Cruising on a Budget: How To Plan an Affordable Family Cruise

fun Sep 10, 2023
cruises budget plan for family, family Cruising on a Budget, Affordable Family Cruise
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Have you ever thought about how amazing it would be to wake up to a new, exotic location every day without breaking the bank? Well, cruising can offer just that! 

Family cruise vacations can be valuable core memories — not just for your kids, but for the whole family. There’s only one downside: the cost.

Planning an affordable family cruise may seem like a daunting task, especially with all the options out there. Don’t worry! With our “Family Cruising on a Budget” guide, you’ll be sailing the high seas without sinking your finances. Let the adventure begin!


Establish Your Budget Early

Before you start planning your family cruise, the first thing you need to do is establish your budget. Determine how much you can afford to spend on the cruise, including transportation, accommodations, meals, and activities. 

It doesn’t have to be a definite amount. Even having a ballpark figure or a range for each category can already be a huge help for making sure you don’t spend more than you should.


Do Your Homework

Different cruise lines, ships, and vacation packages offer a wide range of prices and experiences. If you want to stay within budget — while also making sure you all have a fun and unforgettable experience — then you need to familiarize yourself with your options!

What does this mean? This process involves comparing the cost and amenities of various cruise lines and ships. Break out the Excel or Google Sheets if you have to!

There are some notably budget-friendly cruise lines, but some high-end cruise lines can also have affordable sailings. Plus, cruise vacation packages vary in terms of what’s included — some packages bundle dining, entertainment, and even shore excursions, which can add significant value to your vacation.

By investing time in research, you’re sure to find a cruise that fits your family’s needs without making waves in your wallet.


Catch the Off-Season Magic

One of the easiest ways to save on a family cruise is to sail during the off-peak season. By sailing during the off-season, you can get cheaper ticket prices, and you’re likely to find fewer crowds onboard and at your destinations. Sure, the weather might be a bit less predictable, but hey, everyone loves an adventure, right?

Off-season usually takes place around mid-to-late January. Kids are usually back at school and parents are back at work during this time, so you may have to talk with your children’s teachers about any days or classwork they might miss.

October to November can also be considered off-season for cruises, though you will want to avoid Halloween and Thanksgiving. If you’re planning on a Caribbean cruise, check prices from late summer to fall. Just be warned; This is also the peak of hurricane season, so proceed with caution!


Early Bird Catches the Deals

There’s another great perk to doing advanced research — you get to catch the best of early bird deals! Book your cruise well in advance to snatch these up. Cruise companies often offer deep discounts to those who plan well ahead.

The sweet spot when booking your cruise is around six to 12 months in advance. You won’t be the only dad making a cruise budget plan for the family, so expect competition. This means cheaper rooms will likely be sold out early.

Remember, the early bird catches the worm, or in this case, the best cruise packages and discounts. Many cruise lines post amazing deals during the first quarter of the year. Channel your inner boy scout, be prepared, and plan for an early attack!


Inside Cabins Are Your Friend

Speaking of cruise rooms, go for the inside cabins. Luxury suites with ocean-view balconies are great, but let’s face it, on a family cruise, you’re hardly going to be in your cabin.

Instead, opt for an inside stateroom. They’re often significantly cheaper, and you’ll still have access to all the fun activities on the ship. As long as you have a comfy bed, storage for your bags, and a place to shower and change, then you’re still all set to enjoy the cruise!

By saving on the rooms, you can have more money to budget on better experiences — like better dining options, souvenirs, or exploring the ports.


DIY Excursions

Organized shore excursions can cost a small fortune, which is especially true for tours sponsored by the cruise line. 

Instead, do a bit of research and plan your own excursion. You’d be surprised how much fun you can have exploring a new port town on your own terms — you control your own time and pace and explore with just the fam. It’s a surefire way to make those family memories more personal.

Aside from DIY excursions, it’s also worth checking out third-party tour options when the ship docks at the port. Many vendors offer budget-friendly day-of tours, too. Just make sure the company is reputable for your family’s safety and enjoyment!


Keep an Eye on the Extras

While cruises are typically all-inclusive, there are lots of extras that can quickly break your budget. We’re talking professional photos, fancy drinks, spa services, casinos, and a whole lot more! Trust us, all these little extras can add up.

If you want to indulge and treat yourself and your family, just make sure to include it in the budget. If not, then be vigilant, and remember that sometimes, the best things in life are free!


Last-Minute Deals

Yes, this advice is kind of contradictory to our earlier tips, but we can’t help it if it’s true. You can score some fantastic deals and super low fares with last-minute bookings. Cruise liners would rather sell cabins at a lower rate than leave them empty. 

Just a word of caution, though. This tip is not the best — nor is it the most reliable. You’re basically relying on luck here. Additionally, this method may not suit families who need to coordinate with school schedules and other commitments.


Last Bits of Advice

Life may be tough, and your budget might be tight, but that’s no reason to forgo vacations. With a lot of planning and a little bit of help, family cruising on a budget can be a reality!

Planning an affordable family cruise might seem daunting, but it’s not impossible! As long as you have a strategic approach, do a bit of research, and keep a keen eye for cruise deals, you can have the sailing adventure of a lifetime without breaking the bank.

Remember, the goal is to create unforgettable memories with your family, and that’s something money can’t buy. Get out there, embrace the open seas, and make the most of every moment on your budget-friendly cruise. Happy sailing!

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