Saving on Your Family’s Summer Vacation

Half of Americans are planning a vacation this summer, according to a recent survey of 2,000 adults conducted by American Express. Respondents plan to spend an average of $1,000 per person on summer travel, and 89 percent will stay in the U.S. More than half plan to take their getaway with family. Some 80 percent of respondents say they have a strategy to reduce the cost of their summer vacations; the most popular is driving instead of flying to their destination. Here are a few of ideas I’ve found to save on family travel.

Families willing to go a little rustic can save a bundle by booking an all-inclusive family camp. The American Camp Association, which accredits camps, has a web site where you can search by location and price. You can also search for YMCA Camps by state.

From North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway to California’s Los Padres National Forest, there are more than 77,000 reservable recreation facilities in 2,000 locations in the United States managed by different government agencies. You can book your place under the stars at this one-stop reservation site.

Maybe you don’t want to sleep in the great outdoors, but explore it by day. Check out American Trails, which offers information on 900 different trails in all 50 states. Also surf the U.S. National Parks and Monuments site, and a guide to state parks at the National Association of State Park Directors site.

Traveling by car? Stock healthy snacks, such as fruit, baby carrots, cheese sticks, nuts, yogurt, Goldfish crackers, graham crackers, water, and low-fat milk. (Pre-portion the snacks ahead of time rather than handing the kids the whole bag.) Freeze a case of juice boxes and put them in the bottom of the cooler to keep everything fresh.

If you go to restaurants on your vacation, make lunch your main meal of the day, split entrees between two people, and store leftovers in your cooler. Pick up a free guide from the state or city’s visitors bureau (or order one online before you go), which usually offers restaurant coupons.

Finally, before you book a hotel, consider renting an apartment, home, or timeshare from the owner. Start with web sites such as Homeaway or Vacation Rentals by Owner; In addition, thousands of timeshare owners list their weeks on sites such as The Timeshare Users Group and

You can find other ideas in this Good Morning America segment, in which I helped one family cut their vacation cost in half (click here and scroll down to the fifth video).  

What’s your best tip for saving on a summer vacation?