24 Tips to Help You Save Big on Family Travel

By Kyrie Collins, Highlands Ranch-Parker-Castle Rock-Lone Tree Publisher June 21, 2016

Vacations can be expensive, but the family memories and bonding time are well worth the investment. Finding ways to save, both big and small, could make it possible to take a fun family trip more often.

Save on Entertainment

  • Take advantage of reciprocal museum memberships at your destination. You can visit participating museums around the country for free if you have a membership to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver Art Museum, Children's Museum of Denver, and other local venues.
  • Purchase theme park tickets in advance online. Not only will you usually save money, you'll save time by not having to stand in line at the ticket window.
  • Get free entrance at our National Parks. August 25-28, September 24, and November 11 are the remaining free days for 2016. If you have a fourth grader in your family, you can still sign up for the Every Kid in a Park program and receive free entrance every day through August 31 when you are with your child. (Free entrance does not cover amenity or user fees for camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.)
  • Target sponsors free admission on certain days of each month in nearly every major city. You can search for your destination city on Target's Community Events page.
  • The Museums on Us® program gives Bank of America and Merrill Lynch customers free admission to participating museums on the first full weekend of the month.
  • Find a local playground at This site has interactive mapping with nearly 5,000 kid-friendly parks and playgrounds rated by parents. It's especially helpful if you're road-tripping.
  • Take your geocaching on the road. This is a great family activity that you can start when your children are very young and continue for years and years (my tweens still haven't outgrown it).
  • Don't forget to visit to see if there is a Macaroni Kid site for your destination city. Since many of our events are free or low-cost, you can find affordable fun that is likely to be less crowded too!

Save on Souvenirs

  • Visit a toy store or themed store before you travel. You may find specialty items that you can sneak into your suitcase, then surprise your kids when you arrive.
  • If you're visiting a theme park or amusement park, stop at the convenience stores and drug stores nearby. Many of them sell popular souvenir items for a fraction of the price.
  • Souvenir pennies are a favorite in our family and available at most popular travel destinations. We bring a couple of rolls of quarters and a roll of pennies just about everywhere we go. We even have special souvenir penny keepsake books to store them!
  • Allot a budget for each of your kids and stick to it. Give them their allotment in cash (you may want to be the keeper of the wallet) and have them pay for their souvenirs. My kids become a lot more selective when they are dealing with their own money!

Save on Food

  • Look into meal plans at theme parks. On a recent trip to Universal Studios, we purchased a $29 package that included a quick-service meal (entree, fries, and a drink), a snack (e.g., churro, popcorn, ice cream), and unlimited refills for the day (including water) in our souvenir cup.
  • Subscribe a deal site (or several) for your destination city six months before your visit to enjoy great savings at local restaurants. Do your due diligence and check restrictions and reviews prior to your purchase.
  • Do an internet search of "kids eat free" plus your destination city. Be sure to call the restaurant before you go to verify the offer; they tend to change often and without notice.
  • Choose a condo, house, or other lodging with a full kitchen if you have a large family or will be staying for four or more days. You'll save much more by eating in than you'll spend on the upgrade.
  • If a full kitchen isn't an option, an in-room mini-fridge and microwave will help you save on breakfast, lunch, and snacks. You can also pack a collapsible cooler in your suitcase.

Save on Travel

  • If you're flying, research airline tickets early and often. Your goal should be to find a good deal, not necessarily the "best" deal.
  • In general, purchase flights one to three months before your trip. Too far in advance or waiting till the last minute both tend to mean higher prices.
  • For peak travel times, however, it's better to purchase when the ticket fits your budget and not wait for a sale. Demand will only increase during summer, spring break, and holiday travel.
  • Use the "flexible dates" search when shopping for airline tickets if you can. Prices can fluctuate by $50 or more per person from one day to the next.
  • Travel by car when possible, especially if you will need a car at your destination anyway. Even adding an overnight hotel stay along your route will usually end up being less expensive than an airline ticket.
  • Use an app or website like to help you find the lowest gas price near you. Even saving just a couple of dollars each time will add up quickly on a long road trip.
  • Renting a car may be well worth the price, especially if you have high-mileage or larger, gas-guzzling vehicles. Bonus: Someone else gets to clean up all the Cheerios dust in the back seat!

Love to travel? Check out our Mac Kid Travel & Adventure Reviews for dozens of destination ideas. For even more information, follow our Colorado Adventures and Family Travel Pinterest Boards and subscribe (for free) to our monthly Macaroni Kid Family Travel newsletter.