Planning a Great Family Vacation on a Budget

Why you should take a vacation.

  • It is a time to get away from ministry responsibilities and pressures.
  • It is a time to eat out and play hard.
  • It is a break in the routine.
  • It allows the family to spend quality time together.
  • It enlarges your children's world and thus their view of God.
There are 10 reasons people do not take family vacations.
  1. They can't afford it.
  2. If they put all the children in one vehicle, at least two of them will be touching, which will cause havoc.
  3. Dad never wants to stop until they have reached their GOAL.
  4. They can't afford it.
  5. They are afraid that the church cannot function without them.
  6. They could never fit everything needed for their family in one vehicle.
  7. They can't afford it.
  8. It takes a lot of planning and there is no time to plan.
  9. Vacation time is for cleaning or remodeling the house.
  10. They can't afford it.
The cost of a vacation is not necessarily in proportion to the enjoyment of the trip or the priceless family memories. You can have a quality vacation on a shoestring budget. Making that happen requires you plan cheap, pack cheap, and play cheap.

Plan cheap

Decide what type of vacation spot your family would like to visit. Consider

  • Amusement parks
  • National parks and other highly scenic destinations.
  • Historical places of interest (battlefields, homesteads, and even cemeteries).
  • Educational attractions (museums, zoos)
  • Beach
  • Big city
  • Religious retreats (Try Church Leadership Week at Ridgecrest or Glorieta)
  • Family visits
  • Campgrounds

Make decisions about what type of destinations to include in your travel plans.

  • Get family input.
  • Include the money issue from the start.
  • Plan more than one type of activity in your plans.
  • Do some research in the dreaming stage (use official websites from various locations).
  • Make a tentative itinerary.

Develop a budget including as many details as possible.

  • Money for parking
  • Toll roads
  • Gas
  • Motels
  • Entrance fees
  • Meals
  • Souvenirs
  • Snacks

Pack cheap

Include as many snacks and drinks as will fit in the car. Take a variety of medicines and a first aid kit. Bring extra film, disposable cameras, memory cards, video tapes and batteries for your cameras.

Play cheap

  • Look for and use coupons.
  • Try splitting meals at nice restaurants.
  • Decide in advance that everyone will drink water for certain meals out.
  • Eat your biggest meal at noon from the luncheon menu.
  • Buy small, inexpensive souvenirs, like magnets and Christmas ornaments, rather than T-shirts for everyone.
  • Have the children in the family earn their own souvenir money before the vacation.
When there is free time, look for fun that is free:
  • Swimming in the hotel pool
  • Walking around a mall
  • Hiking at a park
  • Playing a game in the room
  • Free fireworks displays
  • Walking on the beach
  • Watching the sunset

I am convinced that even if the planning, packing, and playing are all done on a low budget, the memories can be priceless.

Debbie Lawson is a minister’s wife, a mother of four, and a nurse manager for a nursing home in Vandalia, Illinois.

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