Wondering how to budget a family vacation? Playoutdoors is a useful site for parents who want to buy quality outdoor gear and clothing for their traveling kids. I admire the site’s ethos of getting our children outdoors and active; the best family vacations The Vacation Gals have involve a lot of outdoor adventure. The site also contains great information from parenting experts regarding how outdoor time and travel can create family bonding experiences, and tips regarding fitting travel into any family budget. Playoutdoors founder and budget travel expert Sarah Laufer sat for an interview.
1. What led you to start up PlayOutdoors.com?
I was really inspired by Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods where he coined the phrase Nature Deficit Disorder, and wanted to build a company around getting kids outdoors! I am lucky to live in Bend, Oregon and we want to share our lifestyle with the rest of the world, encouraging parents and families to spend more time outside because there’s just no substitute for fresh air.
2. Parents worry about expenses when budgeting a vacation for their families. What are the benefits of PlayOutdoors for the budget-minded family?
Because our focus is on the outdoors we are really offering ideas for an alternative to the resort/Disney style vacation. Camping and visiting state and US National Parks are just some of the ways to save money and still make awesome memories — which is really what family vacations are all about.
3. Was there one special trip you took with your family that you’d recommend to others?
We’re in the habit, in general, of joining up with another family or families and renting houses in different destinations. We did that last year on the in Cannon Beach at the Oregon coast. We stayed in a beautiful house beach front home that was half the cost of a week at a hotel, we had a kitchen so meals were cheap and easy, and the kids had friends to play with so it was easier on the adults too. Because we went with another family we got to split the cost of the house and groceries, and even traded an evening of babysitting so the other couple could go out! All in all, it was a week’s vacation at the beach for a family of four for a little less than $4,000.
4. What are a few of the most important tips you’d like to share regarding keeping a family vacation budget-friendly?
A) Try to avoid flying if you can, airline tickets can add up especially if you no longer have a lap infant. When you do decide to fly somewhere make sure you are spending the money on someplace you have been wanting to go for
awhile and stay for awhile.
B) If you’re staying in a hotel, try to stay someplace like an Embassy Suites or Marriott Residence Inn where you have a small kitchen. The rooms are bigger for a family, which means more privacy and you can hit the local grocery store and save money on eating out. I always like to make sure I have breakfast stuff and sandwich fixins’, then we splurge on someplace fun for dinner.
C) Keep the extraneous spending to a minimum. Do your research and try to find out where the locals go to eat. Usually these places are cheaper and better than the tourist traps. Also, explain to the kids that souvenirs are the pictures you take and the memories you makes not t-shirts, shot glasses or other knick-knacks. That stuff is just fluff and in reality, are forgotten about months later.
5. How do you recommend parents balance the travel needs of their differently aged children and themselves?
Really, just be realistic. If you have preschool age kids that still take naps, mom or dad can use that time to take turns exercising, shopping, or going to the spa. If you have older kids and younger kids, lets the kids each take turns deciding on the activity for the afternoon. Everyone gets to feel like they have a say and everyone is hopefully still spending time together. Outdoor activities are usually the best option for everyone, so go someplace beautiful, put on your walking shoes and get some exercise.
I think overall the key is finding balance, being open and listening to your kids, teaching them about compromise (because we all do it), planning and research. It may seem like a lot of work up front, but really it’s fun to plan your trip, and all in all its less stressful when you are trying to figure out what to do once you get there. But don’t forget to work in some free time for just hanging out reading a book, or a night in watching a movie. Just because you’re planning, it does not mean you have to fill every hour of every day you’re away.