Planning on vacationing this year? Knowing you’ve created a family vacation that will not only bring smiles to the faces of your clan, but also leave you free of burdensome debt is worth every ounce of time you’ll put into planning. Allow me (oh, do tell me, Great Frugal One...) to gently guide you into the unknown world of the frugal vacationer; a place where no family goes without a splashy summer excursion, a place where keen strategy reigns and overpriced admission-fees die–only in–The Travel Tightwad Zone...
Plan ahead. The main ingredient for debt-free vacation success is planning and saving well in advance of the actual trip. My husband and I recently took a trip to South Dakota. We saved for many months until we mustered up $1000.00. Budgeting for our one-week trip according to the amount of money we had, helped us to come back from the trip with money in our pockets.
Go to a state that touches yours. Don't think you can afford a vacation across the world? How about across the state? By driving a few hours to a bordering city in another state, you can get the feel of an exciting adventure with little time and monetary commitment.
Spring for the kitchenette. By booking either a kitchenette hotel room or choosing a small housekeeping cabin, you will have the freedom of grocery shopping when you arrive at your vacation spot. This will enable you to be in full control of how much you eat out. Of course, you'll still want to indulge in a restaurant or two–but doing most of the cooking in your room will end up saving you tons of cash. Yet another miserly twist–be sure to bring along an ice chest and an electric frying pan. Some motels offer small refrigerators and microwaves in the rooms as well. Do your homework and opt for foods which are a bit easier to cook–you are on vacation, after all!
Plan for only one admission-based activity. Our family opted to visit South Dakota for its unique Reptile Gardens facility. We purposefully planned our weeks stay and included only two admission-based activities in our itinerary. We enjoyed cave-discovering hikes, traveled the streets of local historic towns, and were even blessed with a binocular view of ten prancing deer running along the base of the beautiful South Dakota mountains–all completely free!
Get in that car, and go! The cost of gas is certainly much less than the cost of your entire family's airline tickets. For a ten hour drive round-trip, you may have to fill your gas tank only 6-7 times. Compare this cost to the average airline ticket price of $350.00 per person. If the wear and tear on your vehicle really bugs you...renting a car is still a cost-effective way to travel by highway. Road trips also allow you to see many things you would certainly miss from the sky.
Stay in your own state. Don't forget the wonderful tourist possibilities in remote locations of your very own state. There are bound to be attractions in tiny towns you've never been to–or better yet–never even heard of! In my opinion, the smaller and older the town, the better. Many local cities offer unique namesakes such as “Home of the World’s Biggest Ball of Twine.” Now, how many people can say they’ve traveled from afar to see that?
Take a mini-vacation. Our family thoroughly enjoys what we like to term mini-vacations. This is simply a one-night stay in any city and in any hotel with a swimming pool. Even if you are only a few miles away from home, just being out of your native environment for one measly night has the ability to revive the spirit. This type of vacation is an ideal winter get-away.
Pitch a tent. If we are wise with our spending, camping trips can be a very economical way to vacation. Compare $15.00 per night of tenting to $65.00 per night in the cheapest motel, and you've got yourself a deal! If you are not fully equipped with all the gear you’ll need to camp, ask friends and family if they wouldn't mind lending you their equipment for your tree-hugging excursion. Chances are–that gear has remained untouched in their attic or garage for a long time–offer a trade-off for free dusting service.
Any sucker relatives? Got any hospitable relatives in different parts of the country? There's no better way to get to know your extended family members than to stay a few nights in their home. Plan your vacation according to where they are located. And of course–get their permission to come first! (We’re just cheap–not rude!)
Surf the Web for flight deals. If you decide to fly, don't forget to use the Internet to uncover some terrific deals on airline tickets. I have personally used Priceline.com to name my own price on $150.00 round-trip tickets from Minnesota to Nevada and back again numerous times now. The more willing you are to make connections, the more flexible your arrival and departure dates, the better chance you have to secure a whopper of a bargain.
Ditch the souvenirs, would ya?! How many times have you received a well-intentioned can-cooler plastered with the name of a recently visited geographic location from the relatives? Now, be honest–how many of you have felt the pangs of guilt as you slyly continued to scoot the nude-woman-silhouette-sporting Key West seashell further and further out of eyesight until it accidentally fell off the table? (Oops!) The internal pressure we feel to bring something back to friends and family is real–but let's do them a favor this year–and opt for sending the 25 cent postcard. Your pals and relatives can send their thank you cards directly to me.
In conclusion, vacationing this summer does not have to send you dipping into the 401K. If we take a little time to plot and drop some of our old "I want it this way or else!" ways it is very possible to travel without racking up the credit cards. Use the advice above to get your mind started in a frugal-vacation-thinking kind of way–and then come up with new ideas! Bon voyage!
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