So, you cannot afford a vacation this year. Now what?

The school year is ending soon and it’s time to enjoy the good weather and time together. Unfortunately, many young families are forced to split vacation time to cover care for their children over the summer. Mother uses her three weeks’ vacation in July, while Father cashes his in during the month of August – all to avoid the exorbitant cost of daycares and summer camps for the two months school is out.

Even if you could align your holidays, the cost of flying a family-of-four anywhere is unattainable for many Canadians. Unfortunately, the last-minute all-inclusive you could easily book as a single individual or as a couple is a thing of a past. The more modest trip is now four times more expensive. Trekking your whole family to a third-world resort is no longer worth the risk of traveler’s bowel, nor the chunk of your annual income.
So what are the alternatives for families who cannot afford a vacation?
Just because you cannot afford an exotic trip does not mean that you do not deserve a break. Instead, make the most of what is available to you.

1. Enjoy a staycation

Becoming a tourist in your own city is fun, affordable and teaches your children how to appreciate what is in their own backyard, so to speak. It’s the perfect opportunity to take pride in your town and discover what it has to offer.
Introduce your children to go-karts, mini-putt, pools, water slides, or horse-riding. Become regular visitors to the local farms, zoos, and museums. Sure, it will cost a bit of money to indulge in these activities, but much less than would have been spent if you had traveled far away to do the same sort of thing.
Would you prefer free activities? Dust off your old bike and get moving! Cycle through your city as a family and enjoy picnics in the park – maybe even feed the ducks.

2. Keep track of discounts

You can save a bundle on your outings by surveying promotions and discounts in the local newspapers or at specific establishments. For example, kids-eat-free-on-Wednesday deals, dinner and movie combinations, or half-off Tuesdays add up over the course of a summer.

3. Join the community

Are you looking for a more structured time? Join your local YMCA where the whole family can enjoy planned activities together at a reasonable rate. Or register for a local class at the community college to indulge a hobby that you may not have time for during the regular school-year routine.

4. Enjoy the outdoors

If you are still hoping to get away on the cheap, consider the great outdoors! Camping is very affordable and will help breed precious family memories surrounding swimming in the lake, playing sports, enjoying the evening campfire, eating s’ mores, and perhaps a bit of star-gazing.

5. House swap

This year my family and I are conducting a house swap to ensure an affordable vacation. If you are new to the idea, as we were, start with someone you know – perhaps an old friend or a distant relative. Exchanging homes allows each of you to experience a new city or country with free accommodations and the ability to focus your budget on local tourism.
No matter what you choose to do this summer, your family will have a great time. What makes a vacation fun is the time to relax, extraordinary activities, and condensed quality time as a family.


  1. My Own Advisor

    Good post Jennifer!

  2. Julie

    LOVE this house swap idea!!! Great article. Thanks for the ideas, we will definitely be putting some of these into action this summer.

  3. Amelie

    These are great ideas and awesome reminders, especially the “staycation” – I look forward to following some of these and look into the home-swap – you’ll have to let us know how your experience goes! Great post, Thanks Jennifer!

  4. Rob

    Staycation’s a great idea — although I don’t know why families are so set on having vacations that they consider sticking around their neighborhoods to be a second-class alternative. We really need to appreciate our immediate surroundings more. On a macro level, doing so will help build our local economies too. Thought this post was pretty enlightening:

  5. Lance@MoneyLife&More

    I am lucky in the sense that I live in a tourist vacation spot on the beach. There is a lot to do and I can even get a locals discount at most places.

  6. Virata Gamany

    I’m especially in agreement on the camping suggestion. So many ways to get out and enjoy the outdoors without spending much money.

  7. Pamela Lay

    Live on social security, can’t afford to take vacations or nothing that would be f un….limited income! Thank you!

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