How to Save Money on Summer Vacation Accommodations!

How to Save Money on Vacation Accommodations
Image via Great Family Road Trips

It's summertime, which means that is is also vacation time! My family plans on traveling to Northern Michigan, Lake Placid, New Hampshire, Williamsburg, Atlanta, and Florida, so we'll be road tripping quite a bit! But in order to be able to visit so many places, we really have to work hard at stretching our vacation budget, which means carefully planning the cost of admissions and activities, food and souvenirs, gas money, and, of course, accommodations.

Over the years, we've figured out a few ways to stretch the family vacation budget when it comes to accommodations so that we can take more trips and see more things together! Here are a few of our tips on how to save money on summer vacation accommodations:

Stay in a Tent
Image via Great Family Road Trips

Tip #1: Consider a Tent Over a Hotel Room

For most destinations that we have traveled to, we've been able to reserve a tent site for less than $25/night. Compare that to an average hotel room rate of more than $100 (we are a family of 8), and we can save significant money over the course of a vacation. And if we are traveling to several different destinations over the week, we might stay in a tent one or two nights, followed by a hotel room stay for one night (so it's easier for everyone to clean up, shower, and style their hair!), and then back to a tent stay again.

Many campgrounds have pools and tons of fun and free activities for the kids, which makes them appealing to the whole family. And all you really need is the tent, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and pillows. You don't have to necessarily cook all of your meals at the campground just because you are staying in a tent, but that's another great way to save money while traveling, too! Not to mention, sleeping in a tent is a great excuse to eat s'mores!

Travel with Family
Image via Flickr/ fabola

Tip #2: Travel with Friends and Family

With grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins living in far-away states, our family loves to include our extended family when we travel so that we get to spend time with the people we love while also enjoying a great family vacation. And it is much less expensive to rent a condo, apartment, or hotel for a week and split the cost among two or three families than it is for one family to rent a hotel room. And the bonus of staying in a unit with a full kitchen is that we can eat many of our meals in, which also helps us to stretch that vacation budget!


My favorite sites for finding vacation rentals are VRBO and Home Away. In most cases, you will work directly with the homeowner to make your reservation. Don't be afraid to negotiate a little on price when making your reservation. Just ask, “It's our first time traveling to the area with our kids, and we want to make sure that we have room in our budget for activities. Is this the best price you can offer us for the week?” Even if they just come back with 10% off, that's money you can use on other things!

Beach Umbrella
Image via Flickr/ ralph and jenny

Tip #3: It's Always Off Season Somewhere!

Just because it's summer, it doesn't mean that you can't find off-season rates for your vacation. Depending on when you are available to travel, you can often find great deals in early May and late August. In our own family, we often travel to Florida in late August (and yes, it is HOT!) because most of the schools in the southern states are already back in session in mid August. So we can find deals on hotel rooms, activities, and even dining specials. And beaches and parks tend to be a little less crowded then, too, which makes them much more enjoyable. 

{ MORE: Toddler Travel Bed: What Works Best? }

If you are planning to travel to a big city, you can usually score a cheaper hotel room on the weekend than mid-week (when the prices are higher due to business travelers); and room prices at a resort tend to be cheaper mid-week than on weekends.

Travel Agents
Image via Flickr/ Platform London

Tip #4: Use a Travel Agent to Find the Best Deal

With websites like Expedia and Travelocity at your fingertips, many of us don't even think about turning to a travel agent these days, especially if we are driving to our destination. But using a travel agent can be a great resource to save money because he/she often has access to special deals and rates that aren't advertised online because they are only promoted through travel-agent networks. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't do your homework up front, though. Turn to the web first to search for the type of place you'd like to stay and for the best price, and then give that information to your travel agent to see if he/she can beat it.

Hotel Vacancy
Image via Flickr/ Chris Hunkeler

Tip #5: Negotiate with the Property Manager for Same-Night Stays


This tip works if you are willing to gamble a little and travel without a reservation in advance (we'll do this on a road trip down to Florida sometimes). If you are seeking same-night accommodations, don't be afraid to ask for a discount. I'll usually check the current Expedia price online before heading inside to the front desk. That way, I already know that they indeed have rooms available and what the going rate is, then I will ask if they would be willing to rent a room to my family for a price about 25% less than what I found online. Hotels know that an empty room at night is about to turn into revenue lost for forever, so quite often, they would rather rent it at a discounted rate than not rent it at all!

The key is to be kind and not pushy. Here's a good way to ask, “I am taking my kids down to Florida, but we decided we're too tired to keep on driving further. I would really like for us to spend the night here. Do you think you could offer me a rate of $75 for tonight?”

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Where are you headed this summer? Please leave us a comment and let us know!

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How to Save Money on Summer Vacation Accommodations!

My name is Sharon and I am the busy Mom of six children ages 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, and 8. People often ask me "How do you do it?" I tell them that my key to success lies in planning ahead, with a whole lot of creativity and organization thrown in! ... More

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