I just got back from an overnight family vacation, which was a trip from my near Toronto, Ontario home to Palmyra, NY. There’s an outdoor pageant there which I’ve wanted to bring my family to see for a long time, and we finally decided to do it. Aside from being lots of fun, entertaining, bonding (kids first time in a hotel), it was inexpensive to boot!

Total cost: About $230

Here’s how I did it.

First – some fixed costs which I couldn’t change:

Gas for the car – about $80
Toll highways in the USA – about $12

For hotels, we used Priceline and bid $50 for a 3.5-star hotel. We got a great hotel in downtown Rochester. Had 2 queen size beds, a pool, in-room internet and everything else we needed/wanted. Kids LOVED it.

For food, we brought lots of snacks and lunches for both days (sandwiches and cold cuts). We over packed and came home with tons of food which we’ll use this week. We ate out at a restaurant the evening we slept at the hotel… but we bought a $25 gift certificate for $4 from restaurant.com. Total bill (including tip): $64.xx, we paid just $43.

The pageant and other site-seeing activities were all free. It was an exciting, great show, we met some friends there (who saved awesome seats for us), and the kids had lots of time to run around outdoors.

Possible improvement: We definitely overspent on the food we brought, even though we’ll use it now that we’re back home, we could have spent less on junk food… but hey, it was a vacation.

Moral of the story. You can plan a totally fun vacation for a family of 7 for under $250 — no problem.

What tips do you have for saving $$ on vacations?