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Family Fun on a Small Budget

Small children and small budget? Follow these tips for big fun!


Disney Playground
Compliments of Dawn Henthorn
Just because you have small children and don't have much cash doesn't mean you can't take that Florida vacation – just think small. And, just because you think small, doesn't mean you can't have big fun. Little ones love little pleasures, and most little pleasures are available at no extra charge!

Today's family vacations are necessary in today's hurry-up world. It's a time for families to reconnect and some of the most memorable moments are NOT spent standing in line at a crowded theme park attraction, they are spent enjoying a simple unhurried dinner together or taking early-evening walks to nowhere. After all, kids treasure moments, not places or days.

Although these tips all start with the word limit, they go a long way to ensure limitless fun and enjoyment on a limited budget.

Limit Big Ticket Attractions

Parents with limited funds should not feel like they have to "do it all" in one trip. Try choosing just one theme park, purchase multi-day tickets, and leave the other theme park visits for another time.

Plan plenty of downtime in your schedule. Use the left over days to take advantage of the hotel swimming pool, take leisurely strolls on the beach, check out nearby shops, visit a museum, collect seashells or build a sandcastle, and enjoy the sunsets.

After all, the idea of a vacation is to be somewhere with a pleasant environment – somewhere comfortable and intriguing – yet be able to relax and enjoy your children; and, for your children to realize that their parents are interesting companions and not just bossy grown-ups. Slow down, listen, and learn to see the world through your children's eyes.

Limit Restaurant Meals

Many savvy traveling parents never eat breakfast in a restaurant, and some don't eat lunch in one either. Do they skip these meals? Absolutely not! But, they do plan ahead by packing a few familiar items – cereal, fresh fruit, juices, peanut butter, bread and crackers, and plenty of snacks. It's not only less expensive, but it makes sense; and, modern hotel rooms that are now commonly outfitted with refrigerators and microwaves make it possible.

  • Breakfast. In the mornings, school-age children are ready to go have fun – they are not ready to set in a ho-hum restaurant waiting for food that they probably will not eat. Instead, a quick bowl of cereal or a piece of fresh fruit with milk or juice that they can enjoy while watching their favorite cartoon on television makes sense.
  • Lunch. If everyone is hot and tired after a busy morning at your favorite theme park or the beach, taking a break at your hotel is the perfect solution – it is cool, comfortable, and the perfect place to have lunch. You'll be surprised just how good a peanut butter sandwich, a piece of fresh fruit, and a tall glass of juice tastes... particularly when it's followed by a nap!
Other budget-conscience meal-time ideas:

  • Share Meals. Children on vacation are excited, are frequently tired, and typically don't eat much at one meal. Many restaurants gladly comply with requests for additional plates so children can share meals. Don't be afraid to ask.
  • Utilize Coupons. You may find them in hotel lobbies, in your hotel room, in newspapers, and in coupon books. Using them will save you money.
  • Take Along Snacks. Despite signs that warn "No Food or Drink Allowed," I do pack small snacks and drinks in my purse for my children. Not only are we saving money, but the snacks are healthier and keep my children from filling up on empty calories and caffeine.

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