Vacations have always been important to our family. I was lucky enough to grow up going on a vacation every year with my family. This had a great impact on my childhood memories, and I feel blessed to be able to do that for my kids. We have done this for the last 13 years, and many times we felt like we didn’t have 2 dimes to rub together, but the tips I will be sharing had a big impact on that.
One of the most important things to consider is your priorities. Our priorities were not to eat out a ton, or buy a ton of clothes., it was vacations. Our weekly finances reflected the importance of going on a yearly vacation, and using the little extra we had to do that. As our income grew so did our vacations, but having a smaller income never stopped us. So, here are some ways that you can go on vacation every single year without breaking the bank.
1. DRIVE & WALK
No matter where you want to travel or how far you want to go…. DRIVE. Whether we were heading to Florida or just a few hours away we would drive there. This saves a lot of money compared to a flight and/or renting a car. When our income increased, we flew more. If you really want to keep your costs down, then drive somewhere that is a shorter distance from home. There are plenty of fun places to visit in every state, it just takes a little creativity, and research on Google.
Road trips can be a lot of fun, if you have the mind to make them that way. Play games, pack some fun snacks along the way, and have a ball. The dollar store is your friend if you have kids. I always wait to break out a special new surprise until we are already on the road, and they start getting antsy during the trip. Works like magic every single time.
Whenever possible we walk. In most big cities, it’s easier to walk to your destinations and it saves money on transportation. All the exercise is an added plus as well. When traveling with little kids, we just bring the stroller, and take breaks to have a treat along the way to make it more exciting.
2. DON’T STAY IN A HOTEL
Not staying in a hotel is probably one of our greatest savings. Anything over one night is going to be extremely expensive. Groupon is a great place to look for awesome deals on lodging, and vacation packages as a whole. Even if they are offering a week at a resort and you can only go or 4 days, we have found that it is still way cheaper than a few days in a hotel. You will have a nicer place to stay at, with a kitchen to cook in which will lower the costs. Websites like Airbnb or HomeAway are also great for finding places that you can rent for an upcoming trip at a great discount. So many people rent out their houses at a great price for a week during the summer months to make some extra cash. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
If you really want to go super cheap for a vacation, camping is the best option. There are beautiful campgrounds all over the United States, and all you need is a few sleeping bags, a tent, and you will be amazed how little you need to spend.
My parents took us camping a lot as children to save money, and we were able to explore some amazing places. We camped all over the United States. We would drive to the see some amazing attractions, like the Grand Canyon, and pitch camp there for super cheap. Even though I’m not really an “outdoorsy” person, we did make a lot of memories, and had some awesome experiences that we would not of been able to have otherwise.
For my parents, vacations as a family were a priority and they made that happen with what they had. As their income increased our vacations were nicer but, as a child, I never thought any vacation was cheap or not as fun. Vacation was vacation, no matter where we stayed, and it was invaluable.
You can make amazing memories without spending a lot of money.
3. COOK & MEAL PLAN
This also connects with where you stay. If you forgo a hotel, and choose a rental or resort, you will have a kitchen. This lessens the amount you will need for eating out while away. If you are camping you can look up some great campfire recipes to cook over the grill or a fire. Cutting down on food costs really makes a difference in the amount used on a vacation.
We rarely eat out for breakfast as cereal & milk is always an easy & affordable option that you can bring along. Sandwiches and chips are an easy option for lunch or dinner. As our vacation budget increased, we moved to eating in for 2 meals, and eating out for one. This is still a great money-saver. If it’s a more expensive vacation overall, I will meal plan the same I do at home for my weekly grocery budget and, just go out for a dessert like ice cream.
4. DO A LITTLE RESEARCH
Plan your activities by finding out what is FREE or cheaper to do in that area by simply researching it. Again, Groupon and Living Social are great resources for finding local activities at a great discount. Even if you don’t have kids, when you google free activities for kids it seems that so many more activities come up that are just as much fun with 2 people as they are with 5.
Plan your vacations around the main activity being low cost. Head to a beach, it’s FREE, and relaxing, and everyone wants to stay there all day. You can pack a cooler of food if you are looking to even save. Also, checking out national parks will fill your day with tons of activities, and they are usually free or low on costs to visit.
5. GO TO WALMART/DOLLAR STORE FOR SOUVENIRS
Most tourist shops are ridiculously expensive! Wal-Mart and the Dollar Store have key chains, mugs, T-shirts or whatever your heart desires for over half the price. They are just as great in quality and, usually even have more variety. We always want something to take home to remember our experiences and this is a cheap way to do that.
Using these tips, we have been able to take our family to some really amazing places over the years. I hope that you will make vacations a priority. The memories are priceless.
If you are looking for some great vacation locations, check out “Why Adventures by Disney is the Only way to visit New York.”