Vacationing on a Budget

Last week my husband took his first vacation of the year and it was SUCH a blessing for our family. Because it was his first vacation of the year, it was also the first time we had taken a vacation since I had become a stay at home mom and our family transitioned into living off of one income. For this reason, we had to be a little creative regarding how we were going to get the most bang for our buck. Budgeting is key for us. We knew that he was going to be taking vacation in July, so I did research regarding low cost activities for families during the summer. Listed below are some activities that didn’t put a huge dent in our budget.

-FISHING- $0 We already had the equipment to fish. If you needed to buy your poles or fishing license this would cost you some money.



-$5 MOVIE DAY AT MOVIE THEATER- Our local theater offers $5 Tuesdays and you don’t have to pay for children 2 and under. We splurged on popcorn and pop because we very rarely go to the movies (I haven’t been in 3 years!)- $25. Our theater also did a summer series with $2 movies on Wednesday mornings ($1 if you bring the coupon). We didn't do the $1 movie because it was Goosebumps and Brecken isn't ready for scary movies yet.

On Friday we drove to Omaha to enjoy some of the opportunities that the big city provides. We spent a little bit more money there, but by purchasing memberships we were able to justify the money spent because we will be able to enjoy their entertainment all year long.

-OMAHA HENRY DOORLY ZOO- This zoo was named Top Zoo in the WORLD by TripAdvisor in 2014 and it lives up to that title 100%. Jeremy and I are convinced that our children will both end up as veterinarians because they absolutely LOVE animals. Brecken woke me up at 6:00am on Friday and said “It’s time to go to the zoo!” I could (and still might) write an entire post dedicated to how awesome this zoo is for families.

The coolest new addition for our family was the Alaskan Adventure splash park. It was such a fun surprise because we didn’t know it was there. It is a splash park complete with whale and sea lion (statues) that squirt and splash and mist. I would recommend bringing swimming suits and towels. As I said, we didn’t know it existed so we weren’t totally prepared. I told Jeremy a family like ours could spend hours just enjoying the Alaskan Adventure. We purchased the year family pass for $120. The pass is good for 2 adults and up to 6 children. Also a great bonus is that as long as at least one adult member is in attendance, you can bring 1 adult guest on the pass. So if Jeremy was working one of my friends could come help me with the kids! Members also get 5% off of concession and gift shop items as well as tickets for additional entertainment. Also, did I mention the membership includes unlimited access to the zoo IMAX theater!  A 1 day pass for our family would have been $53.85. So after 2 trips and some concession and gift shop items, it will basically be like we are going to the zoo for FREE the rest of the year.

-We stayed the night at a hotel in Omaha. We love the Embassy Suites and typically stay at the downtown location. But again, because of our budget, I price matched in the area and the La Vista Embassy Suites was $50 cheaper for Friday night so we decided that was a better option for our family. Even though most of our entertainment was on the downtown end of town, the drive to the La Vista Embassy Suites was not bad at all, and we drive a Prius so the gas did not equal out to $50. My suggestion for finding the best deal on hotel stays is to be flexible with your dates. I priced out every night of the week and found that the Friday night stay was our best option. We initially planned on going Saturday night, but really it all worked out perfectly in the end. The Embassy Suites provides a cocktail hour with drinks and snacks. We figured, depending on what you order and how much, that is AT LEAST a $30 value. They also provide a top notch breakfast with made-to-order omelets and chocolate chip pancakes as well as a buffet of delicious and nutritious options. This breakfast is AT LEAST a $10 value for adults and a $5 value for children, so around $30 for our family. Our stay was $120 for the night, with taxes and fees it equaled out to approximately $150 (prices differ depending on dates and demand). When I asked Brecken what his favorite part of the trip was he said the hotel :) Which was very surprising because he saw tigers at the zoo and he LOVES tigers.


-On Saturday we went to the Omaha Children’s Museum. This is the only part where I kind of want to kick myself from a financial standpoint. The cost is $12 per person and children 2 and under are free. A family pass for the year is $110. We couldn’t decide if we wanted to do the family pass or not so the attendant at the front desk told us that we could spend the $36 and if we decided at the end of our day that we wanted to purchase a pass they would take off the $36 from the pass total. Brecken had such a great time there that getting him to leave was kind of a battle and I forgot to stop and purchase our pass. When I called the next day they said that in order to get the $36 off you had to purchase the pass the same day as the visit. Moral of the story, do not make the same mistake I did, purchase the family pass. The Family membership includes a 10% discount on gift shop purchases. Also, it is set up the same way the zoo membership is, so if Jeremy is working I could take an adult friend or family member who would get in on my membership. It also includes discounts on special events and birthday parties.

My favorite part about the Omaha Children’s Museum was the face painting. Brecken of course wanted to be a tiger so after a quick look at Pinterest I found the cutest example and painted him up. He didn’t want to smile the rest of the day because he wanted to look like a tiger and “Tigers don’t smile mom.” Annabelle was supposed to be a butterfly fairy, but she wasn’t as cooperative so she ended up looking like a kind of owl tweety bird. Brecken’s favorite part of the day was the Pirates and Mermaids Voyage to Creature Cove special exhibit. They had seashells in water that you could touch and play with and he thought that was so cool. I will probably also write an entire post about the Omaha Children’s Museum because of how great it is and how many great pictures I took :)

-Before leaving Omaha we stopped at Nebraska Crossing Outlets in Gretna. We had never been there before and definitely want to return to spend more time there (probably without the kids because they don’t really like to shop). We went to the Under Armour store and were able to score some shorts and a shirt for Jeremy and shoes for Brecken at 50% off!

The best part about Jeremy’s week of vacation was the time we were able to spend together as a family. That time and those memories are truly priceless!

Have you and your family had a successful family vacation on a budget? I would love if you would leave ideas or links in the comments section so I can start planning our next family vacation!


  1. Awesome ideas for a great family vacation!

  2. We did a very similar style family vacation. Great tips on saving money! It looks like you and your family had a great time together! Love reading your blog!