Thursday, May 5, 2011

Vacationing on a Budget

As we head towards summer, one can't help but think about taking a vacation. Over the last few years, we have successfully taken some wonderful vacations on a budget. Here are some tips we've learned:

1. Stay close. Plan a trip within driving distance and determine how far you are willing to drive. 3 hours, 5 hours, 8 hours or more. Driving is cheaper than flying, especially if you have a large family. This way you also save on the need to rent a car.

2. Research Places to Stay. If you are staying at a hotel, pick one with a continental breakfast and then utilize it. Our family of three on average spends $10.00-$15.00 on a fast food breakfast alone. (Ouch!) Better yet, find an efficiency with a kitchen so you can cook your own meals.

3. Bring Your Own Food/Snacks. If you pick a hotel with an efficiency, bring your own food. If not, still bring your own snack foods. If you are staying somewhere popular or somewhere without many grocery store choices, often times you pay more for your food, than if you buy it ahead of time and pack a cooler. To go along with this, create a menu plan. I have a week long "vacation menu plan" that I update each year. It uses several items to make several meals so we don't actually carry that much. I'll share it upon request if anyone is interested.

**Tip: This from my mother who traveled out west one year with my dad and little sister: Ask a local grocery store if they will honor loyalty cards to other stores. They were able to use a Kroger card at an unknown grocery store in another state. It worked and it lowered their total!

***Another tip: If you have several small children in your party and they can never finish a restaurant kid's meal, get one kid's meal and split it between two children and instead of a large dessert for them (or even a split dessert) ask how much just a small scoop of ice cream is. Most casual restaurants will give a child a scoop of ice cream for about a $1.00!

4. Look for discount tickets on-line to attractions. Many attractions offer discounts on admission if you buy your tickets in advance on-line. Some reward point oriented sites also offer discounts. For instance last year we took a trip to the Nashville Zoo. Tropicana Rewards had Buy One Adult Ticket, Get a Child Ticket Free. We had three adults and three children in our party. All 3 children got in free, saving us a bundle!

**Tip: Check the website for the Chamber of Commerce for the city where you are staying. Some sites now offer discount tickets or coupons towards admissions right on their websites.

5. Ask the front desk of your place to stay, what there is free to do around town. We did this last year in Crossville, TN and discovered an awesome tree house that was completely free to climb through and we had a great time. My son loved it! By asking the locals, we've found hole in the wall restaurants that were fantastic also! Generally, the staff loves to tell you about their hometowns!

6. Plan some down time. We take books, take naps, lounge in front of the tv and lounge at the pool. It's all free to do and it's so worth it! We rarely get the chance to lounge at home, so taking the down time where ever you stay is free and completely relaxing!

If anyone has any more great tips to offer, I'd love to hear them!!


Debbie said...

You'd be proud of me with my planning right now.
Dave got two free tickets to Disneyland so we're buying one child ticket. I used swagbucks to get a gift certificate to a restaurant on the property for one of our 2 meals there that day.
And I even split a kids meal while out with another friend knowing neither of our small girls would eat an entire meal for $6.50.

I'm slowly learning how to do things cheap. Thanks for all your great tips.

Troy and Rachel said...

That's awesome Debbie!! I love Swagbucks! I save them for all our gift giving through the Amazon gift cards! Can't wait to hear about your trip to Disneyland!