07/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Budget Family Travel: Summer Day-Cations

The family trip is one of the first things that gets put on hold during tough economic times. And even if you're planning a day-cation this summer, the cost can still add up between gas prices, eating out, admission prices, and more. Here are some ideas on how to do your day trips on a budget and still make it fun for everyone.

Look for Deals
Plan ahead for spots you want to visit. Find out if they offer discounts after a certain hour, for certain organizations (like AAA), or for groups--if they do, they don't necessarily mean a formal camp group, so ask your friends to come along. We were once visiting a museum with friends and between the grown ups and kids, we added up to 14 people, which was enough for a group discount.

It always pays to check out a destination's website. Everyone is offering deals in this economy and often you can download coupons right off their site.

Save on Gas
You carpool all year long, do it now too. Ask friends who are also day-vacationing to join you for one of your trips. One car means not only are you saving the environment but saving money by splitting the gas.

Another way to make your gas dollars stretch is with a product called Ethos. Add a little to your gas tank. It cleans your engine making it run more efficiently--that's about as technical as we're going to get since what you really need to know is that it translates into less gas burned and one tank taking your farther. Ethos also reduces emissions which is another plus for the environment.

Brown Bag It
Your kids are going to get the munchies when you're out and there's no reason to keep paying for half-sipped bottles of water or juice or to pay inflated prices for snacks when you can bring their favorites from home. Trendy totes like those from, Built NY, and are insulated so they keep your food and drink cold, you looking hot, and are all less than $25

So you don't have to keep dipping in for those countless cries for water or remembering to put the bottles back, keep them handy and not left at the last stop with inexpensive clips from that attach to the neck of the bottle and on to the outside of the tote--they come in lots of colors so there's no fear of germ-sharing by water.

Free Style
Every day of a day-cation doesn't have to be spent out--there are the evenings to consider too. Summertime is packed with free outdoor events at night from park concerts and theatre to festivals and fireworks. To find out what's happening, check the local newspaper or parent guide, your town's website if there is one or the site of nearby towns, or often the library will have a list of events. Or search on line using keywords with your town or other town, like "calendar of events," "free admission," "concerts," "festivals," "Kid-friendly activities," or "activities for kids."

No cost for admission means you can more easily splurge on that cotton candy for the kids or that heading home early due to cranky kids doesn't hurt quite as much.