Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How to Plan Budget-Friendly Family Vacations

(MS) - Each year, parents nationwide take their children on vacations. More often than not, these vacations need to be planned far in advance, both to book all the necessary reservations and to ensure there's enough money saved to enjoy the trip.

While most parents would love to provide their children with the ideal vacation each year, sometimes the ideal is just unrealistic. Depending on the size of the family, a typical family vacation can run into the thousands of dollars, a hefty price that many parents simply can't afford year after year.

But yearly vacations don't need to break the bank in order to prove enjoyable and memorable. Both kids and parents alike will enjoy just getting away from the norm, and the following ideas are all affordable and different.

· Visit a state park: State parks can be a wonderful way to fit in an active family vacation for a very small amount of money. Campgrounds are usually available at such parks, and often cost less than $50 per night. Such campgrounds typically offer access to restrooms and running water so kids and adults can clean off each and every day. Also, parents can save money on nightly restaurant tabs typical of more common vacations by visiting parks that offer outdoor cooking facilities. Kids will still get to eat the foods they love, such as hamburgers and hot dogs, and Mom and Dad won't be stuck holding the check.
A good state park will also boast a number of different activities families can enjoy throughout the day. Hiking, swimming and fishing are common to most parks, while others may offer family-friendly rafting trips. And kids will really look forward to nights around the campfire before hitting the tent and getting some sleep.

· Visit a nearby amusement park: While it can sometimes seem like a rite of passage to visit some of the country's more famous resorts and theme parks, kids will get as big a kick out of a trip to the local amusement park. And parents will enjoy the drastically reduced costs. While large amusement parks generally charge a hefty admission, such prices pale in comparison to big-name resorts, which often require air, hotel and car reservations, making costs add up quickly. Kids will have more fun if the folks are having fun and not worrying about finances. If there's more than one amusement park in your area, visit a couple of different ones during your time off.

· Explore local history: Nearly every region in the country features some type of unique history, be it an old battlefield, a famous beach or a beloved ballpark. Turn your vacation into a series of day trips or overnight stays where you and the family experience some of the nation's rich history. In future years, your kids will take pride in the places they've visited.

· Take the kids to see their relatives: Thanks to technological innovations that make communicating with those living far away easier than ever before, more and more families are finding their members spanning the country. Parents with a brother or sister on the opposite coast likely don't see each other too often. If you plan a trip far enough in advance, you can comparison shop for airline tickes, and chances are strong you can stay with the relatives. Kids will enjoy the process of flying and seeing another region of the country, while parents will enjoy seeing relatives they don't get the chance to see very often.

CAPTION: When it comes to family vacations, parents don't need to break the bank to ensure kids have the time of their lives.

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