As our family starts preparing for our summer vacations (yes that is plural), I am also seeing tons of people out there looking for great deals on various locations. There was a time and place when I thought that taking a vacation of any kind was impossible due to limited finances. I have since discovered these 7 Tips For Budget Friendly Vacations that have helped us to manage some amazing vacations on a limited budget.
7 Tips For Budget Friendly Vacations
Vacation With Other Families. One of the biggest expenses when traveling can be the lodging involved. Check out rental properties at your destination and find another family to travel with who can split costs. Many beach front and resort destinations have tons of condo rentals that will sleep up to 8 people easily.
Vacation Around Work Trips. Both The Man and myself attend several conferences a year for work purposes. While our jobs pay for the conference admission, lodging and travel - we are out on the money for the additional person(s) going along. This often includes free food for one of us along the road driving our expenses even lower. Many employers will provide you with admission to multiple work related events per year, and are happy to allow you vacation time around the event. Don't expect your job to pay for all of your expenses, but do look for them to pay for your ticket, the cost of room during the event and food for the person attending the event. Additional flights for other family members, food or extra lodging expenses for extended stay or fee for more people in a room will be up to you to cover.
Shop The Sales. Seriously, I cannot say enough about shopping ahead of time and shopping sales. This is all about shopping various deal sites like Groupon, Living Social, Deal Chicken, Amazon Local and booking sites like Priceline, Endless Vacation Rentals and even direct flights through airlines. Southwest routinely has $69 one way tickets to many of their hubs across the US. Work with those sale dates and discover a fun destination for your next family vacation. Many sites will offer all inclusive packages that are far cheaper than buying the individual aspects seperately. Also don't forget to check and see if Citypass has a pass for your destination. Not only are they great for discounts on multiple venues, they often include transportation as well.
Take A Cruise Instead. If you live within driving distance of a cruise line port this truly is an amazing money saver. With ticket prices for many cruises under $500 per person, the ability to have an all inclusive luxury vacation at a fraction of the cost of flying to a destination and staying in a hotel is amazing. Many cruise lines have multiple offerings for family friendly destinations and on board events as well.
Cash In On Rewards Points. Southwest and Alaska Airlines are two of my favorites because of their lower flight costs and nice point values per flight. Check into current programs offering extra reward points when you use your credit card to book, or if you use your credit card for a certain amount prior to your booking. American Express, Chase and even Capital One all offer various reward programs that earn points that can be redeemed for vacation packages, flights and even free car rentals.
Shop Around For Rental Cars. While there are dozens of rental car companies with competitive prices out there, you really need to check what the overall best deal will be for you. Some companies have frequent user rewards that would be great if you are planning multiple trips this year. Others offer discounts with your AAA card, if you are military or if you book through a specific website. There is even a great new to me company called Flight Car which allows you to rent someone else's car for your vacation instead of a standard car from a company.
Go For Basics. This is simple - go for a basic motel room, simple meals and free side attractions and splurge on the main event. Want to take the kids to Disney? Stay outside the park area at a smaller motel and pack your own groceries for meals instead of staying in park and paying two to three times the price for a room. Take a road trip instead of flying to save money on ticket costs. Pack groceries and eat in the car on the road. While the luxuries are nice, the main destination is the real prize.
Wondering how we have put these things into place in our lives? Here are just a few locations we have traveled to in the past few years on limited budgets:
- United States Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. We stayed a half hour from Huntsville in a Super 8 that was only $40 a night and offered free continental breakfast. We drove the 9 hours from our home for ⅓ the price flights would have cost, and we also packed a box and cooler with easy to make sandwiches, etc.
- Silicon Valley, California. We combined an annual programming conference paid for by The Man's work and my work to spend a few days on a quiet trip alone as a couple. Arriving 3 days before the conference began, we used our rental car to tool around the cities in the area taking in the sites.
- Oahu, Hawaii. We spent our time on the island staying with The Man's parents and found flights through one of the online booking sites that gave a large discount for taking Alaskan Airlines instead of one of the other higher priced airlines that typically flies to Honolulu. We looked up local free tourist things and spent most of our time on the beaches and eating at home with his Mom & Dad.
All were amazing destinations made possible by combining work trips, spending time with friends and just playing tourist. Along the way we spent time at local venues, did free tourist stops and ate out multiple times. This summer we are heading out to San Diego again for a work conference and combining it with family time for a fun vacation. Later in the year we will be taking a cross country road trip to Oregon where The Man will be at a conference for a week and the Wee Child and I will play tourist.
All 7 Tips For Budget Friendly Vacations are things almost anyone can implement. The exception would be the person who does not have a career where travel is a benefit or requirement. Otherwise anyone can take a few days away to experience something new with their family on a budget.