8 Sneaky Family Vacation Expenses You Might Forget About

published Jun 29, 2023
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Brother and sister playing and jumping on the bed in the hotel room
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Whether you’re embarking on a road trip or taking to the skies, we have ideas for making your vacation as stress-free as possible. This content is presented in partnership with Hampton by Hilton; it was created independently by our editorial team.

Family vacations are a mix of making memories, relaxing, and monitoring how much money you spend. As much as you might want your to be all fun and zero responsibility, you probably also want to stay as close to within your budget as possible. No matter how well you plan, extra vacation expenses always pop up — especially when you’re traveling with kids. To help you prepare as much as possible, though, check out these common family vacation expenses you don’t want to forget — and pad your budget accordingly. 

Specialized Clothing and Gear

If you’re traveling somewhere with a much different climate than where you live, you may need to buy supplemental clothing to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible on your trip. Of course, you’ll probably pack items like swimsuits for a beach vacation or hiking boots for a nature-filled getaway. 

But there’s a good chance you might forget less obvious essentials, such as a swimsuit coverup, rash guard, or hats to protect you from the sun. In a colder climate, you might find yourself needing some waterproof outer layers and possibly even a warm hat and gloves. Even if you do manage to pack all the aforementioned items, there’s a good chance you may have to stop in a store to buy smaller must-haves like an umbrella, flip-flops, or a reusable water bottle, which can add up if you’re buying for multiple people in your family. 

Travel Car Seat or Rental 

Vacationing with young kids means you have to make arrangements for their car seats. If you opt to bring your own, you may want to use a car seat travel cart or put them in a car seat travel bag. (Pro tip: You can stuff extra wipes, diapers, or outerwear into these bags as well.) Beyond those costs, if you prefer not to expose your own car seats to the wear and tear of air travel, or if you need to take car seats that are easier to carry and install in taxis, you will add to your vacation expenses. Add at least $35 to $75 per kid to your budget if you plan to buy lightweight travel car seats or a travel booster seat. To travel lighter, you can rent units at your destination, which can cost about $10 to $15 per day per car seat.

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Hotel Parking

After you’ve budgeted for the nightly room rate, it’s easy to forget about possible parking charges. Not every hotel will charge you to park in the lot, but you can likely expect a fee if you’re staying in a downtown area of a big city, and it can run up to $50 a night or more. This nightly charge adds up quickly, and it’s not something you have much choice about once you’ve arrived for your stay. Before you arrive, ask your hotel about any parking fees, and check for deals or cheaper alternatives.


Another easily forgotten cost of staying at hotels is gratuities. Tipping porters, housekeepers, valet personnel, and other hospitality specialists isn’t something you want to scrimp on, but it can put a dent in your budget if you forget to build it into your allotted funds. Remember to not only account for the amount you may spend, but also have that part of the budget available in cash and in smaller bills to easily tip for services. 


You know how it goes: It’s the end of the day at the museum or the theme park, and your family is somehow funneled into a gift shop — and if not, the kids will spot it. Rather than constantly saying no or spending way more than you intended on something special to remember your trip by, before your trip, designate an amount per child for their souvenir spending. Your kids can allocate the money on items as they choose until it’s gone, or, for youngsters, use the designated amount as a number to have in mind when it’s time to buy. Either way, having this parameter helps prevent overspending and decision fatigue. 

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Family trips can be exhausting. With so much stimulation from new experiences, the rigors of travel itself, and sporadic naps and bedtimes, expect appetites to be wonky too. Hungry kids and travel do not mix well, so it’s a good idea to keep snacks on hand and to plan to stop to buy food when necessary. For long days of sightseeing, don’t underestimate the power of a well-timed afternoon ice cream break! Whether it’s to cover snack shack treats at the pool or granola bars and apples for your travel backpack, be sure to budget for more than three meals a day. 

Activity Books

Even if you’re more lenient with screen time when your family travels, it’s a good idea to be prepared with other . Definitely make use of items you already have at home, but be prepared to add in anything else you might need along the way, such as extra crayons or markers, or new stickers and coloring books. 

Personal Care Items and Medications

It’s good to stock up on routine first aid supplies like antibiotic ointment and bandages. Rather than interrupting your trip (and adding to your expenses) to buy these items, bring what you can from home and try to supplement any gaps before you leave. If you’d rather buy the correct antidote when the need arises, be sure to leave room in the budget for those expenses. Of course, things can happen regardless, and you may need extra sunscreen, bug spray and bug bite treatments, motion sickness medications, allergy medicine, and so on.