01/21/2014 09:17 am ET Updated Mar 23, 2014

Budget Luxury: Practicing for the Family Vacation

Travel, like our home and our haircuts, is an expression of ourselves. So, what better way to bring our personal skills and family values to the fore than by booking travel where the destinations, transportation and activities reflect who we are? As a new wife, and an expecting mother, this year's winter-vacation challenge was to create a budget-friendly luxury escape. My husband demanded an ocean view, and a bed to sleep on (no camping this year). And I wanted a fishing trip, and access to swimming, kayaking, and other activities that could fill our days. We decided on Hawaii, then defined a budget. And set out to put together a vacation that would "wow" us but accommodate a youngster -- practicing for the family vacation.

I want my family to experience adventure and luxury, of all kinds, on our vacations. And, after years in the travel industry, I know that exclusivity in travel can come in all forms from indulgent to intrepid. Just as "luxury" can weed out those who can't or don't want to afford it, "going off the beaten path" carries its own cachet. Who doesn't love it when inspired exploration leads us to that sweet-spot of solitude that no one else has discovered? Like many of today's explorers, my husband and I set out to recover a sense of journeying, something we want to instill in our son, instead of buying a pre-packaged, heat-and-serve variety of the family vacation. 


First came the research. Luckily, the Internet has expanded travel information and options. Price comparisons, fare monitoring, and bargain shopping have become second nature to many travelers. So, I began my search looking at great deals for otherwise unaffordable resorts. But, with our first child on the way, we wanted to consider other options that would help us to save money and allow us to incorporate a third travel partner in the future. We're not the only ones penny pinching these days. And, looking to save on our family-friendly options. We turned down the $200 resort spot for a private beach front property for just $100 per night. (Ultimately saving us $600 over the course of our six-day stay.)


Other upsides of our vacation rental included an ocean-view terrace, two kayaks and a boat launch area, property fishing gear, and a kitchen, all saving us hassle and expense.  Access to the kayaks saved us rental costs of $94 per day (two kayaks). And we were able to access the water for short or long stints however we pleased. We also decided to buy our own snorkeling gear, which set us back $50 (cost to buy vs. weekly rentals) but we'll be ready for our next underwater vacation. A shared fishing trip (on our must-do list) brought the cost down from an expensive private saving us $282.  And, with a few more people on board it also increased our chances of taking home fish (and being able to cook it in our kitchen!).


Eating was our biggest potential money-saver. Buying our own groceries, and not solely depending on restaurants, meant healthier, economical choices, that also allowed us to support farm markets and local food and farm businesses. It also allowed us to a slower pace along with the sacred privacy of eating together on our ocean view deck. We got tips on buying local fruit and fish at Costco and recommendations for bakeries so we could fill in the gaps with local dives and recommended restaurant stops. I can only imagine that having a kitchen will be the real luxury, along with being away from the crowds will give us some peace of mind when we start to travel with our son when he arrives ready for new adventures.

Supporting Local

As two becomes three in our family, we're looking for ways to create budget-friendly luxury trips that lead us off the beaten path and put us in touch with local communities. While spending less money, more of our spending dollars filtered into the local economy through the products and places we chose.

How have you added value while saving money on your family vacations?