Tuesday, May 14, 2013

8 Tips to Help You Save Money While On Vacation

The school year is winding down and I find myself day dreaming of sand, surf and our upcoming summer vacation. I'm usually jolted back to reality by the sound of the bus brakes as they squeak to a stop. Less than five more weeks of the mad morning dash to make it to the bus stop on time and then we'll start counting down the days until our summer vacation.

Our summer destination of choice is the beach. Every year, we split the rent on a beach condo with other family members to make a week away affordable for everyone involved. The good news is that we are usually still on speaking terms at the end of the week.

We look forward all year to our summer vacation, so the last thing that we want to do is stress about the money spent while on our trip.

A little up front planning will help you save money while on your trip, so that you can have the relaxed vacation that you've been waiting for.

8 Tips to Help You Save Money While On Vacation

1. Use Cash

Using only cash while on vacation will force you to question each purchase, especially when it comes to spending money on unnecessary souvenirs--you won't want to waste your cash. Do you really need another coffee mug or t-shirt? We also don’t want to come home to a credit card bill. I want to remember my vacation through our photos, not our receipts.

It's not too late to raise some spending money if you haven't been setting it aside. We plan on participating in our neighborhood's yard sale next month to raise our vacation funds. Also, have your kids save their own money for their souvenirs. We told our daughters that they could set up a lemonade stand at the yard sale to earn their spending money.

2. Make a list of expenditures.

Your planning starts with your destination. How long will your travel time be? 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? Are their excursions and activities that you want to do, but will cost additional money?

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?

Sit down with your family and brainstorm what everyone's expectations will be while on vacation.

4. Create a Meal Plan.

Food is usually our the biggest expenditure during our vacation and thankfully our beach condo will have a kitchen. We travel with my extended family, so my mom and I will sit down before the trip and talk about a meal plan.

Before your trip, calculate the number of meals during your trip and decide how many will be eaten in and how often you will dine out. Include breakfasts, lunches, dinners and even snacks in your planning. We will be gone for 7 days. We'll eat breakfast in our rental on 5 of those days and take turns the other two days picking up some freshly baked cinnamon rolls at a nearby bakery. Oh my, I can smell and taste them now!

For lunch, we usually pack a cooler with food each day that we are at the beach and eat out somewhere for lunch on the one day when we need a sun-break.

For dinner, we'll plan to eat in on 5 nights and eat out 2 nights. Everyone will have at least one night to cook for the entire crowd and the other nights, we'll collaborate on a meal. Usually there is enough leftovers for the last night to be a ‘clean out the fridge’ night.

We'll plan the menu weeks before we leave, so I can do most of my grocery shopping at home instead of our vacation spot where prices are more expensive. Also, by planning ahead I can take advantage of sales. Our beach condo has a grill so I usually grill chicken or burgers for my dinner night. In the past, I've made tacos, lasagna, or enchiladas. I just pack everything in coolers and the food holds up during our drive. For my side dishes, I have stopped at road side farms stands en route to the beach for corn on the cob, salad fixings and watermelon.

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. Some things to consider:

  • 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 stay, it is recommended to not drink the water out of the faucet, so we take a lot of water. We'll take our own reusable bottles and buy gallon jugs of spring water. Thank goodness our rental has recycling containers.
  • What will you need in the kitchen? dishwasher detergent, dish soap, paper towels, napkins
  • Will you need sunscreen, bug spray? – It is so much cheaper to buy at home than on vacation.
  • Extra batteries for the cameras and video equipment.

6. Plan your travel.

  • Plan Your Food: We have driven as far as 7 hours for a beach vacation (fortunately, it will only be 4 hours this year) and I make sure to pack a lot of snack foods and drinks to save money and avoid fast food binges.
  • Plan for Traffic, Gas, & Tolls: Use an app to help you navigate through traffic, such as Google Maps, Beat the Traffic, Trip Talk or Waze. Map out your trip before you leave so you can budget for any highway tolls.
  • Plan Your Fuel Costs: Find an online fuel cost calculator or app to help you plan your gas costs. http://fuelcostcalculator.aaa.com/
  • Plan for Parking: Will there be a fee for parking at your destination? Make sure you include it in your budget.
If you have a long drive ahead of you, it might a good idea to get your vehicle serviced. Is your vehicle due for an oil change? Are you tires in good condition? Do you have enough windshield wiper fluid?

7. Tourism Centers

Once you reach your destination and you're 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 our yearly vacation, so I believe a little indulgence is needed and deserved. Since we are heading to the beach, our preferred indulgence is seafood. I 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 easy meals and eating in a few nights so that we have some extra cash for a really good, quality meal.

We love crab legs and shrimp. In the past, we've found the best prices for seafood from a little road side seafood shack. There's always a long line, so we figured it had to be good.It was cheaper to buy in bulk at this shop than for all of us to order the food individually at a restaurant.

Only 4.5 weeks until summer--I am drooling now just thinking about those crab legs!

Are you headed on vacation this summer? Where are you going to? How do you save money while on vacation? Indulge us with your summer plans in the comments.

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  1. We are not taking any significant vacations this year as we have another baby on the way. However, one thing that you mention is food savings. I think that is a great way to save a lot of money is to continue to eat the food you bought from the grocery store and what you bring along. If you stay out of restaurants, you can save a lot of money and really cut the cost of your vacation. Nice tips, thanks for sharing.

    1. Congratulations on your new baby! Thanks for commenting.

  2. I would love for you to share and link up at my TGIF Link Party.


    Hugs, Cathy

  3. Great tips. Setting agendas before you go is a nice point.

  4. you can save more money than you can imagine when you use cash instead of credit cards. Cash makes you question every purchase taht you make, unlike credit card. It's also important to plan everything for your travel, that way you will not end up spending more than expected..

  5. Using only cash during your vacation is a great way to ensure that you stay within your own budget.


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