3 Secrets to an Affordable Family Vacation

Published on May 22, 2015 By Lauren

Our favorite place to vacation is Topsail Island, NC.  We always book our rental home through HomeAway and VRBO. This post is brought to you by HomeAway, to help you save on vacations too!

affordable family vacation

Everyone has different ways to vacation. Some like to go to Disney, some like to be tourists, but we like to do NOTHING on our vacations.

affordable family vacation

My family’s ideal of an affordable family vacation consists of:

A house on an ocean beach

No itinerary

Minimal touristy stuff

Most importantly, a GREAT price

In this post, I’m gonna share our favorite destination and our secrets to getting an awesome price and keeping vacation costs low!

Secret #1: For years, we’ve been using VRBO, which is part of the HomeAway family, to book our vacations. They have a database of over 1 MILLION rentals available to just about any location around the world, but our favorite destination is a simple, old, small beach town.

affordable family vacation

Our favorite destination: Topsail Island. I actually have to give credit to my friend Colleen for turning us on to both VRBO and Topsail Island. Back in 2008 when we lived in Charlotte, our good friends rented a beach house. They had a spare room, so they invited us to stay a few days with them (we only had one kid then). We went and LOVED it. They had a gorgeous 4 bedroom house right on the beach, and when they told us the price they paid, we couldn’t believe it.

Why Topsail? It is very family friendly. There’s really just one main road that goes up and down the coast and it’s lined with houses. There are hardly any huge tourist attractions to think of, which is one of the reasons that we love it!

affordable family vacation

What do kids want to do on vacations? Play. Swim. Splash. Run around. And what do I like to do on vacation? Relax. Read a book. Play board games. Don’t get me wrong, I love visiting awesome attractions. But with the ages of our kids, it’s almost not worth it sometimes. Have you ever taken a cranky 21 month old to an amusement park? I haven’t, and I’m not about to try.

With a small beach town, you also get cheaper prices. I actually just booked a beautiful HUGE 5 bedroom oceanfront house for $1,785 for the week! The beach is just steps away (no road to cross, it’s literally right there!) We are gonna split the cost with my sister and her family too, which brings the cost down even more. By renting an entire house instead of getting a hotel, you end up getting more than twice the square footage for the same price.

affordable family vacation

We can’t WAIT to get back there. We had to skip 2 years (giving birth to Abby, and then traveling 12+ hours with a 12 month old wasn’t gonna happen last summer).

Secret #2: We rent during just off-peak season. Topsail Island is in North Carolina, which has a different school schedule than up here in New York. When kids are headed back to school during the last week in August in North Carolina, rates for vacation rentals drop. And since our school doesn’t start until the Wednesday after Labor Day, that last week of summer is a great time for us to find some deals.

For example, the house I just booked for $1,785 has rates during the peak of summer at almost $4,000! Also, it gives us something to look forward to as summer goes on. Instead of the kids dreading the end of summer and having to go back to school, they now have an awesome beach vacation to look forward to all summer.

affordable family vacation

Secret #3: Since we are renting an actual house with a full kitchen, we aren’t gonna be eating our much at all. There’s a supermarket about 5 minutes from the beach, and closer to the beach, there’s a “shack” that sells fresh fish and shrimp. Our favorite meal of the week is always a “low country boil”.

If you’ve never had this, you need to. It’s basically a pot full of shrimp, crab legs, chunks of corn on the cob, red potatoes and whatever else you think belongs – boiled with Louisiana-style seasoning. It’s SOOOO good. And again, I have to thank my friend Colleen for introducing us to the low country boil.

One more memory that I just HAVE to share… the last time we were at Topsail Island, we had the pleasure of witnessing something AWESOME. Our house in 2012 was situated right next to a sea turtle nest. And on one of the last nights we were there, they hatched! We watched as literally hundreds of baby sea turtles emerged from the sand and scuttled into the ocean. It was AMAZING. I wish I had pictures, but there was no flash photography allowed since the lights would distract them from heading towards the ocean.

affordable family vacation

So that’s what we do for our summer vacations, and HomeAway and VRBO make it so easy for us. Did I mention that it’s free to use?


affordable family vacation

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of HomeAway.

Join 90,000 others to get your

FREE Guide: STOP Money Stress Now!

sent right to your inbox!


  • Lauren, thank you! My husband and I were thinking of purchasing a time share from a friend but we didn’t want to be tied down to payments. This is a wonderful alternative!

  • We love VRBO! Just got back from a vacation in Idaho (near Grand Teton National Park). Paid $800 to rent a beautiful home for 8 days/7 nights. So much cheaper than a pricey hotel and it felt like “home”. I live in NC and we went to Topsail every summer. We always had a blast! We now vacation on the Outer Banks (in the much cheaper off season of October!). Can’t beat the beautiful North Carolina beaches (well, maybe if you’re in Hawaii!). 🙂

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *