11 Fun Yet Inexpensive Vacation Ideas for the Entire Family

Family at beach

Family vacations are often one of the only times during the year that a family gets to spend some quality time together. They can be instrumental in reaffirming family relationships and strengthening bonds. However, for a family on a tight budget they can also be a worry. There are ways to keep costs down whilst still having wonderful vacations which will create family memories to be treasured. Here are some inexpensive family vacation ideas that may help to take some of the headache out of the decision making process.

Fun yet inexpensive family vacation ideas

1. Camping Trips

A well planned camping trip can be one of the most successful holiday vacations ever. If the adults create the right atmosphere, children love camping. Costs can be kept extremely low as camp-site fees, even in high season, are a fraction of the cost of other accommodation types.

Trips don’t have to be far from home either so fuel or transport spending can be kept to a minimum too.

If you don’t have any equipment ask around amongst friends and families to borrow theirs or consider buying second-hand. There are some incredible deals to be had and you will often end up with far better quality equipment than if you bought new.

Some regions or areas in certain countries allow ‘wild camping’ which means pitching a tent anywhere outside of an official camp-site. Bear in mind however that should you choose this option it will be a far more earthy experience. You will have no facilities so greater planning will be required for such things as water supplies.

2. Stay at Home Tourism

Be a tourist in your own backyard. It is often true that we are better acquainted with far flung destinations and what they have to offer than our own home town or area. Save on accommodation costs which often account for the largest chunk of any vacation budget. Take tours and day trips and REALLY explore your own neck of the woods. You will probably be surprised to discover the wealth of tourist attractions right on your very doorstep and can include things such as museums, historic buildings, entertainment venues, exhibitions and parks.

Try and inject some excitement into these types of vacations by making days as different as possible from your normal time at home. Have special breakfasts each morning before you go out for the day or spend the evening playing games together or dancing.

Consider Cost Sharing

Planning your vacation with another family can more than half the cost of renting a beach apartment or holiday home. In addition, your children will often have ready made playmates of their own age.

If you choose this option be sure to sit down with other parties before you go to discuss each other’s expectations and to set some ground rules. You may be expecting to have days to yourself as a family whilst they may be expecting to do everything together. This sort of planning will ensure that you not only depart for the vacation as friends but return in the same state.

3. Couch Surfing

What started out as one student seeking free accommodation in a foreign country has led to a worldwide network of homes open to travelers and vacationers. The idea is that of joining a global community offering up their spare rooms, and quite literally couches, for individuals and families.

You do not always have to be able to offer a spare room in return but some organizations will request that you do. Some of the communities have extremely stringent vetting and review systems so concerns about staying in the house of a stranger can be assuaged.

Type couch surfing into a search engine on the Internet and explore you options.

4. Beach Holidays

Beaches are an adventure playground for children and adults alike and do away with the need for paying out for costly alternative entertainment. Swimming, kayaking, body-boarding, surfing, body surfing, walking, rock scrambling, rock pool exploration, bird watching and family organised beach games are all possible. Alternatively, arm your child with a simple bucket and spade and watch them amuse themselves for hours. Children very seldom need entertaining at the beach as their imagination will provide all that they need.

5. National Parks

Most countries have some sort of variation on this theme and these areas can make natural playgrounds. Consider hiking, biking, horse-riding, fishing, swimming and canoeing amongst other activities. Many national parks will allow camping in beautiful surroundings of rivers, forest, lakes and mountains.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but hopefully will help to get you started in thinking of options that don’t have to cost the earth.

Adventure vacation ideas for family

Adventure travel means different things to different people. For some it is just experiencing something new and outside of their own normal comfort zone. For others it is seeking out adventurous activities such as certain extreme sports that other countries have to offer. For others it means heading away from civilization and seeking experiences off the beaten track. For the few it is a combination of all of these.

Adventure travel can be experienced as part of an organized tour or holiday or can be a vacation planned and implemented by the independent traveler. In some countries independent travel can be difficult or even nigh on impossible for single females or families with children. This is one of the reasons why so many companies are now offering adventure vacation alternatives that still provide ease, security and stress free options.

What you choose and how you choose to go about it will often be restricted by budget considerations, your fitness levels, the age and number of people in the party and your own sense of adventure. There are options for everyone and, as always when there is more market competition, cheaper organized travel is becoming accessible to a greater number of people. Adventure vacations are available from the highest luxury end of the market right down to the travel on a shoestring budget.

