Genius Ways We Save Money on US Family Travel

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We’ve been on the road full time now for three months, and we are always on the lookout for ways to save money on US family travel.

Traveling around the United States can get expensive! Since the US economy is relatively strong, most destinations (especially the popular tourist areas) are pretty pricey. And since we’re traveling as a family of four, that essentially doubles our costs!

Counting up money (September 2018)

Fortunately, I’ve found a few tricks to help us save money on US family travel. In our three months of full time travel, we’ve been able to save thousands of dollars!

Even if you aren’t doing full time travel like we are, there are still ways that you and your family can save money on US family travel.

How we’ve found ways to save money on US family travel

Here are a few ingenious tips you can use on your next trip around the United States.

Exploring a city park in Spokane, WA (August 2018)

Museum reciprocal programs

We love visiting museums when we travel. Unfortunately, museum admission fees can really add up! One way that we save money on US family travel is to take advantage of the reciprocal programs that many museums offer.

I first heard about museum reciprocal programs from another Seattle blogger. Essentially, if you have a membership to a museum in your city, you can get free admission to museums in other cities using your membership.

There are three museum reciprocal programs that are available in the United States: ASTC, ROAM, and NARM. The best way to save money is to get a membership with a museum that is involved in all three programs.

Before we left, I bought a membership to a science museum in Seattle for only $100. Throughout the course of our travels, we’ve visited at least ten museums that are part of these reciprocal programs, and I estimate we’ve saved over $250 just on museum admission alone!

Playing with an exhibit at a museum in Salt Lake City (August 2018)

Annual National Parks Pass

Our family loves to explore the outdoors when we travel. And one of the best things about the United States are it’s beautiful National Parks, a legacy of former president, Theodore Roosevelt.

One way we save money on US family travel is to buy an annual National Parks pass. This allows us entrance into all the United States National Parks for just an annual fee of $80.

Throughout the course of our trip, we have visited at least six National Parks, from Yellowstone in Wyoming to Shenandoah in Virginia. We even plan to visit the Grand Canyon next month!

Each park charges an entrance fee, and I estimate that we’ve saved about $75 on entrance fees.

An arch at Arches National Park, where families can save money on US family travel
An arch at Arches National Park (August 2018)

Housesitting as a family

Finding accommodations that are affordable is always a priority when you’re trying to save money on US family travel. For our family, this usually means choosing a vacation rental rather than a hotel.

Another option that we’ve tried is housesitting as a family. For families, this can be a great way to experience local living AND save money on US family travel.

We housesat for a family in Washington state for a week, and took care of their dog as well. Our kids loved having a pet to take care of, and we enjoyed staying in a comfortable house without paying an arm and a leg for accommodations.

We use Trusted Housesitters to find our housesitting gigs, which charges an annual fee of $119 and has the largest options of house-sits around the world. For a week’s stay in the Seattle area, I estimate that we saved around $1,000 in accommodation costs!

Taking care of a sweet dog during a housesitting gig (July 2018)


Another way we try and save money on US family travel is to camp instead of stay at hotels or vacation rentals. Campsites can be a fraction of the cost of lodging, especially in popular outdoor destinations.

A new sharing economy platform that has become popular recently is Hipcamp, an Airbnb-like service for camping. We stayed at two Hipcamp sites on our road trip across the United States, and paid only $15-$35 per night.

On our trip so far, we’ve camped seven nights at various locations around the United States, two of those nights were Hipcamp stays. I estimate we saved about $560 on accommodations by camping rather than staying at a hotel.

A campsite for Hipcamp, where families can save money on US family travel
A campsite for Hipcamp (September 2018)

Splitting meals to save money

When you’re trying to save money on US family travel, you sometimes need to be creative with your methods. One of the ingenious ways we’ve tried to save money is by splitting our meals at restaurants.

Eating out at restaurants when we travel can get pricey. You’re hard-pressed to find a meal that’s less than $10 these days!

Since American restaurant portions tend to be on the larger side anyway, my husband and I have been splitting our meals. This not only helps reduce our eating out costs, but it also helps us keep a handle on how much food we eat everyday.

I estimate that my husband and I save at least $10 a meal by sharing a plate rather than each of us getting our own. After three months of travel, that’s a savings of around $900!

A diner in Spokane, WA (August 2018)

It’s easier than you think to save money on US family travel. Using our money-saving tricks, I estimate we have been able to save over $2,700 on accommodations, food, and activities.

No doubt about it, traveling around the United States can get pretty expensive. Fortunately, you can save money on US family travel of your own with these five simple tips.

Have you got your own creative ways to save money on US family travel? Share them with me in the comments!

Genius ways we save money on US family travel

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Hi, I'm Astrid

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I'm a travel-loving mom of three from Seattle. Join our adventures as we explore the Pacific Northwest and the world!

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