Frugal Adventures: Cheap or Free

Traveling near and far is something that happens regularly in our family.  And recently I’ve been asked how do I budget for travel and yet make so many adventures happen with a family of six.  For us, as a home educating family, it’s about timing, researching and thinking outside the box!

Staying home is not an option when the world is a ‘playground’ waiting to be explored…….

“Oh the places you’ll go, Today is your day! 

Your mountain is waiting, So…..Get on your way!”


Dr. Suess seems to know our family well.  However, what happens when the financial resources are just not there for all the adventures waiting to happen?

Here Are Few Tips for Traveling With Children and Keeping A Budget Intact:

Tip #1- Lodging is the BIGGEST expense so staying off the beaten path is the cheapest & most practical. 

  • Utilizing Airbnb & VRBO has been such money savers, as well as nearby campgrounds or staying with friends.  Hotels are the last place I check unless it is an overnight.  Staying within an hour or two of the destination will save money, yet you will have to plan accordingly for drive time.  

Tip #2- Food is another BIG expense, yet if you meal-plan breakfast, lunch & dinner beforehand it saves A LOT of time wondering what everyone is going to eat. 

  • We always have a kitchen in our long-term lodging, however when staying in a hotel a fridge & hot water can be utilized well.  *Think outside the box, oatmeal to-go packs, shelf stable milk, lunch meat, yogurt, even mac-n-cheese is possible to make in a hotel room.  Save the budget by not eating out!     

Tip #3- Activities pre-plan, or at least try to pre-plan, all sightseeing ventures.  This keeps the focus of the trip and there are no unwanted surprises!

  • A little research can save A LOT of money…….There are SO many FREE days that businesses, museums, national parks, etc. offer that if you plan your dates accordingly you can save so much.  Plan for off-season for longer vacations or when interest level is low.   

Tip #4- Souvenirs flat pennies, pictures & $5 per kid is the most money spent!

  • What child doesn’t love perusing the gift shop at the end of a day-trip, I know I’m guilty!  Yet most of the items being sold are SO OVER priced anyway.  However if something does catch the eye of my littles, I will take a picture & look it up on the internet to see if it is cheaper somewhere else.  *Most of the time when my child waits for the item he so desperately wants, he either doesn’t want it anymore or forgets about it entirely.  Delayed gratification is always better!
  • My ABSOLUTE FAVORITE souvenirs are flat pennies, Why?  Because they generally cost $0.51.  Logic of course tells me I am paying an inflated price for a penny….BUT when my kids walk away from a museum with a few flat pennies they feel they are leaving with a memory.  Besides it is really fun to look back at their flat penny books and remember the moment we lived that adventure!

Tip #5- Driving Versus Flying keep the cost low by just using gas.

  • Ten hours are the maximum we travel in a day, so mapping out a radius around the place we live is how far we journey with four littles.
  • At best flying requires such careful precision, planning and quite a lot of money that we rarely use this way of transportation.  Utilizing frequent flyer miles for six people is the only way to have a budget friendly adventure! 

Destinations Cheap or Free, And So Worth The Time:

  • National Parks & State Parks– both offer exceptional adventures.  National parks admission costs are cheap/free if you have a Every Kid In A Park Pass & offer four FREE days a year, whereas state parks require a parking fee.
  • Museums– can be tricky, yet if you research ahead of time some will offer a free day once a year & just plan accordingly.  Educational rates will apply if you have proof of home education.  *Tip if you’re a blogger write to the museum ahead of time & offer to write a blog post or post on social media in exchange for a free family pass or discount.
  • Historical Sites– A lot of sites will offer a free day or discounted rates for educational purposes & home education is also included.
  • Beaches, Biking & All Things Nature most are Free, except parking fees.  This is as simple as it gets!  Utilize nature’s playground instead of always exposing children to expensive places like amusement parks.      

Sometimes adventures are just about the anticipation of what will happen upon arrival.  Keep ‘traveling’ extremely simple with little people, which is key to a successful time away from home.

More Planning = Less Complication

For the love of experiencing the unknown, making memories and planning a much-needed adventure is what this momma is all about!  However, the cost has to be within budget, because without taking the time to plan money can escape the wallet too easily.

Children become accustomed to what you expose them to, so begin as you mean to go and plan your adventures accordingly. 

When traveling frequently it is not about how much money is spent, as it is about making memories, quality time and surviving the car ride without personalities clashing!


My Bags Are Always Packed…

~~Simply Passionate~~




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