(Family Features) Families are always looking for ways to enjoy vacation time together that maximizes fun, while minimizing the budget. With focus on the costs of gas prices, a recent AAA report indicated that these days, families are opting to take shorter distance road trips, or "nearcations," as they make their travel plans.
Family travel expert and mother of three, Suzanne Rowan Kelleher of WeJustGotBack.com, knows the challenges of planning a great family vacation while looking to save. "When I want to cut back on travel spending, I start by picking a destination within driving distance of my home," says Kelleher. "My kids are always happy to have a quick travel time. They're always thrilled to visit an indoor waterpark with fun activities like Great Wolf Lodge, and my husband and I are happy to avoid the high cost of airfare."
To help your family reduce costs on summer travel, Kelleher offers the following tips:
Plan ahead. While spontaneous weekend getaways sound fun, the best way to save vacation dollars is by planning ahead. Keep in mind that most resorts offer the greatest variety of available room options, package amenities and overall savings when stays are booked further out in advance.
Be flexible. Keep in mind the highest rates for hotels and entertainment stops are typically on weekends. Plan a mid-week getaway, or start your vacation on a Sunday to take full advantage of off peak discounted tickets and overnight stays.
Book online. Websites allow vacation planners to easily view best available rates, compare alternate dates for travel, room styles, amenities and package plans. If you have a destination in mind, sign up to receive the location's newsletter, which often includes discounts and special promotion codes via email. Many sites, like www.greatwolf.com, also feature online chat assistance.
Bundle and save. Research package options that include meals and other amenities. Limited time promotions such as "Kids Eat Free" can help when budgeting for meals. Resort amenities and entertainment offerings are also often bundled for extra savings. Not sure what can be bundled with your stay? Just ask.
Find the cheapest gas. Save on gas with your smart phone. The free app, GasBuddy, can help not only estimate how much you'll spend, but can also direct you to the cheapest gas stations along the route. Fuel Finder, another gas saving app, shows gas prices throughout the U.S. and Canada, and also features a mapping system. Visit www.GasBuddy.com and www.bottlerocketapps.com/apps/fuelfinder to learn more.
Prepare the car. Purchases from your local grocery store are cheaper than convenience stores and fast food restaurants en route, so save time and money by pre-buying snacks and drinks. Take advantage of the time together by talking, singing and laughing. Make the journey as fun as the final destination.
To learn more about planning a vacation with great value for entire family at one of the ten Great Wolf Lodge resort locations in the U.S., visit www.greatwolf.com.
Great Wolf Lodge