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Thursday, 7 May 2015

Family vacations are wonderful ways to create memories, but they're also expensive.

The average family trip costs an average of $1,145 per person, according to a survey from American Express.  For a family of four, that amounts to $4,580even half that could give a solid boost to a college savings plan or retirement nest egg.

So what if you could get the benefits of a relaxing vacation without breaking the bank? Consider these ideas for creating a memorable—and low cost—spring break getaway.

Take a staycation

I lived in the Puget Sound for more than a decade, and yet neglected to take my kids up Seattle's iconic Space Needle until after we moved away. Take advantage of a week at home to explore nearby attractions you might otherwise ignore, including:

  • The great outdoors: Turn off your cell phone and tune into nature. Staying in town for a break doesn't mean you need to stay home. Find ways to get outside including hikes, exploring new parks, and bike rides.
  • Museums: When is the last time you spent hours wandering through an art museum or examining Native American artifacts? Spend a leisurely afternoon exploring local museums, whether they're history, art, or something more obscure. Get more bang for your buck by taking advantage of the mid-week deals on admissions that many museums offer.
  • Aquariums and zoos: Check the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for a list of local spots. Most children love observing the wild kingdom up close. Keep an eye out for special programs like animal feeding times, as well as opportunities for discounted tickets.
  • Local theater: You don't have to leave town to get some culture. Check out your local theater productions and make a fun evening of dinner and a play, or another kind of performance. Get dressed up and splurge on a nice meal—it's still a lot less than funding an entire vacation.
  • Kitschy tourist spots: Buy a guide book and devote a day to visiting all the off-the-wall attractions that your town has to offer. Go on a duck boat tour, visit a rock garden, or see the world's tallest tree. Have your kids help you choose spots, and take silly photos to document your adventure.
  • Having a cooking competition: You've probably seen an episode or two of a cooking show. Turn your kitchen into a competition zone. Buy an assortment of ingredients and challenge your kids to make a snack or lunch using what's in front of them. Bonus: You don't have to buy anything you don't like.
  • Take an art class: Find a pottery studio or local art school, and sign up your kids up for a class. And don't limit the fun to just the little ones—take some me-time during your staycation to experiment with a photography course, or spend a half-day painting, sewing, or crafting.
  • Get a hammer: And then find at least a few nails. Because a few days off is the perfect time to finally build that tree fort or bookshelf. Find ways for your children to participate, whether it's drawing up the plans, helping shop for supplies, or learning—with your supervision, of course—how to use power tools.

Get out of town on the cheap

Fortunately, there are a lot of budget-friendly options for families who are itching to go someplace new. Here are a couple inexpensive ways to create a memorable getaway:

  • Consider a home swap: With websites such as HomeExchangeLove Home Swap, and HomeLink, you can vacation for free in someone else's home, provided that you offer the same. If you're comfortable with the concept, you can eliminate the huge expense of lodging and get a chance to experience another place like the locals do.
  • Head out to a campground: There are thousands of campgrounds across the U.S. and many offer amenities far beyond a place to pitch your tent including yurts and cabins, beachfront campsites, horse facilities, and access to the nation's state and national parks. The cost typically ranges from $12 to $35 per night.

The bottom line? You don't need to get on an airplane or stay in a fancy hotel to have fun this spring break. Think creatively, and you can reap the relaxation and savings that come with it.

 

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