Summer is officially just around the corner, which means lazy days, good times and of course, summer vacation. Summer vacation quickly loses its idyllic status when you start adding up the costs of travelling, especially for a family.
“Before you decide where you and your family will travel this summer, you need to set a specific budget that accounts for all your likely expenses. Once you’ve done that you can nail down the details around your destination as well as look for ways to cut costs,” says Jeff Schwartz, executive director, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.
“Staying on budget will help you spend within your means and avoid piling on debt in order to take a vacation,” says Schwartz.
Here are some tips for affordable summer vacations for families, as well as some general tips on how to cut costs:
With the low loonie reducing Canadians spending power when travelling to the U.S., there are more reasons than ever to explore Canada this summer. Add to that the fact that this year is Canada’s 150th birthday. There are countless events and festivals running across the country all summer long. Many are free or low-cost. Check out your local area, or your preferred destination for specifics.
If you are looking for made-in-Canada outings this summer, in celebration of the 150th, Parks Canada is giving away Discovery Passes, which grant you free admission to National Parks and Historic Sites all year long.
One of the biggest costs when you are travelling is your food. It’s also one of the most variable costs, which means that planning ahead and using a smart strategy can really save you money. When selecting your accommodation, if you can have access to a kitchen for your meal prep, it is ideal. If that isn’t possible, even a kitchenette in a hotel room can be useful along with a fridge to store snacks and prepared meals and a microwave to heat them.
Many hotels these days include breakfast with their room rate; use that as one of your planning criteria.
Be clever when seeking your accommodations for your trip. Don’t take the first price you see. Often if you call a hotel directly, you will be able to negotiate a lower price as opposed to posted rates online.
Do you belong to a rewards program? Cash in your points to pay for free nights at hotels.
Look for alternative accommodation ideas that are money-savers, like Airbnb, house exchanges and even timeshare rentals. Timeshare owners sometimes are not able to use allotted weeks and rent them out for a fraction of the posted rental rate.
When is the last time that you explored your own city? You can play tourist at home and visit local museums, amusement parks and other attractions and save lots of money on accommodations and travel.
Set a budget for your staycation, because you’ll still be spending. Look for ways to be frugal, like paying a family rate for admission, buying your tickets in advance online and searching out coupons.
Camping is the ultimate affordable summer vacation for families, because of lower costs for accommodation, built-in activities and the ability to cook your own food. If you’ve already got camping gear, the cost is minimal to go. If you are looking to try camping for the first time, see if you can borrow gear from friends or family. It can be expensive to outfit yourself all at once.
In addition to the cost benefit, there is the opportunity for you and your family to reconnect in a natural setting, away from screens and schedules.
Why not tackle your debt so that you’ve got more time and money to spend on the things that matter most- like your family? Call one of our trained credit counsellors at or check out our online debt analysis.