Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ten Ways to Have a Cheaper Vacation


Taking the family on cheap holidays can sometimes seem as illusive as finding the fountain of youth, but a little planning can save big bucks. Here are a few ways we saved money on our vacations this summer...

1. Plan your vacation early. One of the many things I love about John is that he's a planner. I come from a family of non-planners. It was shocking when I first met him, to listen to him talk about where and what time we were going to eat at a given restaurant two weeks before the event actually occurred. I'm used to it now, and I wish I were more like him.

If you're not like my husband, you should at least try to be when planning a holiday. Booking hotels, flights and even bus trips are almost always cheaper when done as far in advance as possible.

2. Plan homemade meals and picnics.


This is certainly more work than stopping at McDonalds every few hours, but if you want some extra spending money to spend at the cute antique shop in that quaint little town your mother told you about, this is where you can save big money, especially if you're traveling with a large family like we do. Picnics in parks are great for when traveling to your destination, and it gives the kids a chance to run off some energy, and homemade meals are best when settling into your hotels. You don't need a kitchette, just plan cold meals like sandwiches, veggie and fruit platters and salads. This also helps those of us trying to keep our weight down while we travel!

3. Eat light when eating out.


A couple of rules we have for when we do eat out on vacations are that we don't order appetizers, kids share meals, and no one gets anything other than water to drink. This saves at least $20 per meal, which really adds up if you're eating out once a day. Also, asking the waiter to put half of your meal in a take-out box before it even comes to the table will ensure you have a meal ready to eat the next day.

4. Pack light. If you're traveling by air, you'll realize that most airlines now charge for stowed luggage. When the 16-year-old girl, Baby Hippo and I went to New York City for a week last year, we only packed two carry-on bags and were able to avoid $50 in luggage fees. And that's with a baby! Yes, I was proud. We checked Baby Hippo's stroller and car seat at the gate, and were able to keep more spending money in our pockets for what we really wanted to do.... eat at Roxy's on Time Square!


If your traveling by auto, packing light will help you save gas money. This is something I need to work on. I'll try harder next time, Honey!

5. Drive slower. Studies have shown that driving between 45 and 55 MPH will ensure your car is at it's peak of efficiency. Driving even 65 MPH increases fuel consumption. One study showed that those who slowed down from 75 MPH to 55 MPH saved an average of about $20 per week in gas. Just think how much this would save on a long road trip. To read more go HERE.

6. Maintain your car. Doing things like checking the oil, spark plus and tire pressure can all save money while traveling by auto. For a great checklist on other things to check before you go, click HERE.

7. Stay in cheaper hotels. This is kind of a no-brainer, but let me just make a few points in case you're not convinced you shouldn't stay in a 5-star hotel. Just think about it. How much time do you actually spend in your hotel room? Isn't the purpose of a vacation to get out and see new things, meet new people, and try exciting new activities? To me, as long as the hotel is clean and has a swimming pool, we're good to go. Save the 5-star hotel for your honeymoon.

8. Sign up for a credit cards that give hotel or airline points. This has helped us save huge amounts of cash on hotel fees. In the past we've used our credits cards for as many purchases as possible, trying our best to pay them off every month, and we've been rewarded with many free nights at La Quinta, a great hotel that almost always has a swimming pool!

9. Find free activities, like museums, parks, gardens, beaches. Our kids seem to have the best time at free places, like the whale park in Santa Cruz...


...or the beach...


There are tons of free things to do in any city. Just do your homework!

10. Go camping. For some reason, this is my favorite way to vacation. I don't know if it's the feeling of camaraderie of working together with your family to set up lodging, if it's the smell of a campfire on your clothes from a night of conversing, drinking hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows on makeshift log benches, or if it's the feeling of listening to the night sounds as you lie in your tent: the crickets, the rustle of pines or the stream passing by.

Growing up, this is the only type of holiday I can remember, most likely because my parents weren't overly wealthy and this is all we could afford. When I grew up, and married an enlisted soldier, we still couldn't afford to do anything but camping, and some of my favorite memories of the times we had together before he passed away are centered in the camping trips we took, one a two-week tour of all the most beautiful campgrounds in New Mexico. Give camping a try if you haven't before. You might find your hidden out-doorsy inner child!


So there's my list! What do YOU do to save money on holidays? I'd really love to hear. Thanks for listening!


alessandra said...

Great tips, you are absolutely right about planning and I'm not a planner too.

alessandra said...

Oh and beautiful photos :D

Mom2my10 @ 11th Heaven said...

Thanks, Ale! :)

Brian + Cheryl B. said...

Hi Jen ;->
When we 'travel', I usually pack a smaller cooler between the front seats of our van. In it, I put beverages, cheese sticks, and other munchies. Doing so makes 'pit stops' cost free. And even if I do pack pop in the cooler - it's far less expensive when purchased at Sam's Club than at a gas station type of place!

Especially when we use to travel with our kids, we would only eat out one meal a day*. We'd pick a hotel that featured a free breakfast buffet, and I'd bring along either sandwich stuff or easy to microwave stuff for our dinners.

About the * - the rule for picking a restaurant to eat at, was that it could not be from a chain which we could eat at in our own city. We've discovered some wonderful places that it's probably a good thing they aren't in our own city ;-p

About the driving slower. The "driving between 45 and 55 MPH will ensure your car is at it's peak of efficiency." depends on your vehicle. A lot of the older ones actually do better at the higher speeds. For the record, none of our cars are newer than 1999 ;-p

Also, if your driving below 55, you often become a traffic hazard. Others coming up behind you are not expecting you to be traveling that far below the "normal" speed.

Maintaining your car is so-o important!!!! Also, it is far cheaper to carry a couple of cans of oil with you 'just in case', than to pick them up en-route!

A lot of museums are not free. Nor are a lot of beaches or even parks. But a money saving tip about the ones that aren't. Compare the different fees offered. For our family of 6, we found that sometimes it was cheaper to purchase the year membership to museums, than to pay the individual rates per person. PLUS, the year membership let us return free, bring a guest with us, parking was free, etc. The same then applies to beaches, etc.

We always enjoyed camping. Just wish more 'big cities' had camp grounds closer than a forty minute drive away!!!

Now a days, most of our traveling is either to visit our out-of-state kids (although a couple of times we have chosen to stay at a nearby less expensive hotel for out own reasons ;->), or to some friends cottage they allow us the pleasure of borrowing.

I think a vacation will definitely be in order come Oct., when all of this wedding related stuff is officially done.