Are Your Family Vacations Frugal or Expensive?

frugal family vacations

Road Trip

As a kid the vacations my family went on were very inexpensive road trips.

Some years we simply did a one day trip to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio where we would spend all day on the amusement park rides. I loved, loved, loved them!!

Other years my parents would rent a cottage for a week or two in Quebec, and we would drive there and back. 

Cottage Country

cottage vacationThe cottages they rented were very rustic and usually close to a lake, so that we could do lots of swimming and fishing.

They brought all of the food that we would need for the week or two so that we wouldn’t have to dine out.

They would go fishing while we were there so that my Mom could make fish for dinner some nights.

The drive there and back was always non-stop and probably took about 12 hours each way.

But once we were there our days were quite relaxing and fun. We would play badminton or Frisbee, float on a raft on the water for hours, or just do nothing at all. If it rained, we would stay in our tiny cottage and play cards or board games.

As a young kid it never really occurred to me that my parents chose these types of family vacations as a way to save money each year.

But looking back I can see that my parents put a lot of effort into creating these family vacations for us while allowing themselves to stay within their frugal budget.

They both worked hard to earn a living and to make sure that they always remained debt free. And if that meant that our family vacations only consisted of road trips, cottages, and amusement parks, then that was the way it was.

And as a kid it never really bothered me that we didn’t fly to Europe for 2 weeks in the summer or go to the Caribbean for 2 weeks in the winter. At the time no one that I knew was doing that either. Actually I felt lucky that we even went on a vacation every summer as some of my friend’s families didn’t.

Your Turn

How about you? As a kid what types of vacations did you and your family go on? Were they frugal vacations or expensive vacations?

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    • DC @ Young Adult Money

      DC @ Young Adult Money 03/06/2013 5:18 a.m. #

      Frugal almost without exception. Once a year we'd go up to the lake for a week and twice when I was younger we road tripped to Florida (these were our more expensive vacations). Overall, though, my family gave me great memories without breaking the bank.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 03/06/2013 10:50 a.m. #

        Just going to the lake for a week can be a lot of fun, and really costs so little.

    • Alexa

      Alexa 03/06/2013 5:49 a.m. #

      As a kid we went one on big vacation to Disney World. Other than that our vacations were alwasy frugal. I am from Ohio so we spent some time at Kings Island, Sea World, and Cedar Point as well. I always loved going to amusement parks!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 03/06/2013 10:52 a.m. #

        You were very lucky! I always wanted to go to Disney World, and still do. But yes, Cedar Point was fun too and it looks like they have really expanded the park.

    • Michelle

      Michelle 03/06/2013 6:31 a.m. #

      Our vacations have a wide range. We get cheap, really discounted flights due to benefits I inherited, but we always splurge on hotels.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 03/06/2013 10:53 a.m. #

        When I travel now I look for nice hotels. I don't remember ever staying in a hotel as a young kid.

    • Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank

      Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank 03/06/2013 7:09 a.m. #

      I was really lucky as a child, my parents took us on holidays about 2-3 times a year and we got to travel all over most of Queensland and New South Wales (States in Australia). I didn't realise it at the time, but this was not normal for kids and so now as an adult I really appreciate what my parents did for me.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 03/06/2013 10:55 a.m. #

        Sounds like you had wonderful family holidays. Australia looks so beautiful.

    • John S @ Frugal Rules

      John S @ Frugal Rules 03/06/2013 7:09 a.m. #

      Growing up our vacations were generally pretty frugal in nature. We visited family a lot so that helped make it more frugal. We're pretty frugal as well now on vacations. With little ones, it makes no sense to spend a lot of money as they'll simply not remember it.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 03/06/2013 10:57 a.m. #

        Many people would visit and stay with family as a way to keep costs low.

    • krantcents

      krantcents 03/06/2013 10:21 a.m. #

      Although it was a long time ago, our family vacations were frugal. They were fun and usually done with friends and children that my children knew and played with. We would share a house on the beach for a week. The families cooked and shared food and it was a fun time.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 03/06/2013 10:58 a.m. #

        Sharing a house on the beach for a week is a fun option, especially if everyone gets along well.

    • Corina Ramos

      Corina Ramos 03/06/2013 11:15 a.m. #

      Since we lived by Galveston island our vacations were very frugal but we had so much fun.

      The best memory I have is when we went camping. It was our family and a couple others and that made it more fun. We played badminton and of course I was the oldest so I was the coolest ;)

      Nowadays they're calling it staycations and that's what we do. We take our kids to the beach but now they're older and don't want to hang out with us so my next vacation may be just for two...yay LOL :)

      Great post Sicorra, thanks for sharing your story!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 03/06/2013 11:27 a.m. #

        That does sound like a lot of fun Corina! My first camping trip wasn't until I was old enough to go on my own with just friends. Camping can be alot of fun if you find the right place to go. You and your husband definitely need to make plans for a vacation for TWO :-)

    • CarolB

      CarolB 03/06/2013 11:42 a.m. #


      As a kid, my family didn't travel. With six kids, travel just wasn't in the budget. Our "big" trips were a four drive to stay with family in Green Bay WI.

