Vacation on a Budget!

Vacation doesn’t have to break the bank! Between airfare, hotels, eating out, and entertainment, the cost can add up quickly, the last thing you need on a vacation is to stress out over how you’re going to pay for everything, so here are some great ideas on how to get the most bang for your buck and still have an awesomely memorable vacation!

When to Go

Some of the most expensive times to travel are around the holidays and in the summer, so when you decide the ideal time to travel, if you can avoid those, that will automatically give you a leg up on the pricing game! I’m not saying never travel around those dates, but be smart about it.  For example, my family planned a week at Disney World right AFTER New Year’s, so we flew in the 1st and stayed that week, which was great because most tourists were on their way home, so the parks were A LOT more empty AND the rates were cheaper!

Go some place in the OFF SEASON: For example, in the summer, ski lodges often have some of their best deals and because they are usually in mountainous areas, there are still plenty of great activities like hiking, etc. In the Winter, you can go to a beachy destination and pick a place with an indoor pool, so you can still enjoy walking along the beach and enjoying the water, but can go for a swim too!

Where to Go

Choose a location based on price: There are many sites (like http://www.vacationrentals.com) Where you  put in the parameters of what you want (amenities, number of bedrooms, etc.) and it will give you an entire list (with pictures) of various properties that are discounted! This is also fun because you can find

Look for airports that are cheapest to fly to from your base airport-For Example: I live near the Baltimore airport, so I look up fares from there to anywhere and it will give me a list of the cheapest places to fly, so that helps me chose where we should go.

How to Get There

To fly or to drive, that’s the question we all ask ourselves when it comes to vacation! With gas prices going up and air travel restricting what you can take with you, both seem to be expensive, but it doesn’t always have to be that way!

Driving: There are a few things you can do to take the sting out of gas prices!

My husband and I always try to stop at Murphy USA gas stations b/c they typically have the lowest gas prices, so when we plan out route, we pre-plan gas stops based on locations of those particular stations.

Buy gift cards: to certain gas stations a few months before you go, so that way you’re not racking up a HUGE gas bill all at once on the actual vacation!

Vacation some place near family that way you can go on the way there or back, so you’re only paying gas expenses once, but getting a family visit AND a vacation out of it!

 

Booking Airfare:

Plan ahead! Although there are sometimes deals for booking last minute, more often than not, if you can book your flight AT LEAST 6 weeks ahead of time you’ll not only have more flight options, you can also get your fare cheaper as well!

The cheapest days to travel are almost always Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays (depending on when holidays fall!) and to stay for an entire 7 days (IE Tuesday to Tuesday).

Carry-on!! NEVER pay to check luggage! It can cost you up to an extra $45 each way (depending on the airline!) it’s not worth it! Pack more efficiently or enroll in frequent flyer programs that allow you to check bags for free!

Get Bumped! This sounds crazy, but it happens more than you might think-airlines oversell the amount of seats that are on the plane, so often they will ask if anyone is willing to give up their seat(s) for a later flight AND they make sure you get PAID to do it! They will not only rework your WHOLE itinerary, they will often upgrade you to first class and they ALWAYS give you at least ONE FREE TICKET for a future flight, so if you have some time and don’t mind hanging out in the airport a little longer, you can really benefit from being bumped!!

Although there are many sites that compare prices, often it is cheaper to go to the airline’s own webpage!! I few airlines that are typically cheaper on their own pages include:

http://www.delta.com

www.southwest.com

www.aa.com

Some of the sites that search a good assortment of different airlines are:

www.cheaptickets.com

www.travelocity.com

www.orbitz.com

www.priceline.com

Entertainment and Activities:

Once you get where you’re going, chances are you’re going to want to do some of the fun things that make it really feel like a vacation.  There are a few things you can do ahead of time to make sure that you get to do all those fun local activities without breaking the bank.

Buy a City Pass: if you’re going to a major like Atlanta, New York City, Chicago, etc. You can buy a City Pass (at http://www.citypass.com) which gives you at least 50% off admission to the most popular museums, tours, and local activities.

Buy an Entertainment Book: This is a book that contains coupons for Buy-one-get-one-free admissions to various events, activities and restaurants as well! Plus the coupons all have location addresses on the backs, so that helps you know exactly where to go and what’s near where you’ll be staying/touring.  Depending on the time of year, you can often get an Entertainment Book for under $20 (with shipping) and you’ll save FAR MORE than that! Visit www.entertainment.com and type in the zipcode or town/city name of where you’ll be visiting and it will give you a sneak peak of the discounts for that area!

Go Online Ahead of Time: Many states and cities have websites that allow you to enter your home mailing address and they will send you a magazine/brochures/flyers with coupons, information, and activities for that local area.  Most places also have webpages for their local chamber of commerce that list upcoming events and activity ideas. Collect all of this information and plan ahead so you  know what you want to do and about how much it’s going to cost, so you can budget.

Visit the local Visitor’s Center: This sounds like a cheesy thing to do, but taking 5 minutes to visit the information desk at the airport or visitor’s center in the area you’re staying in can save you a lot of money! They have flyers and maps, which usually also have coupons on them.  It’s also helpful because you can find out from the people who work there what activities are really worth doing and which ones you can pass on!

 

Food/Eating out:

Eating out for every meal can get expensive, especially when you’re traveling with a family, but here are a few tips that can keep that food budget in check so you have more money to spend on other fun things during your vacation!

Find a Local Grocery Store: If you’re staying some place with even a small kitchenette, you can find a local grocery store to buy milk, bread, cereal, PB&J, etc.  so that you can pack light meals to take with you on your adventures, that way you’re not having to pay for the small meals! For Example: We stayed at a ski resort with a full kitchen, so we ate cereal for breakfast and packed a picnic lunch to eat while we were hiking, so we only ate out for dinner, cutting the food budget down by almost 60%!

Eat an Early Dinner: Many places have lunch specials that go from 11am-4pm or so, SO if you eat a big lunch around 3pm or so, then you can eat light for dinner-IE that PB&J you got at the grocery store!  Most places serve the same meals for lunch as they do for dinner, they just charge more later in the day! Plus, this gives you an excuse to use the entertainment book to go out and find a nice dessert place later in the evening!!

Buy an Entertainment Book: Yes, this is also listed under Entertainment and Activities because the Entertainment book has coupons for restaurants also, so buying one book can REALLY save you a lot in everything you do from mini-golf to seafood!

Visit Restaurant.com! This site is GREAT (www.restaurant.com) ! You can buy coupons for restaurants (if you watch the sales, you can often get a $25-$35 coupon for $2) You simply enter the zipcode and it will bring up an entire list of restaurants in that area. It also will show you their menu, location, etc. so you can get an idea of what type of restaurant it is before you buy the coupon.  You buy the coupon, print it out and take it to the restaurant.  How the coupons work is you spend $35 and get $25 off, so you end up only paying about $10 for your whole meal (you do have to still add tax and tips, but you’d pay that whether you used a coupon or not!)

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