Budget-Friendly Family Trips

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By Lisa Scarbrough

It’s springtime again (well, for most of us), which means time for spring break travel! But not all families can afford a trip to Disney, so here are some great tips that will help you create just as many memories without emptying the bank.

1. Make friends with your local and state parks.
I can’t say enough about how awesome state and county parks can be for family adventures. The first thing I do every year is renew our state parks pass, which gets our whole family free admission, a couple of nights free camping, and other discounts. If you don’t have an annual pass, most admissions are very inexpensive, under $5, or sometimes, even free.

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This is Caw Caw, a county park in Charleston County, SC, that only charges $1 for daily admission per person.

2. Pack your snacks (and lunch).
How much money do you spend when you eat out on the road? Make a grocery trip with your local store, use your coupons, and plan ahead. Use reusable bags for snacks, pack a cooler with water bottles you can refill, and don’t forget a trash bag to properly dispose your waste. 

3. Pick a campsite instead of a hotel.
Have tent, will travel. Tent camping, and even RVing, can save lots of costs on lodging. Think about how much time you’ll spend actually in a hotel/motel. Is it worth the costs? Many state parks have amazing rates, between $15 and $40 a night, for your whole family to camp. You can still have amenities such as electric and water at your site, and full washrooms for showers. If you absolutely have to have a hotel room, try calling the venue directly for rates before you book online; you might get a better deal.

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4. Plan your route to watch your gas.
Prices at the pumps can really be a party pooper when you’re trying to enjoy a family vacation. So plan your route to keep from back tracking and reducing your stops. For extra savings, watch the lead foot: set your cruise control for the speed limit.

5. Avoid holiday weekends.
Rates are always higher, and traffic can be a nightmare. Oftentimes, in the off-season, you can get a special rate. Back in February, we were able to rent a cabin at a state park for 45% off. However, with school-aged children, this may not be an option. If you plan to travel on a holiday weekend, book far in advance and recognize there probably won’t be many discounts to be had.

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6. Don’t be afraid to explore.
One of our favorite things to do when we travel is to look for the brown signs that indicate a park, recreational area, or historic site. Since we usually aren’t in a real hurry, there’s plenty of time for a quick exploration. If it’s a place we like, we make a mental note to come back again. We also make a point to stop at local visitors/welcome centers, where you can get much more information than just from your GPS.

7. Day trips can be just as much fun as a full weekend or week.
No one said you had to be gone overnight to have a memorable vacation. Make a plan to get up with the sun and set out and stay out past sunset. You’ll be surprised at how much you can pack into a day, and how good you’ll sleep when you return home that night!

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No matter how you decide to spend your family vacation, remember it’s about the quality time. My parents took me to Disney once in my life, when I was 8. I have very few memories of that trip, but I can remember all the parks and lakes we visited on the weekends, and many of those are places I’m taking my son to see now.

For more inspiration on places to visit, check out my family travel blog at DoodlesOutdoors.us.

Lisa Scarbrough offers mom-on-a-dime advice for parents like her who still hold out hope that they’ll be able to afford the rising costs of college tuition (yeah, right). Course, Lisa has some time to prepare; her son, Ian, is three years old. Lisa lives in Guyton, GA, and when she’s not chasing after her little man, she serves as the Digital Properties Manager for Paula Deen.
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Great tips, as always!

By Tanya on March 27, 2014

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Paula Deen
Paula Deen
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Lisa Scarbrough
Lisa Scarbrough
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Susan Greene a.k.a BUBBLES
Susan Greene a.k.a BUBBLES
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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 10:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 8:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 4:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm