Family Bonding on a Budget: 16 Tips for an Awesome and Affordable Vacation

Read our top travel hacks (including some you’ve probably never thought of) on how to save for a family vacation.

Family trips are often the best part of growing up. Whether it's rollercoasters and games at amusement parks, exploring mountains and forests, relaxing on sunny beaches, or discovering all a big city has to offer, these adventures with parents, brothers, and sisters help us get closer, see new things, and make memories that last a lifetime. 

But how can you make these dream vacations a reality? And how to save for a family vacation despite all the bill payments and other expenses life throws your way?

As magical as vacations are, they can also take a big bite out of the family budget. Costs add up quickly between transportation, lodging, food, entertainment, and other expenses. In fact, the average family spends around $3,600 on a typical vacation, according to business news outlet Forbes. 

For struggling households or one-income families already pinching pennies, saving thousands for a seven-day getaway may seem next to impossible. The good news?  With planning and savvy saving strategies, family vacations can be more affordable than you think. 

This know-how guide outlines 16 easy ways to save for a family vacation – without feeling financially stressed or anxious. From cash-back programs and budgeting tools to discount hunting and cost-cutting tips, these practical money-saving hacks make UAE family vacations achievable for every budget. We’ll cover the following:

  1. Tips for financial planning and money management
  2. Tips for cutting costs on transportation 
  3. Tips for saving on accommodations
  4. Tips for dining on a budget
  5. Tips for affordable entertainment and activities
  6. Tips for smart spending and shopping 
  7. How to use the Maly app to save for a family vacation?

Read on to find out how to save for a family vacation.

[Start saving money for your family vacation and visually track the growth of your savings through Maly, the money management app made for the UAE market.]

1. Tips for financial planning and money management

Before scanning flight deals and hotel discounts, the first step is defining trip goals and setting a realistic savings budget. Here are some planning essentials for financially stress-free family vacations:

#1 Tip: Set a vacation budget

Crunch the numbers as a family and determine a financially feasible overall trip budget for the household. Be sure to tally approximate accommodation costs, transportation, food, activities, and other expenses.  Leave buffer room for incidentals, too.

Having a separate savings account for your vacation money is a good idea. However, it’s important to consider a free savings account to avoid monthly fees eating into your vacation money, according to Forbes Advisor.

If you decide to open a second account for your vacation savings, you’ll probably want to opt for a free savings account since monthly fees can eat into your travel money, according to Forbes Advisor.

#2 Tip: Create a savings timeline

Avoid the burden of credit card debt by planning and saving diligently for your family vacation. Once you have a vacation budget, break the total into monthly savings goals.

For example, if the dream family getaway costs $3,000, aim to save $250 off monthly expenses and utility bills over a year. Rather than having to direct deposit manually into your savings account, set up an automatic payment, or autopay, around your payday.

This can be easily done using budgeting apps or Maly’s multi-card system. This innovative personal finance and online banking platform allows users to automate periodic transfers from spending credit cards to specified savings cards, seamlessly turning micropayments into savings as they navigate how to save for a family vacation.

#3 Tip: Utilize budgeting tools

Allocating funds across personalized multi-cards earmarked not just for the holidays, but for groceries, fuel, dining out, online shopping, gifts, and more makes it easy to stick to predetermined budgets and financial goals without feeling deprived. 

Furthermore, it’s important to organize your bills, bank statements, receipts, and other financial documents monthly to stay on top of payments and avoid late fees.

With all cards visibility and funds transferring instantly through Maly's intuitive mobile interface, managing budgets, encouraging smart spending decisions, and steadily growing savings through credit cards are remarkably seamless for families in the UAE.

2. Tips for cutting costs on travel and transportation 

For many families, just getting to the vacation destination takes up a considerable chunk of the budget. These expenses are cut substantially by flying at optimal times and packing strategically.

#4 Tip: Research cost-effective destinations 

While the average holiday abroad might cost $3,600, a 5-day domestic trip in the UAE would cost $4,000 minimum for a family of four, according to booking engine To avoid overspending and having to plunder your emergency funds, it helps to find a cost-effective holiday destination.

To make spectacular family memories on a budget, choose destinations with plenty of accessible or affordable activities and cheaper average accommodation rates. National Parks topped with camping offer beautiful scenery without big price tags. Or, opt for a road trip up a scenic highway to enjoy stops at state parks, roadside attractions, and budget-friendly cities along the way to save money.

#5 Tip: Find affordable flight deals

With airline tickets up 25% in the new year, flying is more expensive than ever, media group Coinnews shows in their US Inflation Calculator. Booking plane tickets is hands down the biggest transportation cost for far-flung destinations.  However, UAE families can still score flight deals, especially by traveling in shoulder seasons when kids are in school. 

Ledora White, a financial advisor at TOMAS Financial, recommends, "Look for budget-friendly flights by being flexible with your travel dates and using flight comparison websites or apps.” Hence, sign up for airline fare alerts or use flight tracking apps to track and predict the best prices.

#6 Tip: Consider alternative transportation

While road trips require more time en route, they can significantly lighten the transportation line item by avoiding flights. Opting to drive a portion and fly the rest can add notable savings over airfare for an entire family.  Just be sure to account for fuel, tolls, and overnight stays en route.  Train rides also offer scenic views for lower costs.

#7 Tip: Pack light to avoid fees

Baggage fees add insult to injury when traveling by air these days. However, packing strategically can save families big on roundtrip flights. Carefully adhere to weight limits for checked bags and opt for compact carry-on essentials.

Start by creating a master packing list everyone in the family can access, ensuring items like medications, sunscreen, hats, extra phone chargers, and more make it into bags. Using lightweight packing cubes, reusable bottles, and layered clothing also helps in packing without paying extra.

3. Tips for saving on accommodations

Lodging typically comprises the largest vacation expense after transportation for families looking into how to save for a family vacation. Luckily, there are countless ways to lower costs on hotels and rentals while still resting comfortably and without overspending.

#8 Tip: Explore budget-friendly options

Luxury resorts are nice, but plenty of affordable lodging options exist too! Opt for a vacation rental property with a kitchen over a cramped hotel room to relax and cook budget meals. Hostels, for instance, offer accommodation that suffices for sleeping between daily activities. 

In addition, increasingly popular "glamping" rentals provide air conditioning, beds, and electricity without forgoing the camping experience.

#9 Tip: Book early for discounts

While snagging last-minute deals can happen sporadically, families will generally save more by planning in advance. Kelsey Sheehy, NerdWallet Contributor, advises, “Last-minute bookings don’t work in every circumstance, though. Traveling for a crowded conference or holiday can lead to a spike in demand — and price.”

You can't leave accommodation bookings until the last minute, as you might end up spending more than you initially planned. When traveling with a family, the golden rule of thumb is to plan as early as possible.

Tips for dining on a budget

Dining out three times a day truly elevates vacation costs. However, families can still sample local flavors and enjoy convenience foods with some resourcefulness. These tips help families eat well without blowing budgets anywhere. 

In fact, dining on a budget is probably the most important topic when talking about how to save for a family vacation.

#10 Tip: Pack snacks and meals

Avoid burning through cash by packing nutritious snacks, fruits, and even sandwiches for travel days or long excursions away from the lodging.  Bringing insulated bags, reusable bottles, and lightweight coolers facilitates the packing of perishable items. Make and freeze sandwiches beforehand, then store them in cooler bags with ice packs.

#11 Tip: Choose lodging with kitchens 

Booking a hotel with a kitchenette or a vacation rental home with a full kitchen makes preparing budget-friendly meals much more convenient. Grocery shop for quick breakfast foods, sandwich supplies, fruits, and other essentials soon after arriving. 

Consider simple crockpot recipes that can prepared in the mornings and enjoyed hot and ready for dinner after returning from activities all day.

#12 Tip: Avoid tourist traps 

Popular tourist hubs inevitably include overpriced restaurants catering to visitors with convenience rather than value in mind.  However, venturing a few blocks off the main attractions provides delicious local flavor for much less.

