How to Plan an Awesome Family Vacation on a Budget

Taking a family vacation doesn't have to break the bank, especially if you can be flexible about timing and opportunistic when you see a great deal. From bargain destinations to money-saving strategies, here's what you need to plan a budget-friendly family getaway with the kids.

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    The secret to planning affordable family vacations is having a game plan that's simple and surefire. Here's how to set up a never-fail, no-brainer system that will ensure you are always able to find a great getaway at an affordable price. 

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    If it's spring, it must be time for Daily Getaways from the United States Travel Association. This spring series of travel flash sales offers savings of up to 50 percent off regular prices. This year more than 20 of America’s top travel brands have teamed up with the U.S.T.A. to offer travel deals unavailable anywhere else. 

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    ••• San Diego Tourism Authority

    Itching to get away but don't want to spend a fortune? Grab the kids and start packing. Now through Memorial Day weekend is one of the year's secret seasons—and spontaneous travelers can reap some of the biggest savings.

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    ••• Matt Stroshane/Walt Disney Parks

    Want to go to Disney World without breaking the bank? Here's how to grab a deal, find affordable fun, and squeeze extra value from your vacation along the way.

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    ••• Transfercar USA

    Let's face it. Snagging a cheap rental car is good, but scoring a free one is much, much better. A new website offers the opportunity for savvy families to take a road trip for next to nothing. 

     

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    Family Theme Park Vacations on a Budget
    ••• Paul Bradbury/Caiaimage/Getty Images

    Theme park getaways are popular with families, but they sure ain't cheap. Happily, there are some golden rules of ticket-buying that apply to pretty much every theme park, and they can help you chip away at the cost of tickets. Here are tried-and-tested ways to lower your theme park spend.  

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    ••• National Park Service

    Called "America's best idea" by the historian Wallace Stegner, our national park system offers families a wonderfully affordable way to visit our most cherished and beautiful landscapes, view wildlife in their natural habitat, learn about geological and cultural history, and appreciate the great outdoors. 

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    ••• Top-deck fun on the Norwegian Getaway. Norwegian Cruise Line

    Shopping for a family cruise? Follow these savvy tactics to keep more money in your wallet while landing a fantastic getaway at sea. Here are tried-and-true ways to save on a kid-friendly cruise.

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    ••• HomeAway.com

    Travel prices are all about supply and demand. According to HomeAway.com, these five markets saw the largest increase in new vacation rental listings in 2014. Consequently, they offer exceptionally good value now.

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    Want to keep your rental car costs from getting out of control? Follow these simple tips and you will never pay more than you have to.

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    ••• Ohio State Parks

    Looking for an affordable Midwest beach getaway this summer? A stay at one of the Ohio State Park Lodges might be just the ticket. Located in parks throughout the central and northern regions of the Buckeye State, the lodges offer a surprising array of beach experiences on lakes, rivers and reservoirs.

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    ••• Suzanne Rowan Kelleher

    Want to plan a budget-friendly family vacation? The key is making common-sense choices that keep costs under control. Here are tried-and-tested tips that can deliver significant savings on your family vacation.

    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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    ••• Universal Orlando Resort

    Looking for the perfect time to visit Orlando? You'd be hard pressed to beat September, a month when hotel rates are at their lowest of the year and crowds have thinned with the back-to-school season. On top of that, September 2014 is going to deliver even more savings than usual.

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    Family Ski Trips on a Budget
    ••• Ascent Xmedia/Getty Images

    Looking to score a great deal on a family ski getaway? Ski vacations with the gang are a ton of fun but nobody every said they were cheap. From finding affordable airfare to locating deals, here are tips to make sure you pay less of the green stuff for your family vacation in the white stuff.

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    ••• Keystone Resort

    The cost of family ski vacations can really add up—especially when you start shelling out for lift tickets, lodging, food, equipment, and lessons. That's why there's nothing better than a resort that lets you save some green. While a great many ski resorts offer free lift tickets for very young children (typically under age 5 or 6), the most family-friendly resorts also offer packages that include free lift tickets for older children, too.