fbpx Skip to Content

How to Save on Summer Travel This Year

How to Save on Summer Travel This Year

Sharing is caring!

Are you wanting to plan a summer vacation but aren’t sure it’s in the budget? Keep scrolling to check out my top tips for saving on summer travel this year!
This list of summer travel budget tips was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Hey fellow parents!

If you’re like me, the arrival of summer has you itching to pack up the family and hit the road for some unforgettable adventures.

But let’s be real: traveling with kids isn’t just a logistical challenge—it can also be a major budget-buster, especially when you’re eyeing some of the more popular U.S. destinations.

With two energetic boys who seem to grow more adventurous each summer, I’ve had to get creative to make our travel dreams a reality without breaking the bank.

Here are some of my tried-and-true tips for saving on summer travel to some of America’s favorite spots.

Think Outside the Theme Park

Theme parks are a blast, but they can also blast through your travel budget before you even get through the gates.

While my boys love the thrills and chills of roller coasters, we’ve found that some of our best summer memories come from exploring the great outdoors.

My kids LOVE visiting Mt. Rainier! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

National parks offer tons of activities for kids, from junior ranger programs to guided nature walks—and they’re a fraction of the cost of theme park tickets. Here are our favorite activities at Mt. Rainier for kids!

Plus, investing in an annual National Parks pass can be a great deal if you plan to hit multiple parks in a year. And if you have a 4th grader, take advantage of the Every Kid Outdoors program that gives them a free pass for the whole year!

City Passes are Your Friend

When we do decide to tackle the big cities, I always look into city passes. These can offer significant savings on attractions, museums, and sometimes even public transportation.

NYC-with-Kids-Statue-of-Liberty-960x960.jpg (1)
Always check to see if it makes financial sense to get a city pass. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

It requires a bit of planning to make sure you’re actually interested in the included attractions, but if the stars align, you can save a bundle while checking off those must-see spots on your list.

Accommodation Hacks

Staying in the heart of a major tourist destination can double your lodging costs.

We’ve found that staying just a little bit outside the main drag, in a neighboring town or suburb, can lead to huge savings—and often a more authentic local experience.

We also look for accommodations with a kitchenette, so we can save on meals by cooking our own breakfast or dinner. Bonus: it’s usually healthier, too!

And if you have a car with you, you can usually find cheap or free parking instead of paying top dollar.

Embrace the Off-Peak

This one’s a bit tricky with school schedules, but if you have the flexibility, traveling just before or just after the peak summer season can lead to lower prices and thinner crowds.

I admit, we usually skip the last few days of school to get a jump start on summer travel in mid-June before prices skyrocket in July.

We’ve also had some great late August trips when many families are already gearing up for back-to-school.

Dining Out, the Smart Way

Eating out is a big part of the fun when traveling, but with a family in tow, restaurant bills can add up quickly.

Image of a boy looking at a pizza
We like ordering pizza because we usually have leftovers. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

On trips where we’re trying to save money, we try to limit ourselves to one restaurant meal a day. And we make it lunch rather than dinner.

Lunch menus are often cheaper, and we’re usually too tired in the evenings to fully enjoy a sit-down meal anyway.

We rely on those kitchenette meals or picnic-style dining for the rest of the day.

Look for Freebies

You’d be surprised how many free activities you can find with a little research.

Many museums have “free admission” days, cities often host free outdoor concerts or movie nights, and nature itself is always free to explore.

I make a game of seeing how many fun, free activities we can pack into our trip—it’s like a treasure hunt that pays off in savings and experiences.

Travel Light, Avoid Fees

Airlines love to nickel and dime for checked bags, and with a family, those fees can be steep. We usually fly Alaska Airlines and have their credit card so we get 2 free checked bags per person.

Image of a boy wearing a backpack walking toward an Alaska Airlines plane
Always check the baggage policy before you book a flight. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

When we fly airlines where we don’t get free checked bags, we challenge ourselves to pack light and fit everything into carry-ons.

Not only does it save on fees, but it also makes getting in and out of airports a breeze.

Plus, it’s a great lesson for the kids in prioritizing what’s really important (Spoiler alert: they don’t need to bring their entire toy collection).

Share the Adventure

Finally, one of the best ways we’ve found to save is by traveling with another family.

Renting a larger vacation home and splitting the cost can be cheaper than two hotel rooms, and shared meals mean savings on food, too. Plus, the kids have instant playmates, which is pretty much priceless.

Our Favorite U.S. Destinations for Summer Travel

Okay, you’re probably wanting some specific advice for the top summer family vacation spots, right?

Here are some of our favorite places plus my top tips for saving money this year.

Wrapping Up

Summer travel with the family doesn’t have to mean emptying your wallet. With a little creativity, flexibility, and willingness to think outside the traditional vacation box, you can explore some of America’s most beloved destinations without the financial stress.

Remember, the best family memories often come from the experiences you share, not the money you spend.

So pack your bags, grab your sense of adventure, and get ready to create some budget-friendly summer magic with your kids. Happy travels!

Looking for more budget travel tips? Check out 13 Ways to Visit LEGOLAND on a Budget, 9 Fun US Family Vacation Ideas on a Budget, How to Visit Oahu on a Budget, Walt Disney World on a Budget, and Traveling on a Budget: 25 Cheap Travel Tips Every Family Should Know About!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.