Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Eight Tips To Help You Save Money While On Vacation

Summer is here and for many people it is time for a much needed vacation. Whether you are taking a 'staycation' or a 'gocation', as someone recently called it on Twitter, we all need some time to recharge, connect with family and let 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.

A little pre-vacation planning will help you save money while on your trip, so that you can have the relaxed vacation that you hoped for.

1. Make a list of expenditures.
Of course, your planning starts with where you are going. How long is your travel time to your destination and how are you getting there? Are you staying in a hotel, a rental or with family? 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.

2. Create A Budget For Your Trip.
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?

3. Use Cash
I like to use cash while on vacation, because I am less tempted to buy useless souvenirs and over spend with a credit card, but it takes a little planning to come up with the cash that we need. Some of our ideas:
  • We have a yard sale every spring and use that cash for our vacation.
  • We also keep a change jar in the kitchen that accumulates quickly through out the year.
  • My parents don't spend any $1 bills that pass through their hands through out the year. They save them up for their vacation.
What are some ways that you save up extra cash for vacations?

4. Create a Meal Plan.
Every summer, we travel with my parents to the beach. Our rental has a kitchen, so my mom and I sit down before the trip and talk about a meal plan.

We calculate the number of meals we are going to have and decide how many will be at home and how often we will dine out. We include breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks in our planning. My mom and I are each responsible for 2 dinners. We usually plan for one night to be ‘clean out the fridge’ night and we allow for 3 dinners out. Most of our breakfasts and lunches are eaten in and we keep it simple with cereal and eggs for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch.

I plan our menu weeks before we leave, so I'm able to take advantage of store sales and I do much of the food shopping ahead of time. Our rental has a grill so I usually grill chicken and turkey burgers for my two nights. My mom usually brings a meatloaf and soup/salad for her two nights. We both freeze our dinners at home and they hold up well in the coolers on our trip.

If you are traveling with other families, splitting the menu planning will save you money and also give you a night off when it is someone else's turn in the kitchen. Yeah, for nights off!

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. Many of these items will be cheaper if bought at home than on your vacation.
  • 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. At our vacation spot, 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 we also bring 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?
  • Don't forget batteries for the cameras.

6. Plan for your travel.
To save money and to avoid fast food, we pack our lunch, snacks and drinks for our trip. We have a 7 hour drive to our usual summer destination, so I pack a lot of snacks and drinks 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 and our family's chief cook. My preferred indulgence is food, 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.

My family loves crab legs and a few years ago, we discovered that it was a lot cheaper to buy the crab legs in bulk at a little road side seafood shack than a restaurant. They were cooked to perfection and we ate them on the deck of our rental. Ask the locals for their favorite restaurants. You might find little known gems that offer great food and great prices.

One year we were finding that nightly trips to get ice cream cones were eating up a lot of our cash. We bought some ice cream and cones at a grocery store near our rental and my kids were just as happy. They just wanted ice cream, they didn't care where it came from and we ended up saving some money.

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 save all our change, and like your parents, all $1 bill - whenever I get them I just put them away. I shop for groceries every two weeks, and also put away one $5 bill each time (I tried to save all $5 bills but it took too much out of our budget). We also put all "extras" (refunds, birthday money, etc.) into our vacation fund. It all adds up much more quickly than expected. We're usually able to cover one portion of our vacation expenses by doing this.

    Love all your other tips! I'm a much better planner these days than I used to be, but you've given me more to think about when planning.

  2. Nice tips! My gocations (as you put it) start with finding a destination we will all enjoy and that we can afford. Once past that, the next step is planning transportation, then entertainment, next hotels and finally food. Each impact the other to some degree so I try to start top down.

  3. My Mom and Dad taught us early that the best souvenirs were memories and photographs. After that came T-shirts, because we used them, or books about the area. I love folktales and legends. I would hunt down books about the local legends. More often than not they were used hard back editions, that I found while the adults were looking around an antique store.

  4. I've had great luck hitting the local Salvation Army or Goodwill while traveling to find excellent Tshirt and hat souvenirs from the place we are vacationing. My son even found cowboy boots during a vacation to New Mexico.

    This sounds obvious, I know but have your car serviced prior to leaving on vacation. A few years back I went away with a friend in her car and the "check engine" light went on while we were vacationing. We quickly had to find a service place, lost vacation time waiting for the oil to be changed, and paid way more than at home since we didn't have coupons.


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