily discounted, but is still something they would enjoy.
10.) Always include some FREE activities in your itinerary, such as visiting local parks or wildlife, nature areas.

Remember to "think differently" when planning your family vacations on a budget.