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3 ways to make family travel cheaper

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Traveling anywhere these days is not cheap. Traveling with a family, especially one with more than one or two kids, is even more expensive.

For many families during these lean recession years, family travel only went as far as the backyard, or maybe to Grandma's house if they were lucky.

But there are ways to make a family trip feasible.

Making a family vacation less expensive takes a little work, a lot of planning, and an open mind. Keep in mind that most kids are not expecting (or even wanting) a two-week jaunt through the Caribbean.

What about four days in South Florida? They do not need a whole week at Disney World. How about a weekend in Orlando and one day at Disney?

Family vacations are all about making memories, not spending lots of money. With that said, here are five ways that families can save money today on their next trip.

1. Avoid the fast food trap.

When traveling, stopping at the various fast food chains along the way can seem like a no-brainer. However, the cost of those kids meals, combos, and biggie fries adds up.

Not to mention most of those foods are not good for the digestive systems of adults and children alike, and are often the cause for the five-pound weight gain by the time one returns home.

The easy fix is to pack a cooler for the road with healthy drinks, sandwiches, yogurt, and fresh fruit. Bring along some special splurges like a favorite cookie or type of chips so kids (and their parents) won't be tempted to get an over-priced indulgence at a gas station or convenience store.
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2. Don't be afraid of last-minute deals.

Families can snag deluxe accommodations, discounted attraction tickets, and value-packed add-ons if they are willing to take advantage of last-minute deals.

The collective buying websites like Groupon and Living Social, airlines, and even high-end resorts often have fantastic deals aimed at families who can travel in the next few days.

Have an adventurous spirit and an open mind but always be sure to read the fine print.

3. Budget wisely beforehand.

Don't get to the theme park and be surprised at the prices. Set a budget for the trip, taking into account everything from gas, to food, to souvenirs, and stick to it.

For older kids, consider giving them a set amount of cash at the beginning of the trip for any extras they may want. But when their money is gone, it's gone. Do not bail them out.

Sometimes a family trip is just not in the cards, but by taking into account these three easy tips, perhaps a vacation is still possible.