4. Tips for affordable entertainment and activities

Filling vacation days with memorable adventures doesn't have to carry hefty price tags.  Taking advantage of free attractions, city passes, nature exploration, and local events makes experiencing new places more affordable.

#13 Tip: Seek out free attractions

Most cities and communities have delightful parks, public art displays, gardens, local festivals, and historical sites that offer free admission.  Do some digging ahead of visits to uncover these wallet-friendly gems that provide both entertainment and cultural immersion.

Randy Yagi, a CBS News contributor, advices, “Most every city has free attractions, whether it's a city park, a public beach, free museum days and live music concerts. Any city with an official tourism website can help you find free attractions.”

#14 Tip: Use city passes

If you plan on hitting several top-paid attractions or theme parks in a destination, multi-day city passes offer huge convenience and savings. These discounted bundles allow travelers to enjoy everything from museums and zoos to ferries and skyline viewing towers.

5. Tips for smart spending and shopping 

Finding affordable, memorable souvenirs and sticking to reasonable gift-shopping budgets challenges many well-intentioned parents on vacations. Utilize these spending habits to stay on track financially without skimping on joy. 

#15 Tip: Take advantage of sales and discounts

Timing non-essential vacation purchases around sale holidays helps in saving big. Stock up on clothing, shoes, and outdoor gear over White Friday in the UAE. Cyber Monday deals also incentivize splurging on luggage, travel gadgets, and other trip-related items. 

For extra savings discipline, set up a dedicated card exclusively for online shopping that encourages conscious money management and automatic payments into the savings account

#16 Tip: Avoid impulse purchases

The thrill of vacation often misguides us into snatching up items simply because we're in new environments or want to memorialize extraordinary moments.  Curb impulse shopping by setting firm souvenir budgets for yourself and each family member before embarking.

Chad Boreman, Owner of Boreman Norton Cook Wealth Partners, says, “Souvenirs help you remember all the amazing places you have traveled to. However, they are typically cheaply made and seriously overpriced. Instead, take out your phone and snap lots of photos.” So, give the kids camera phones or Polaroid cameras to snap pics rather than accumulating dust-collecting trinkets. 

How to use the Maly app to save for a family vacation?

Maly can be a helpful tool for saving for your family vacation and broader financial life. Here are some ideas on how to best use it:

  1. Decide on your vacation budget and set a savings goal in the Maly app.
  2. Increase the round-up amount to a comfortable level per transaction. Even small increases can lead to significant savings over time. 
  3. Link as many debit cards associated with your family's spending as possible to maximize the round-up contributions.
  4. Break down your big vacation goal into smaller, achievable milestones, like "flight fund" or "activities budget." 
  5. Use Maly alongside other saving methods like cutting back on unnecessary expenses from your monthly bills or participating in cashback programs
  6. Avoid dipping into your saved funds, emergency funds, or retirement account
  7. If you use the Maly Visa card for specific categories (like groceries or dining), you might benefit from additional cashback offers, further boosting your savings.
  8. Monitor your progress in the Maly app to stay motivated and adjust your saving strategy if needed.

Family vacations provide priceless opportunities for bonding, exploration, and memory-making.  However, the staggering price tags seem unattainable, especially for family members figuring out how to save for a family vacation. 

Hopefully, these 16 budget-friendly saving tips for traveling families from the UAE will make dream destinations feel more financially accessible through strategic saving mechanisms over time.

[Do you want to learn how to save money for a family vacation? Set up a weekly or monthly savings plan by connecting Maly to any UAE-based bank account and start tracking your savings as they grow.] 


  • Setting realistic savings goals and timelines can help families achieve their vacation aspirations without financial stress.
  • Being flexible with travel dates and transportation options can lead to substantial savings on flights and accommodations.
  • Taking advantage of sales and discounts can help families stay within their vacation budgets.
  • Researching cost-effective destinations and utilizing budgeting tools can significantly reduce vacation expenses.
  • Maly streamlines savings tracking and automated deposits, simplifying financial planning for affordable family vacations.
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