Top 5 Tips to Make Vacation Doable on Any Budget
There are several major expenses associated with vacationing. One option to make Vacation Doable on Any Budget is skipping at least one major expense. Doing this could mean a little extra to spend elsewhere, such as upgrading your hotel in lieu of expensive local tours. Or, for some on a limited budget, it might mean the difference between enjoying a getaway and staying home.
Skipping one major expense can open up a whole new level of possibilities! You can avoid a major cost and make your vacation more affordable.
Here are our top 5 suggestions to make Vacation Doable on Any Budget:
- DON’T GO! Opt for a “staycation” which is staying near home to avoid airfare or car & gas expenses. Saving money on actually getting to your destination can free up money to get a better room in a more prime resort such as when we stayed at The Waterfront Beach Resort – a Hilton Hotel in Huntington Beach, California. You’ll feel like you’re 100 miles from home, even if you’re not! Plus, higher-rated properties often include things that will cost you money elsewhere such free accessories and entertainment (swimming pools, in-room spas, beach towels, lawn chairs, complimentary breakfast or all-day meal plans, free parking, etc.).
- DON’T STAY! Stay with friends or family, camp out or try house swapping to avoid hotel or motel room costs. If you’d prefer to get out of town, consider skipping the room fees by bunking with a pal or your favorite aunt. You’ll get the benefit of visiting with loved ones and save money! Just be careful not to overstay your welcome, and try to do something nice for your host such as treat them to a fabulous dinner (even if you’re cooking at their house). And, be sure to be respectful and tidy! Or, check out local campgrounds and pack a tent! If none of that works for you, consider swapping your place for a place at your destination. There are several house swapping services that can save you a ton on your lodging Check out House Swapping with HomeExchange. And, if you’re traveling abroad, don’t forget to look into staying at a hostel versus a hotel to save a bunch! Another idea is making it a shorter stay. You can cut your expenses in half by staying a week instead of two!
- FREE FUN! Skip major entertainment such as theme parks and shows and opt instead to take in local free activities such as hitting the beach instead of Disneyland. Just be careful to do your research and make sure you’re actually saving money. Parking, accessories and other hidden costs can make even “free” activities end up costing a lot. If your vacation destination is near a National Park, check out the weekends you can visit free (many offer free admission all the time!) If you absolutely MUST visit Mickey Mouse or Shamu, consider buying souvenirs before you leave home or at a local discount store at your destination. The Walmart in Huntington Beach has a Souvenir aisle right by the front door. And often those little mom and pop shops you see sell great memorabilia for a fraction of the cost of the big entertainment capitals. Shop around just like you would at home! Heading to the shops near Disney World is free and gives you a fun afternoon with The Mouse. When we visited, I surprised my little girl with a big, stuffed Mickey Mouse that I had brought along. I’d gotten him from a thrift store near our home for $1 instead of paying $49.99 at the park! Vacation is a great time to just hang out – instead of paying for a babysitter or kids club (at the rate of $75 per day), hang out with your kids. Talk to them. Unplug and unwind. You’ll make memories on the cheap!
- EAT RIGHT! Instead of spending a fortune dining out, choose inexpensive local fare. Or, if your room has a refrigerator or kitchen/kitchenette, skip eating out altogether and buy inexpensive groceries to dine in! You can do this on any level – for all meals or just a few. Most rooms have coffee makers but only offer coffee to brew a cup or two per day. Grab coffee at a local grocery store and brew in your room instead of stopping at an expensive coffee shop. Pick up a box of cereal and carton of milk to feed the kiddos breakfast rather than eat breakfast at restaurants every day (and don’t forget your coupons!) You can even get deli meat or peanut butter and jelly and some bread for a few thrifty lunches! Don’t forget to check our list of restaurants with Kids Eat Free options to save when traveling with your children. Or, if you want to vacation like royalty but save on costs, consider an all-inclusive resort that includes food and drinks without having to leave! These are often on daily deal sites such as Groupon’s all-inclusive travel deals, where you can save up to 90% on your vacation. My husband and his oldest son enjoyed a wonderful all-inclusive resort in Cancun last year for a fraction of the cost of a regular room!
- REAL SAVINGS! Remember to do your research and save money wherever you can. Travel is expensive, so saving where you can really adds up. But don’t be “dollar wise and penny foolish.” In other words, be careful not to save a little money only to incur extra charges and end up not saving anything, and getting cut-rate service. Check out our tips to get the best price on airfare. For example, my family flies free on Virgin America because my stepson works for them. Amazing, right? It totally is (and we LOOOOVE Virgin!) Except that VX doesn’t fly into our nearest airport, so we need to get to Chicago on our dime. No problem, because Spirit Airlines flies from MSP to ORD several times daily. They have the lowest fares compared to other airlines. Seriously, it’s usually at least $100 cheaper per person round trip! But, did you know they charge for EVERYTHING? You can’t even bring a carry-on bag onboard without paying. And unlike Spirit tickets, bags aren’t cheap! It’s $35 for a carry on bag if you check in when you book (as low as $25 with the $9 fare club which you have to pay for). It’s $45 if you check in ahead of time online, and $50 if you check in at the airport!! FIFTY BUCKS to bring a carry on bag on Spirit! To be fair, checking a bag on Spirit can actually be cheaper than bringing a carry-on bag ($30 during booking, $40 during online check-in, $45 at airport) so you could share a checked bag with family if you absolutely had to. Don’t even bother flying Spirit if you plan to check your carry-on or checked bag at the gate because it will cost you $100 and eat up any savings you might have otherwise enjoyed. Oh, and those costs are one way, not round trip! They call it “bare fare” so you can save a ton if you’re willing to skip all the frills. What they call “frills” and what I call “frills” is a little different. LOL! Printing your boarding pass with an agent costs another $10 per person, one-way. And, if you’re thirsty onboard you can’t get a bottle of water – or anything else – unless you pay for it. During the safety speech, our Spirit Airlines flight attendant announced that in the event that the cabin loses pressure, oxygen masks would drop from the ceiling. He joked that you would need to swipe a credit card to get oxygen flowing, because “NOTHING is free on Spirit Airlines.” We traveled to California for a week, and all we could bring onboard was a personal item (16″ x 14″ x 12″). That’s about the size of a large grocery bag. Not coincidentally, my family used three such large grocery bags instead of paying for our baggage on Spirit. It helps that I am a master packer. Its one of my super-powers. Last year when we visited my MIL in Texas, we flew Spirit to Texas and Sun Country back. I actually did not bring ANY extra clothes – just what I was wearing. My nervous-traveler husband insisted that he couldn’t be without everything he brought and there was no room for anything of mine. I knew I could buy a few things for cheaper than it would cost to check a bag. So, I did some quick shopping when I arrived and all was fine. I was able to bring a bag home on my return flight. I saved $50-100, depending on how you look at it and probably spent about $25 and got a few new clothes! Yay, me!
Which reminds me… be careful not to get so focused on saving money that you make yourself or your family miserable. Remember to relax! It is vacation, after all!
The point isn’t to skip EVERYTHING, the point is to do what’s important to you and save on things that aren’t as important. By saving where you can, you can splurge on things you really want to do and not feel guilty!
Want more tips? Don’t miss our 5 Tips to Save on Summer Travel!