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Family Vacations on a Budget

June 28, 2017

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Summer’s here and it’s time for a vacation! Or is it?

For some of you a vacation may seem like the optimal way to get away, relax and enjoy some quality time with your family. For others, the thought of a vacation triggers the worry and stress of being able to afford it while juggling the rest of the household bills.

Family on a Vacation

Before you get too wrapped up in thinking that a family vacation is out of reach, take the time to come up with a game plan and make sure you have answers to the following:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • How much?

This list is essentially a play on the five w’s, but instead of why, we’ve added in the most important question of all: how much? While this list may seem trivial, it’s important to look at all aspects of your trip, both big and small. Once you’ve answered the five questions above, you will start to see just how feasible your family vacation really is.

In case you find your family vacation running over budget, we’ve prepared a few useful tips and tricks to help you plan your dream get away.


When it comes to the “who” portion of our list of w’s, it’s important to ask yourself who you’re bringing on this family vacation. Is it just you and your spouse or are you bringing your children? What about grandparents and friends? Once you’ve narrowed down exactly who’s coming on your vacation you can start to plan for the “what.”


The “what” portion is often the part that can make or break a vacation. It asks what you’re going to do on your vacation. Since many tourist-focused activities tend to run up the costs, try finding alternate ways to achieve the same levels of fun and enjoyment. If you’re staying close to home, or at least within Canada, check out the Parks Canada website to find a number of free activities and events happening across the country in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday. Booking in advance and checking out local discount sites are also options to help you shave a few dollars off your final bill.


Next comes “when.” Depending on the time of year you decide to go on vacation, you can either save a bunch or get stuck paying a premium. If you aren’t restricted by spring break or Christmas holidays, try booking your vacation in the off-season or at less desirable times of the year. Take advantage of great deals at popular destinations by travelling during the off season and put those savings towards activities or dinners out once you arrive. Last minute deals are another great option if you’re not constrained to a specific timeline. Check out your favourite travel site or talk to your travel agent to see what options might be available to you.


Now that you’ve determined who’s coming on your vacation, what you’ll be doing and when you’re going to do it you need to think about “where” you’re going to go. When searching for accommodation and transportation, take advantage of all-inclusive packages and deals. These are a great way to stay on budget, as the majority of costs and fees are paid up front – all you have to do is arrive and enjoy! If all-inclusive is not your style, another great alternative is finding a hotel that offers suites with kitchens, giving you the ability to cook and eat from home. Eating out is expensive so whatever way you can cut down on this cost, the better.

If your final destination is closer to home or if you are planning a road trip, here are a few things we’ve found to be helpful in keeping money in our pockets:

  • Camp along the way to save with hotel costs – try booking provincial or national park campsites (this can all be done online) as they tend to be cheaper and are usually located on some of the country’s most prime real estate.
  • Pack a lunch – no matter where you’re going, packing a lunch or snacks can help you skip an expensive meal out.
  • Entertainment – if you’re travelling with little ones, be sure to bring along plenty of water, snacks and activities to keep them occupied. If your children tire easily from the traditional games like “I spy with my little eye,” Pinterest has a never-ending reserve of fun activities and ideas to keep your kids amused.

How much?

With the who, what, when and where now answered, it’s time to add up all the costs to give us the final answer to our five questions: how much? If you’ve followed our steps above, we hope this number is a pleasant surprise. If not, it may mean you need to save a little longer, or perhaps make a change to one of the answers above.

Family vacations are important. You want to be able to enjoy your trip to the fullest, without coming home to an unmanageable pile of vacation debt. Keep in mind our tips above, do as much research as you can and start putting aside “vacation” savings for when the time comes.

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