How to plan an inexpensive family vacation

Our relationships strengthen and our memories sweeten when we spend time exploring and enjoying the gifts of nature.

Following are some ideas we have employed to reduce the cost of vacations and stress:- Be wise in planning activities. Find out about state parks that provide a playground of natural wonders.

Choose inexpensive lodging. Find a campground with facilities that meet your needs, i.e., hot showers, electricity, swimming pool, recreation room, camping cabins.

Enjoy evening entertainment as a family. Sit around the campfire, read a book to your kids, start a chain story, star gaze, sing. Attend an evening program sponsored by the park.

Plan inexpensive meals. Plan, shop and pre-cook the menu as much a possible before the trip. Warm the food in a skillet that can serve all cooking needs.

Continue family traditions. Maintain family scripture reading and prayer. A day hemmed in prayer seldom unravels.

The success of an inexpensive vacation is not determined by how much money you don't spend, but by the fun the entire family has together while not spending the money. - Clydia Joy Stevenson, Columbia, Mo.

What we did:

Pooled resources

Vacations - or as we call them, holidays - on a budget have always been a part of our family life. With four children between 16 and 2 years old, it can be a financial and logistical headache! We have found that by pooling resources with another loved family we can enjoy a lovely time with our family and friends. By choosing a vacation time in spring or autumn we are able to reduce costs even further. The "off-peak" trips means that our chosen resort is not so crowded and the weather can be more temperate than the height of summer. Autumn holidays are especially attractive with the changing colors of nature, and unexpected warm, sunny weather has made more than one pleasant day on a deserted beach.

Over the past few years, we have had several holidays in large rented farmhouses that can accommodate two families. We have been blessed with good friends who were ideal company and fun to be with. - The Edwards family, London, England

Best vacation ever

We have always gone on inexpensive vacations. Most of our vacations have been backpacking and camping - very cheap and lots of fun. We've also followed the pioneer trail from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City many times and camped out along the way and shopped for food at grocery stores and made our own sandwiches.

But our best idea was when our oldest son had just gone into the mission field and our business was going through a very difficult time. My wife and I first counseled together. We then had a family council (six children) and presented two ideas to them. Either we could go some place but have to travel in a very small, economical car and eat out of a box, or we could remain home for the week, travel to fun places in the Los Angeles area and eat out. The kids unanimously opted for the second choice.

We "traveled" to fun places and did the fun, touristy things in Los Angeles that we'd never done before. We went to a lake in a nearby park and rented paddle boats. We went to the show. We visited the hand prints of the stars on the sidewalk in Hollywood. It was family home evening every night. Our one daughter told all her baby-sitting customers that her family was going on vacation that week and that she wouldn't be able to baby-sit. We took pictures of us having fun and sent them to our son in the mission field. To this day, our children say this was the best vacation we ever went on - and it wasn't very expensive. - Dennis J. Davis, Azusa, Calif.

Planned ahead

Years ago when our children were still young, I wrote to Arizona's Chamber of Commerce and told them when we planned to travel and asked them for information about camping excursions in their state, including self-guided tours. They sent so much information we had trouble assimilating it. We selected an area we could cover without rushing, then marked a route. With rare exceptions, our only cost was for food, gasoline and nightly camping fees.

My tips are to plan well, buy food in grocery stores, don't rush. - Dorothy W. Peterson, Fullerton, Calif.

Exchanged homes

When our five sons were all at home, my wife, Peggy, and I wanted to spend a week in Southern California. While the cost of visiting popular vacation sites for seven people was significant, the cost of housing the family was even more expensive. It dawned on me that we could exchange homes with someone who wanted to enjoy the many attractions in the San Francisco Bay, where we were living at the time.

I telephoned a professional colleague of mine in San Diego and proposed a housing exchange. He had a family and liked the idea of spending a week in our area. We agreed on a week during the summer.

Both families had an incredible week's vacation in two different popular vacation sites, and we essentially eliminated our cost of housing. - Robert Bohn, Provo, Utah

Camps free

We go to a nearby national park in the fall. When it's that late in the year, officials at the campground turn off the water. Therefore, we bring our own water and stay in the campgrounds free. In addition, there are not nearly as many people in the campgrounds, and there are lots of deer and moose for the children to see. We take our bikes and the kids take their in-line skates and we have fun as a family.

To make money for family vacations, we hunt night crawlers and sell them to a bait company. We do this as a family and, thus, the children earn money for family vacations. In addition, if they want to buy a souvenir on a trip, they have earned their own money to do so. - Steve and Natalie Wells, Shelley, Idaho

How to checklist:

1 Enjoy activities that aren't costly; plan ahead.

2 Choose inexpensive lodging; plan inexpensive meals and entertainment.

3 Vacation near home, visit local tourist attractions.

4 Pool resources; continue family traditions; travel during the off-season.


May 9 "How to remain enthusiastic about motherhood."

May 16 "How to help young people avoid movies of questionable content."

May 23 "How to become more involved in political, community and government affairs."

May 30 "How to find joy in the morning."

June 6 "How to help heal a family after a loved one has caused deep hurt."

June 13 "How to avoid the gambling trap."

Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to supplement your regular income," "How to rear children in light and truth," "How to avoid greed," "How to be more resilient in day-to-day life."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed