Five Money Saving Vacation Tips
By Carol J. Alexander
(As first published in the Summer 2012 Issue)
Often, when times are tight, the first thing to go is the family vacation. With food and fuel prices rising like a hot air balloon, many families are forgoing this yearly ritual and banking the money instead. But by implementing a few unconventional ideas, you can enjoy a time of holiday without going into debt or spending all your savings.
Change your attitude
Many folks have the attitude that vacationing means spending. Often families do things and buy things they never would otherwise just because they are on vacation. Overcoming this attitude is the first step to time away on the cheap. Forgo the expensive restaurants, or restaurants altogether, if that is what you would do any other time of the year. If you normally carry your own water bottle on outings, don’t succumb to paying $2 a bottle just because you are on vacation. Remain cheerful about this restraint and pass this cheerfulness on to your children so that they do not feel deprived.
Travelling in the off season can save you a great deal of money. Airlines, hotels, campgrounds, and resorts offer prices a fraction of what they charge during peak season. However, you need to know what their peak season is. If you want to travel to Florida, or some other warm climate, their busy time is in the winter months. Appalachian camping sports a peak during the summer months. Know what the busy season is for the places you want to go and plan ahead. If school is an issue, discuss the possibility of travel with your children’s teachers ahead of time. Most are willing to arrange for assignments to be done in advance, made up, or even skipped entirely.
Enjoy a Staycation
Who says you have to travel outside of your local area to enjoy time off? The new buzz-word is “staycation.” I’m typing this story from a blanket on the side of a mountain lake while my family enjoys canoeing and fishing. We are only 20 miles from home. We packed coolers full of food and drink, brought changes of clothes, all the fishing gear we would need and left for the day. We are having a marvelous time for less money than having supper at McDonald’s would cost us. Put your thinking caps on and come up with things to do in your own neck of the woods. Do things that you enjoy but generally don’t get to do as a family because everyone is going in different directions. Here are a few ideas:
- · Take in a few museums
- · Go bowling, roller skating, hiking, or biking
- · Have company over and roast hot dogs and make s’mores over a bonfire
- · Visit a nearby theme park
- · Go on any other outing you’d enjoy but normally wouldn’t have time for.
Take your own food
Finding a place to stay with the means to cook your own food is easier than you think. Cabins and some motels come with kitchens and most hotels offer refrigerators and microwaves. Cook casseroles and soups the week before your vacation, freeze, and take along in a cooler. Also keep in mind that a lot of hotels allow children to stay for free and offer a complimentary breakfast. Just ask before you make your reservations.
Ask for discounts
Last year I travelled to a distant city for a conference and needed to stay in a hotel. I simply asked the person taking my reservations if they had any discounts. Sometimes you qualify for a senior or AAA discount. I didn’t, but the woman was gracious enough to give me the same discount because it was January and the hotel was quite slow.
Don’t forgo your family vacation this year. Implement a few of these tips and cherish the time together as a family while your family is still at home to enjoy.
Freelance writer Carol J. Alexander frequently enjoys “staycations” with her family in Virginia.