Because we are a one income family, I’m always trying to find ways to save a dime. After all, those dimes add up. In order for us to travel as often as we do, we have to scrimp where we can. Here are a few of my tips for traveling on a budget.
Food and Lodging
Book a hotel room that offers a free breakfast. When you are feeding a family, saving money on one meal can make a big difference. If a meal isn’t included, buy a box of cereal or donuts at a nearby store and call it breakfast. Even if it’s only breakfast for one day, it helps keep costs down.
Instead of booking a hotel room, book an apartment, condo, or rental home. Check out VRBO.com or Airbnb.com to search for vacation rentals at your destination. Booking a rental may cost you more up front, but if you decide to cook all your own meals, you will save a bunch in the long run. Being able to cook dinner and not eat out is a huge money saver.
On the same page, wherever you are going for the day, be sure to pack your own lunch. Even if you are staying at a hotel, most hotels nowadays offer refrigerators in rooms. We usually hit up a drugstore or grocery store for peanut butter, jelly, bread, and snacks to take care of lunch for the week.
Camp! If you are visiting national parks or outdoor destinations, find a campground instead of a hotel room. Camping does require an initial deposit of considerable amounts because you have to buy a tent, sleeping bags, pads, lights, gear, etc. You have to do the math to figure out if making the investment in camping gear is worth it for you (and if your family even likes to camp!). Our family tent cost $400. Considering a hotel night costs around $100 a night, I felt that we at least got our money’s worth after four nights in it.
Drive, drive, drive whenever you can. If you drive to your destination, you don’t have to worry about a rental car after a pricey flight, which will save you money.
If you are a member, check out warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club. They often have great deals for package vacations, or have special items included for free, like a breakfast buffet, in the cost of your travel package.
Decide to visit a cheaper destination, like a national park. National parks and state parks offer an escape while staying on budget. Admission and activity costs at these parks are low, compared to other destinations.
Book air travel and return flights on a Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. These are the cheapest days to fly.
Sign up for a credit card with a major airline. Most of them charge a yearly fee of around $100, but you earn miles on every purchase. Make this card your primary credit card and begin earning miles well before your expected trip. Use these miles as currency when you book your flight.
Find activities that have minimal costs. Visit the beach, go for a hike, or visit the hotel pool. Not every day on vacation has to be a jam-packed day full of places to go and things to see.
Check out your planned activities on the internet before you leave. Often times, if you book excursions and activities online ahead of time, you can get a slight discount. Keep in mind, it’s only a money-saving tip if you absolutely plan on participating in that activity and don’t anticipate any changes. Despite the discount, you don’t want to fully pay for some activity that you and your family end up not being able to do.
Recognize that these are just tips. Not every day has to be a penny pincher while on vacation. We like to change it up during our trips and have a few frugal days mixed in with a nice meal out or a more expensive activity for the day.
If you are on a budget, you have to do your homework. Spend some time on the internet researching where you want to go and what you want to do. It pays to comparison shop. It takes time and effort, but you’ll feel better prepared and more confident while on vacation.