Thursday, June 17, 2010

8 Tips To Help You Save Money While On Vacation

We recently took a much-needed vacation and I watched my husband’s stress melt away.

Vacations are supposed to be enjoyable. We save and eagerly wait all year for our vacation and the last thing that we want to do is stress about the money spent while on our trip.

It might seem so obvious, but a little planning will help you save money while on your trip, so that you can have the relaxed vacation that you hoped for.

1. Use Cash

We take cash on our vacation and when it is gone, well, we’re screwed. We also don’t want to come home to a credit card bill. I hosted The $500 Challenge back in April, where I raised our spending money for our trip. Using cash also prevents me from spending money on unnecessary souvenirs, because I don’t want to waste our cash. The only thing that we use a credit card for on vacation is gas. It is just easier at the pump to use plastic.

2. Make a list of expenditures.

Of course, your planning starts with where you are going? How long is your travel time to your destination? Does your rental have a kitchen? Will you have laundry facilities? How much can you pack in your vehicle? Are there reliable grocery stores at your destination? Brainstorm all of the expenditures that you will have and make a list.

3. Create A Budget.

Everyone’s vacation destination and expectations will be different. Maybe you don’t want to cook at all during your vacation or maybe eating out for every meal is beyond what your budget can handle. What activities will be available where you are going? How much gas do you think you will need to get to your destination?

4. Create a Meal Plan.

On our trip, food was the biggest expenditure and thankfully our beach house had a kitchen. We traveled with my parents, so my mom and I sat down before the trip and talked about a meal plan.

We calculated the number of meals we were going to have and decided how many will be at home and how often we would dine out. We included breakfasts, lunches, dinners and even snacks in our planning. We were gone for 8 days. We ate breakfast in our rental on 6 of those days and bought the most delicious made-to-order donuts on the other 2 mornings. We packed a picnic lunch for the beach for 7 days and ate out for lunch on one day when we took a sun-break. My mom and I were each responsible for 2 dinners. We planned for one night to be ‘clean out the fridge’ night and we allowed for 3 dinners out.

Since this was planned out before our trip I was able to do most of our grocery shopping at home instead of our vacation spot. I planned the menu weeks before we left, so I was able to take advantage of sales. Our beach house had a grill so for my 2 dinners, I grilled chicken one night and turkey burgers and hot dogs on the other night. My mom brought a meatloaf and soup/salad for her two nights. My food was frozen and held up well in the coolers on our trip. I am fortunate enough to have a vehicle large enough to be able to pack the food. For my sides, I did go to the local grocery store for some salad fixings and a huge watermelon that lasted for several meals.

If you are traveling with other families, splitting the menu planning will help alleviate some of the meal planning on your part and save you money, but be sure to discuss each family’s food challenges.

5.What Are Your Non-Food Needs?

Being prepared ahead of time will save you money and time.
  • Will you need to supply your own: toilet paper, bath towels, bed linens.

  • Will there be laundry facilities? Detergent is much cheaper when bought at home on sale.

  • Drinking water – where we were, it is recommended to not drink the water out of the faucet, so we take a lot of water. It is the one time of year that I buy individual water bottles, but I also took gallons jugs. (thank goodness our rental had recycling containers

  • What will you need in the kitchen? dishwasher detergent, dish soap, paper towels, napkins

  • Will you need sunscreen, bug spray? – so much cheaper to buy at home than on vacation

  • Batteries for the cameras

6. Plan for your travel.
To save money and to avoid fast food, we pack our lunch and snacks for our trip. We had a 7 hour drive to our destination, so I pack a lot of snack foods and I try to keep them healthy.

Also plan for gas, tolls and parking.

7. Tourism Centers

Once you are at your destination and are settled in, find the local tourism center to scout out any coupon books. Many local businesses have these books as well. The books usually include coupons for local restaurants, stores and activities.

8. Choose Your Indulgences Wisely.

It is your vacation, so I believe a little indulgence is needed. I am a foodie, so my preferred indulgence is food and if we are at the beach, it is seafood. I also spend a lot of my time at home in the kitchen, so when I am on vacation, I want to eat some really good food, but have someone else prepare it for me. I don’t mind cooking and eating in a few nights so that we have some extra cash for a really good, quality meal.

As one of our nights out, we like buy take out crab legs and shrimp from a little road side seafood shack. We find that it is a cheaper to buy in bulk at a local seafood shop than for all of us to order the food individually at a restaurant.

I am drooling now just thinking about those crab legs...

How do you save money while on your vacation? What do you like to indulge in? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. We are getting ready for another vacation in August. For us, vacation isn't exactly vacation. Since we live so far away from family, when we go on vacation, it's to go see family instead of the beach or a nice mountain resort. So, we save money by staying with family when we can, or looking for the cheapest hotel we can find.

    I have found that with so many in our family, hotels with continental breakfasts, pools, and refrigerators actually save us money throughout the trip. So sometimes, we will pay a little extra for those, because it saves us money over all. If they don't have a fridge, we will often use a cooler and use the hotel ice to keep sandwich meat, cheese and condiments cold. Store bought drinks too! Sometimes, they will let you use the banquet rooms when not reserved, to make and eat your own "home cooked" meals instead of eating out.

    We also price gas ahead of time, or on our laptop doing down the road. We use MapQuest. This lets us know the cheapest places along the road to fill up on gas. All of our trips are at least 2 days driving time (one way), so this saves a lot of money too!

  2. WE are leaving Sat. for year 3 of a vacation we take with our best friends, their children and their grandchildren....22 of us! We are TOTALLY organized. We assign (months in advance) what every family brings: drinks, condiments, paper products, laundry supplies etc., etc. We also assign one day for each family. They plan and fix breakfast, lunch and dinner on their day. It is wonderful cause you are only responsible for ONE day. And everyone tries to outdo each other so it is always GREAT food! XO, Pinky

  3. You had a lot of great tips and it was so encouraging to know there are others out there who are trying to be frugal in every area! We don't take vacations - it just doesn't happen for us because every time we start looking into something and adding up the cost, we decide there is something else (more practical) we could do with the money. HOWEVER, this summer we actually made the decision to take a family vacation with my extended family - 16 of us total. We rented a huge house on the beach (paid for by my parents) and we'll each be helping with meals and we'll be on our own for site-seeing costs. We're SO excited! One of the things I've been trying to do since January is save up CASH (from birthdays, anniversaries, garage sales, Ebates, etc.) so that we can cover our part of the expenses without coming home to a credit card bill. It has been exciting to see that little container grow! :-)

  4. Kristi Lea - Those are some great tips. I didn't know about asking the hotel to use an unreserved banquet room. And pricing gas beforehand is an awesome idea.

    Pinky - Have a wonderful vacation. it sounds like so much fun.

    Carrie - WOO HOO you are going away too!! Have a great time.

    Thanks for the comments.


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