Ahhh…summer. That time of year when many travel for summer vacation.
I am very fortunate that summer vacations have been something that I’ve looked forward to every year since I was a kid. Many of my best memories were made during those trips. It seemed that every year this time was set aside for my family to reconnect by spending hours together on the road (I’m not sure if all those are fond memories) and experiencing whatever thrill my dad had planned.
It has been important for me to continue that with my kids. While we don’t do elaborate vacations, we do try to get away together for a short time each summer.
Vacations don’t just pay for themselves though! They can really be tough on a budget if we’re not careful. My husband and I have a set amount transferred from our bank account into an savings account each month specifically for vacation. Otherwise, we might look up in June and realize that we have no money to travel.
While it is vacation and some of the fun is not to pinch every penny, here are some of the ways that we save without feeling like we are scrimping on a good time.
1. Find a good deal on a hotel.
I shared here about how I saved money by asking for an educator discount. If this is not applicable to you, then there are other ways to save. If your dates are flexible, ask for better rates when you call the hotel to make the reservation. If you make a reservation online, don’t forget to use your Ebates account to get cash back. If you are willing to do a walk or a drive (think about parking $ though) you may also choose to stay a bit of a distance from the “scene” and pay quite a bit less for a hotel room. You can read more about my hotel up “the hill” here.
From my personal experience, it is wise to have a hotel booked before you travel. I have ended up in a few places where I was tempted to sleep with one eye open and would not let my children touch anything. You don’t know what other activities may be in the area and hotels could be filled….at least the good ones could be ! 😉 If you’re a bit more courageous than I am about that, I’ve heard that you can wait until the day of your arrival and score a great deal on rooms that are left. The hotel had rather have the room occupied, even at a lower rate.
2. Pack snacks for travel.
By far, this is the biggest way that we save. Avoid convenience store and amusement park prices for snacks! We made a trip to Costco and bought things that we could easily pack and eat during the drive and throughout the week. I can’t even begin to calculate how much money this saved us. We took a cooler in the van and packed it with drinks, string cheese, and fruit so that we had snacks during the drive. My husband packed a backpack each day with bottled water, juice boxes, fruit roll ups, rice krispie treats, crackers, and other small things that were easy to pack for being out and about. We had snacks ready when the kids’ moods and sugar levels started to plummet!
3. Look for coupons in a local attraction guide.
You can almost always find coupons and deals in attraction guides. When you arrive, go to the welcome center and pick up travel brochures. A quick google online can also leave you with tons of options to save money on the attractions. Buy 3 slices of fudge and get the 4th free…yes, please!
4. Skip the souvenirs.
This is possibly just my opinion. One can only have so many pieces of $9.99 junk to drag home and later send to good will. To be totally honest though, those things did have some appeal when I was a kid. I mean who doesn’t need a snow globe, gigantic pencil, and paperweight with the city’s name on it? But now that I’m the adult, I don’t want to spend my money on those things and thankfully my children don’t seem to be attracted to it. I’ve gotten pretty good at distracting them!
Whatever our budget, I try to use this time to reconnect with my family and not stress over funding it. If I can do little things to take the financial stress away, I can also come away without a stack of bills. For me, this makes the trip more enjoyable!
If the budget doesn’t allow actually traveling away from home, then do a stay-cation. More coming about that soon!
What are your tips for saving while on vacation? Do you try to save or just forget budgeting altogether for the sake of having a good time?
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