9 Ways to Save on Your Next Vacation

Traveling on a budget has defined us here at Utah’s Adventure Family. Since our primary income is a school teacher’s salary, it has been necessary for us to learn to travel without spending massive amounts of money. If we can do it, you can do it, too! Here are some tips to help keep your vacations a little more budget-friendly.

Road Trips are a great way to save.

How to Save on Lodging

Choose Cheaper Lodging

We don’t spend a lot of time in the hotel/motel/cabin, of wherever we are staying, so we prefer to choose more affordable housing than luxury housing. We look for lodging that is in a location that works well with our planned adventures, and that appears clean and safe. We read a lot of reviews online. Sometimes we will choose lodging that is a little further away to help us save money. It makes for a longer drive, but an extra gallon of gas is usually much cheaper than staying at a more expensive hotel. Though we do splurge on nice or unique places sometimes, our biggest tip is to opt for cheap lodging if you are trying to stay within a budget.

We choose cheaper lodging that is in a good location for our trip.
We usually only spend time in the hotel at night, so we don’t need anything fancy.

Pick Lodging with Free Breakfast

What better way to save than having one free meal provided for you? We try to choose hotels that offer free breakfast so that we don’t have to spend money on an expensive breakfast. If you’d normally spend $20 on breakfast, the hotel that has breakfast and is a little more expensive, may actually be a better deal.

Home Rental or Hotel

We are often asked if we do a home rental like Airbnb or VRBO instead of a hotel. The answer is: it depends. Sometimes it is a better option to do a home rental if we can get a little closer to our destination. Home rentals also offer you the opportunity to make your own meals, which saves money on food. If you are staying for an extended time, we often choose a home rental because we can do laundry and make ourselves more at home. However, if are stay is short, we usually opt for hotels to avoid cleaning fees and responsibilities that many home rentals require. It’s best to price it out! Make sure to check cleaning fees on rental homes, as that can sometimes make it a more expensive stay than you expect.

Sometimes we choose an Airbnb if we find it more affordable or if we need laundry!


If you have the gear to camp, this is a great way to find affordable lodging. Campsites are often only $15-$40 depending on where you are going, which is considerably cheaper than a hotel. We love going camping, for a few nights, and it can make the adventure even more memorable. This can be a valuable option if you are looking to save money.

Camping is a great way to take a budget friendly trip!

How to Save on the Food Bill

Bring Your Own Lunch

Our number one money saving tip for budget friendly trips is to bring your own lunch. No matter if we are going on a day trip or on a seven day trip, we always pack a cooler with food for our own lunches. We bring food for sandwiches, fruits/veggies, chips, and usually a small treat. You can also easily bring salad items, or anything that your family enjoys for lunch.

We like to do this for two reasons. Number one, we save a ton of money because we aren’t eating at McDonalds every lunch time. The other reason we like to bring our own lunch is because then we can continue with our adventure without finding a restaurant. It’s great to eat lunch wherever we are, and whenever we are ready. We have eaten right in our van dozens of times.

We find a table and enjoy eating together.
We have been packing a lunch for our trips for a very long time.

If you are flying, you may think it is too difficult to take a cooler. On our adventure to Hawaii, we bought an inexpensive cooler when we arrived in Honolulu. After just one lunch of sandwiches, we’d already saved enough money to justify the cost. At the end of the trip, we got permission to leave it at the rental house for the next renters.

We even use a packed lunch when we fly places.

Consider the Camp Stove

Because we save money packing our own lunch, we usually budget for dinner at a restaurant. We find this to be relaxing and satisfying after a long day of adventuring outdoors. However, there are other ways to save on dinner. We have a small campstove. We pack this, along with a few pans and some quick easy meals, and make something hot for dinner. Often we precook meals such as chili, tacos, or soup before we hit the road. Then we freeze it and warm it over the camp stove. This makes for a nice, cheap, hot meal without eating out. This is also a great option if you have food allergies that you are concerned about.

Here we are in the middle of nowhere eating breakfast for dinner!

How to Save on Adventures

Spend most of your time outdoors

If you choose adventures that are outside, many will be free! State Park and National Park fees are much cheaper than visiting an amusement park, or even going to the movies as a family. Our family loves hiking, wildlife viewing, bird watching, and many other outdoor activities, and this has helped keep our budget down.

Do we believe that there are activities worth paying for? Definitely! And if you include it as part of your plan and budget, then you will be set. Our main tip here is: it’s more about spending a lot of time together, than spending a lot of money together! Time is what creates memories and helps you grow as an adventure family.

We love the outdoors!

Limit Souvenirs

We are not totally against souvenirs. We buy our boys collectible patches when they finish a Junior Ranger program, and we like to collect puzzles from the places we’ve visited. But we have three main tips for souvenirs. Choose the one that best matches your family’s needs.

First, establish a general policy of not buying souvenirs, or only buying specific items. This keeps us from breaking the budget, but it also keeps the clutter out of our house. Honestly, we don’t like a bunch of knick-knacks to store for eternity. As stated, we buy collectible patches or puzzles. We’ve known people to collect pressed pennies, but it’s important to let that be the only souvenir to look forward to. Our kids never beg for souvenirs because they know what to expect.

We buy stickers or patches to go with our Junior Ranger badges.

Another option is to set an allowance. Allow each child $15 (or another set amount), and then refrain from judging how they spend it. If they want a bag of chips at the gas station, so be it! We like this approach because it allows them to make decisions and budget what they’ve been given, and you don’t have to worry about it. We have even let our kids keep the cash if they don’t want to buy anything, and surprisingly, this has become a very popular choice. We don’t mind that our boys choose to delay gratification!

Our youngest loves stuffed animals and usually orders one with his money once we get home because it is cheaper.

Finally, our last suggestion is allow kids to take their own money for souvenirs. If your have older teenagers who have jobs, or if you give allowances, you can let your children bring their own spending money on vacations. Then it doesn’t come out of your budget, and the kids can buy souvenirs or treats all on their own.

Adventure Where You Live

Finally, the reason we started Utah’s Adventure Family all those years ago is because we want to share the beauty of this state. You don’t have to fly to Europe or make a road trip to California to have a great time. There are thousands of awesome adventures right here close to home. We hope you enjoy using our website to find adventures all over Utah that suit your family. Exploring our local state has definitely helped us save on family vacations.

We love taking road trips in Utah!

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