When it comes to family vacations, the prices can start climbing exponentially the more you research. Plane tickets, hotels, and expensive entrance or activity fees can easily add up, especially for large families. It’s already a bit of a task to try and pull off a stress-free family vacation, why add budget restrictions to the list of things to worry about? We all work hard to provide the most that we can for our families, so why not extend that logic to vacation time by making sure we get the most out of every penny we’ve saved?
It’s already February, but here are some super budget-friendly summer vacation ideas that almost anyone can save up for in the few months left until summer arrives.
There are fewer family vacations less expensive than camping. As long as you have the right gear (tent, sleeping bags, lantern, and camp stove,) you won’t need to invest in much more than propane, firewood, ice, food, and the gas it takes to get there.
Some of Britain’s best campsites do cost money, and the ones with the most facilities are usually the most expensive. If you can’t get by without a hot shower, some electricity, or a bathroom that actually resembles a bathroom, the comfort is probably worth the five to twenty pounds a night these campsites normally charge. In these types of setups, the sites are closer together, so you’ll likely be near a lot of people and safe from invasive wildlife.
If you can tough it, there are a plethora of free campsites all across the Isles. Some have bathrooms, some don’t. If you’re wild camping, especially during summer, I would recommend finding a campsite that is near water. A lake, river, or creek will be a place for your family to splash around, cool off if it gets too hot, and provide drinking water (once boiled or otherwise purified) in a worst-case-scenario situation.
You might have to chop your own firewood or dig your own latrine, but wild campsites often get you much closer to nature, and roughing it can provide some great family bonding experiences. Speaking of family bonding, you can’t sit around the campfire without making the old camp favorite: s’mores. These treats have been around since the early 1900s, and some of my best childhood memories involve sitting around a fire learning how to roast the perfect marshmallow.
The UK is dotted with delightful little lake resort towns, and they all make for great family vacations. But the price tag that comes with accommodations in these areas, especially during the busy tourist season, is nothing near budget-friendly. Even hotels in neighboring towns tend to have higher prices in the summertime.There are, however, a few inexpensive options that will allow you to save your funds for something fun, like jet ski rentals or a boat tour.
First, you can look up camping near the lake. If you go this route, you’ll want to plan your vacation well in advance, as resort campsite bookings often fill up early. You’ll find cheap cabins and camping much more easily during the off season, especially if you’ve got an RV and a family brave enough for winter camping. If camping is not your thing, you can try a site like Airbnb, which allows homeowners to “rent” out their homes to travelers. Their prices are generally more reasonable than local cabin or condo vacation rentals, but a really decent price is a rare find in a resort town. It still might be worth a look, though.
The last option, which has worked for me in the past, is to post a Gumtree ad offering house cleaning, lawn maintenance, or roof and gutter services in exchange for a weekend stay. Many of the houses and cabins in resort towns are vacation homes that are only occupied during certain portions of the year, so the owners are always looking for locals to help with the upkeep so they don’t have to trek up every week or so. If you’re willing to put in a little work during your vacation, you might be able to stay in a swanky lakeside house for free.
All of my favorite family vacations growing up were at National Parks. In fact, I loved them so much that I spent my first few summers during college working for Xanterra, an American company that staffs US national parks with people from all over the world during their busy seasons. It was such an amazing experience!
National parks can be an amazing experience for your family, too. Each one has its own one-of-a-kind features to offer, and almost all of the museums and educational facilities are free once you pay the park entrance fee (which is always extremely reasonable.) The UK has 15 National Parks: the perfect amount for families, as you’ll be able to take your kids to see them all before they grow up by visiting just one a year!
Lastly, national parks often offer a variety of accommodations for a variety of budgets. From camping, to yurts and cabins, to luxury hotels, you can find something that won’t empty your wallet. Keep in mind that nearby towns will have cheaper hotels than those in the park, and there are probably cheap or free campsites within a reasonable distance, as well.
If you haven’t seen all of Europe yet, taking your family on a train tour is a reasonably affordable option. Many families might feel like they can’t afford to leave Europe, but that’s not necessarily the case, especially if you start saving up now.
There are several tourism companies that are very budget-friendly. You might be surprised to find what you can afford just looking at one or two of them! Some of them even offer philanthropic or service travel, where you volunteer in a certain area and are awarded lodging and time to explore in exchange for your help. This could be a great way to take your family to faraway places while teaching them to help others.
Which Way, Kids?
The last option, which is not for type A personalities, is the “Which Way, Kids?” That’s where you tell your family to pack for any kind of weather, load up the car with all of your swimming and recreating gear, and buckle in. Drive to the end of the street and ask, “Which way do I turn, kids?” Then go either left or right, whichever way they choose. Do this at various intersections and forks in the roads until you end up someplace new.
The thought can be a little disheartening, but as the driver, you can be in more control than it appears you are. It’s best to end up at an interesting new place trying a fun new family activity. From there, you can find a nearby place to camp or stay. If you don’t have phone service, you can always ask a local or two for their recommendations. Talking to locals, or other explorers in the area, will almost always lend amazing suggestions that you won’t necessarily find on the internet when planning out a traditional vacation.
This type of trip does require a bit of a cushion of money, but if you play your cards right, you can make it ten days for under 800 quid, and if you start running low on funds, you can always turn back and spend the remaining days of your vacation camping out in your own backyard (literally, or figuratively…)
I hope these tips help create lasting memories for you and your family!