Thrifty Summer Travel Ideas

Sharing is caring!

As I mentioned yesterday, I had the opportunity to be on the 24/7 Moms Live Webcast with Trisha Novotny.  We had a blast talking about thrifty summer travel ideas! If you missed the show, don’t worry because she will have the webcast up soon at 24/7 Moms, so you can watch it anytime.

I’ve also written out the tips that I shared last night so that you can look up the links & have it to refer to later.  You can use these tips for big family vacations, “staycations” (playing tourist in your own area), or even just day excursions during the summertime!

Do Your Research – Start planning as soon as you can, whether it be for a short weekend trip or a week-long trip. The sooner you start planning, the more opportunities you’ll find for discounts.

1. Resources to use when researching the city or area you’ll be visiting

  • Chamber of Commerce – Visit their website or call the Chamber of Commerce directly
  • Convention & Visitor Bureau’s website (just google “Dallas Convention & Visitor’s Bureau” for example). Great resource for general information, kid-friendly activities, coupons/deals & more
  • Facebook Pages –  Try the “Discover” pages. Ex: Discover Atlanta, Discover New York; or “365 Things to do in Seattle” (or you name the town). You’ll find not only the popular sights to see, but also readers will provide their favorite off-the-beaten path places to visit.

2. Make list of top places to visit

  • Wish List – Once you’ve done your research, then come up with your wish list of sights to see, sporting events, restaurants, parks, beaches, etc
  • Make this a family affair – get your kids involved in the planning & deciding what they’d like to do on vacation.

3. Look for Discounts

  • Buy an Entertainment Book – Currently $15 with FREE shipping. You’ll find discounts for hotel, car rental, airlines, Buy 1 Get 1 Free coupons for restaurants, sporting events, museums/children’s museums, zoos, aquariums, science centers
  • – They offer 5-6 top sightseeing sights in a package deal which is up to 50% off admission prices. Valid for 9 days (14 days in Southern CA). Decide whether this would be a good deal for your family or not – how many of the places were you wanting to go to? Or is it a better deal to look for individual discounts?
  • Websites – Check out the specific websites for the attractions, sporting events, museums, hotels, & more. May have web-only specials or special discount/free days (ex: Museums often offer a FREE day 1 day or night/month.  Also, sign up for E-Newsletters to be notified of special promotions, discounts & more.
  • Follow the businesses/attractions on Facebook & Twitter – often post one-day deals or specials for their fans
  • Sign up for the daily emails for group-buying sites .  These sites offer 1 Day deals with 50-90% off discounts for restaurants, sightseeing tours, memberships to zoos, aquariums, hotel discounts & more
  • Here are a few of the top group buying sites:
  • Tippr
  • Groupon
  • Living Social
  • Savvy Source – Offer 50% savings on admission/memberships to Children’s Museums & more; in 5 cities currently w/a new city added each week (Seattle, LA, San Francisco Bay area, Philadelphia & Dallas/Ft Worth)
  • Reciprocal Membership Programs at museums, zoos, science centers – If you have an annual membership to your local museum, zoo,science center – check to see if they are part of a Reciprocal Membership program where you can get FREE admission to zoos, aquariums & more around the country. Go on the website or call them to find out.
  • Military Discounts Blue Star Museum Program – Free admission for active-duty military & their families to over 600 museums nationwide this summer (Memorial Day-Labor Day 2010); Also, make sure to ask about military discounts anywhere you go.
  • National Park PassAmerica the Beautiful annual pass – $80 for up to 4 adults & kids 16 & under are free. Good deal if you’ll be going to a number of parks throughout this year.
  • Certificates – You can buy $25 gift certificates for just $10. Look up restaurants for the cities you’ll be visiting. Even better, sign up for their updates & they often have sales – right now they have an 80% off sale -making the gift cards just $2 for a $25 gift certificate. Use the coupon code: FLAG (this code is valid thru May 31, 2010)

4. Free / Inexpensive Places to go with your Kids on Vacation:

  • Find out about local festivals & fairs – free entertainment, lots of food options, games/activities for kids
  • City, County or State Parks – Find ones near rivers, lakes, ocean beaches. Check for free events going on while you’re there – nature walks, guided hikes, etc
  • Family-friendly hikes – Check with your Chamber of Commerce or the National Park or National Forest offices
  • Go to the waterfront, beach, walking the boardwalk

5. Ways to Save Money on Food:

Save $$ on food to save up for a few special meals or put the money you save towards more fun attractions & events!

  1. Cooler in the car – Bring a big cooler if traveling by car.  Pack a portable backpack cooler or get a styrofoam cooler if traveling by air to your destination. Bring lunch meat, peanut butter & jelly, bread, cheese sticks, fruit, juice boxes. Don’t forget wipes & napkins!
  2. Water – Bring packs of water for road trips (cheaper than stopping at convenience stores). Or bring reusable water bottles by car or air & fill up throughout the day
  3. Stop at rest stops versus convenience stores – means less impulse-buying!
  4. Choose hotels with free breakfast or eat breakfast in your room. Bring cereal & buy milk at the store-use with paper cups. Or bring instant oatmeal & use the coffee pot for water.
  5. Switch & have sandwiches for a picnic dinner at the park – then make lunch your bigger meal out (less expensive than dinner)

6. Ways to Save Money on Lodging:

  1. Use travel sites such as Travelocity, Hotwire, Kayak, & Priceline
  2. Hotel Website – Go to the specific hotel’s website & look for web-only special & sign up for their newsletter. Also, follow on Facebook & Twitter
  3. Ebates & Shop At Home – Book your hotel (& airfare) thru Ebates or Shop At Home to get cash-back on your purchases
  4. Camp to save the most money on lodging & food




  • KOA campgrounds – tent & RV camping, cabins, lodges. Often offer pools, playgrounds, planned activities for kids. Check out the the KOA website under the “Hot Deals” section. And consider the Rewards card for $24/yr – earn points towards free stays.
  • County, State or National Park campgrounds

A big thanks to Lora from Cascadia Kids (a wonderful, informative resource for families traveling around the NW) for many helpful travel tips! Also, thank you to all the Facebook fans who provided the great travel suggestions, too!

Photo Credit: George’s Optical

Similar Posts


Comments are closed.