(BPT) - The American summer vacation is a seasonal tradition. It's when memories are made, experiences are shared and sometimes when bills pile up. In fact, research shows that more and more families across the country are planning responsibly and considering their budget when it comes to summer travel plans to make the most of their vacations without breaking the bank.
Nearly 70 percent of parents planning a summer vacation said they expect to spend the same or less this summer than they did last year, according to a Coinstar survey among U.S. adults with children at home, aged 5 to 18. In addition, 68 percent said they plan to fund their vacation using cash on hand. The top three goals reported for summer vacation include rest and relaxation, increased family bonding and enjoying outdoor activities. Fortunately, all of these activities can be enjoyed inexpensively, a sign families aren't willing to cut their fun as they trim expenses.
Planning ahead means planning smart and will give you the best shot at scripting the perfect vacation for your family and your budget. Consider these tips to maximize your vacation budget.
* Take the road less traveled. Many vacation destinations are priced based on supply and demand. That means you can make your vacation more affordable by traveling to a location that doesn't typically see heavy summer traffic. There are plenty of exciting destinations in the U.S. that may be off the beaten path. Check out Groupon offers for getaway deals as well as packages from airlines and resorts. You may just find your best trip was to a location you never expected to love.
* Stretch your budget with found money. You may have vacation funds that you're not even aware of - like that hidden jar of change in the closet. It's like a mini savings account, so cash it in at a Coinstar kiosk to boost your vacation budget. If you don't have a coin jar, start a vacation fund using the change you collect over the next year and encourage your entire family to add to it when they can. In addition to using your spare change, this may also be the perfect time to cash in your credit card or airline points to stretch your budget even further.
* Travel together for savings. When it comes to cutting costs, don't be afraid to use the buddy system. Go on vacation with family or friends and rent a home together or split other costs. Look for accommodations that have a kitchen and you'll be able to save on restaurant expenses. Finally, if you are eating out, find restaurants where kids can eat for free or at a highly-reduced rate when an adult meal is purchased.
* Look for free or low-cost activities in and around your travel destination. There are plenty of family-friendly activities that can also be free. Walking tours, museums, historic landmarks and parks all present options for places you can visit without putting a dent in your budget. To find opportunities around your travel destination, check out AAA or the local travel and tourism office as well as convention and visitors bureaus. You can also simply Google free things to do in the area you intend to visit. You may be surprised at what pops up!
* A ready vehicle will ease your mind and budget. If you plan on driving to your destination, make sure your car is ready. Change the oil in your vehicle and fill your tires properly. These simple steps will do more than just help you avoid a breakdown, they will maximize your fuel efficiency and save you money.
The summer vacation is an annual tradition, and while the memories of your trip will extend far beyond the season, the costs don't have to. Apply the five tips above and you'll make your trip a sound investment in both resources and experiences.