6. Trekking

This is becoming an increasingly popular form of adventure travel for many and can be a great option for a family vacation. Options range from gentle day to day rambles taking in stunning scenery to extreme trekking through mountain ranges. Expert guides can make these kind of trips enormously educational and culturally diverse. There are very large numbers of companies now offering trekking and walking vacations. Brochures, websites and travel agents abound with ideas and inspiration or you may know exactly where you wish to go and can then start looking for companies who cover that destination.

Trips cater for very great differences in fitness and abilities and it is important to match the trip to your own strengths in order to make it enjoyable and not an exercise in endurance.

7. Cultural highlights

Have you always been fascinated by the splendor of Asian temples? Perhaps the Inca or Ancient Egyptian civilization is something you would like to explore. Perhaps your lifetime dream has been to see the Terracotta warriors in China. Whatever your tastes there are options. Consider combining organized trips with independent travel for a personal tailor-made holiday that encompasses all you are interested in. These types of trips will expose you and your family to some of the world’s most amazing sights or experience of diverse cultures. Trip types can be as simple as exploring the medieval castles of Great Britain to traveling and sleeping in the desert with the Bedouin.

8. Wildlife travel

Again, this can be as sedate or as adventurous as your own wishes allow. Wildlife themed vacations can include traveling through the jungle or rainforest and camping in the wild to gentle day trips that take you to see turtles nesting and hatching. Take your pick from boat trips that offer swimming with wild dolphins, kayaking down vast rivers spotting crocodiles, monkeys and birds or great African safaris where elephants, lions and antelope are your day’s experience.

9. Activity or experience vacations

This is another type of vacation that seems to have exploded over the last few years. This type of trip can address something you and your family are already passionate about and take part in, such as cycling or climbing. There are also many types of activities available to those who have always wondered what it would be like to try or have always wanted to learn. Take your pick from learning to surf in the crystal clear waters of Costa Rica, sea kayaking in Sweden, learning to scuba-dive in the Red Sea, driving Jeeps through vast wilderness areas or driving a sled pulled by a husky team. There is no limit to the variety of this type of vacation and if you want to do it there is probably a company out there that will take you. Many offer a vacation that includes multi-activity opportunities such as white water rafting, abseiling, canoeing, archery and orienteering.

10. Adrenalin adventure

Bungy jumping, sky diving, snow-boarding, surfing, white water rafting, heli-skiing; are any of these on your ‘must do before I die’ list? If so then there are plenty of places where you can go and experience them either as a beginner or an experienced thrill seeker. Should you wish to experience more than one of or even all of these on the same trip, New Zealand is considered by many to be the adrenalin junky’s capital of the world. Kiwis have invented a whole new spectrum of ways to get your kicks through such means as a giant swing that sees you free-falling down a sheer cliff for 200 feet before being catapulted across the canyon strapped in a harness. Or maybe zorbing, where you are harnessed into a huge see-through ball and rolled down a big hill! The only limit is your capacity for absorbing fear.

11. Volunteering

This is a good option for those on a limited budget or who really wish to contribute something positive in their traveling. There are many companies that claim to be offering you the opportunity to volunteer and then ask you to contribute thousands of dollars for the privilege. Expect to have to pay something towards food and accommodation but steer clear of companies that are just trying to make a profit. Some of these companies actually manufacture volunteer roles and the work you will be doing is non-vital and pointless. Do your homework. It is often an idea to contact specific embassies to enquirer about genuine opportunities. Work can vary from helping with conservation projects to teaching.


For many people adventure travel has always been off the list for vacation consideration. However, many of the companies now offer specific options suited to families with infants, teenagers or single parents amongst others. Browse the Internet or local library for adventure travel vacation ideas and options and you will be surprised at what is available and often within your budget range.

If none of these appeal to you then start trawling the Internet for many cheap deals and offers. If you are flexible and prepared to take a last minute deal often quite exotic locations can be there for the taking. With many of these types of deals you have to be prepared to make your decision on the spot or you will find they will have been snapped up before you get back to them.

Inexpensive family vacations can be as varied as expensive options and can often be more memorable because of the effort that has gone into their planning. The best places for family vacations don’t need to cost the earth. Use your imagination and start exploring.