      Fast forward to today. We've camped and brought our own food, and we've stayed at some pretty nice resorts. I want to travel with my kids before they are gone, so as a family, we do both versions, though even our version of expensive is not what others would pay for the same trip! I'm always looking for ways to trim the fat so we can afford to go to places we might otherwise not go to.

      This year, it's all about the frugal vacations. Hiking, biking, staying with family, driving instead of flying, staying where we can bring in our own food. Saving up for an expensive one in 2014!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 03/06/2013 12:49 p.m. #

        I know you enjoy traveling and it is a good idea to do as many trips as you can while your kids still want to go with you. You are also very good at finding deals, as per your blog posts, which allows you guys to do more. Is the 2014 trip the one to Canada?

        • CarolB

          CarolB 03/07/2013 5:27 a.m. #

          Funny you should ask! Canada is summer 2013! Nova Scotia to be exact. Between hotel rewards and sticking to free stuff like hiking and biking, we've brought that trip down into the reasonable price range. It's also the 300 year anniversary of Fort Louisbourgh and I wanted to be there for the cultural festival. One branch of my French-Canadian ancestry began in Nova Scotia so I've wanted to explore this area for years.

          We are hoping to go really big in 2014! I've been banking frequent flyer points to get us to Peru or Europe. Wish me luck!

    • femmefrugality

      femmefrugality 03/06/2013 1:03 p.m. #

      Ours were mostly frugal, and I'm realizing that as I go on vacations with my own family and following in those same footsteps. We mostly stay with family/friends, take day trips, and don't need 5-star hotel accommodations. One time we did go to Disney World as teens, but that was the most lavish one we ever did and had been one of my mom's dreams/financial goals since we were little.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 03/06/2013 5:43 p.m. #

        You are lucky to have been to Disney. I would love that.
        I guess it was more common then I realized for families to take less expensive vacations.

    • Justin@TheFrugalPath

      Justin@TheFrugalPath 03/06/2013 8:14 p.m. #

      We used to do a yearly trip to Cedar Point as well. I can't do the big rides though, bad fear of heights.
      Our trips were pretty frugal. We'd go camping mostly, which was a lot of fun. One year we took a month long trip from Michigan to California and back again. It was great and we had time to bond. I don't think we would've been able to afford it if we hadn't camped for 90% of the trip.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 03/07/2013 11:16 a.m. #

        Amazing how many of us have been to Cedar Point. Sorry to hear you have a fear of heights though. Your month long trip across the country sounds like it was a lot of fun. So much to see.

    • Kevin Watts @Graduatingfromdebt

      Kevin Watts @Graduatingfromdebt 03/06/2013 8:39 p.m. #

      I actually never had a family vacation as a kid. Since my mom dad didn't live together. As a kid my mom would be send to live with my aunt or uncle in Panama or Nicaragua and just stay there for 3 months. Looking back, I have fond memories of those trips.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 03/07/2013 11:18 a.m. #

        I've heard that Panama is a very interesting place to visit. You were fortunate to have that opportunity.

    • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

      Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 03/07/2013 11:13 a.m. #

      Looking back, our family vacations were pretty nice but our family was fairly well-to-do. At the same time, they didn't spend more than they could afford either because my father was always very prudent with his money. He enjoyed many fine things but always within his budget. And that's a great lesson he taught me. It's not wrong or bad to have nice things, but make sure they are the things you truly want and can afford. Today, I'm grateful to be able to take my girls on some nice trips too, but we share with our girls how much we have to save for these trips and how hard we work to earn the money to go.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 03/07/2013 5:16 p.m. #

        You were fortunate to learn some extremely valuable financial lessons from your father. I bet your vacations were a lot of fun when you were kids too.

    • pauline

      pauline 03/07/2013 11:57 a.m. #

      We always took the car and drove to either set

      of grandparents. On my mother's side it was a

      small country house with not much to do, so

      super cheap, on my father's it was an island

      so we sometimes had sailing classes and the

      food was really expensive. They didn't pay

      rent and had a boat there so overall the

      holidays were pretty cheap. We never went to a

      resort until we were 10 or so.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 03/07/2013 5:17 p.m. #

        Visiting an island and learning how to sail sounds like the perfect vacation to me :-)

    • Alan@escapingmydebt

      Alan@escapingmydebt 04/21/2013 4:18 p.m. #

      Most of my vacations were just to the beach where we rented a house for a week. We also used to have yard sales to help get some of the money for the trip. Since we stayed at a house we did not go out to eat. We fished and went crabbing instead of buying either. My parents later bought a piece of real estate in the community we would go to and now they have a house down there. They are now the people renting the property.

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