Monday, May 05, 2008

Vacation for Less....

From the Dollar Stretcher website:
by Judith A. Filangeri
Cutting costs without cutting the pleasure out of the trip

Ahhh! The very thought of vacation makes us wax positively poetic. "Summer afternoon - summer afternoon...the two most beautiful words in the English language." Henry James certainly got that right. Now, let's get practical.

AAA has been tracking vacation costs since 1950, when the average daily cost of meals and lodging for a family of four was $13. As of 2007, food and lodging for that family was up to an average of $269 a day, with lodging being the main
inflation driver. Remember that "average" includes places like Hawaii, which are up over $600 a day, as well North Dakota, which are under $200. And then there's the skyrocketing cost of gas.

So if you're planning to pack the family suitcases and get out of town, whether to the cabin on the lake or more exotic fare, are there any ways to cut costs without cutting the pleasure out of the trip? You betcha!

Air Fares: If you're flying, check the Internet sites (,,,, etc.) and don't forget the actual airline sites. Many airlines offer special travel packages. Fares are also often lower if you fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The more flexible you can be the better chance you have at savings. Note from Lucy: TF and I just recently purchased some good airfare on

Auto Care and Repair: If you're driving, get your car checked out and tuned up at home before you go. You'll avoid potential expensive emergency towing and repairs.

Gas Prices: Get off the interstate if you can. Gas is always a few cents cheaper. And remember that a well-tuned car eats less gas.

Food: If you have the luxury of getting off the interstate, you can often find much less expensive restaurants. Consider a picnic in a park you will pass en route. A picnic has the added advantage of letting the kids run off some steam. Consider choosing a motel where the rooms have a kitchen. This is not to suggest that you make all your meals there. What kind of vacation is that? However, it's not a bad idea for the evening snack, the occasional pizza, or even for a continental breakfast. And you can keep picnic food for some of your day excursions in the room refrigerator. Note from Lucy: I try to pack a cooler with veggies that we can snack on as we travel. It can be refilled all during the trip.

Plan Ahead: If you know where you're going, write (or email)the local Chamber of Commerce or Bureau of Tourism. Tell them what your interests are. You will often get free maps, suggested hotels and restaurants, and valuable sight seeing tips. After all, these folks know the area a lot better than you do. Sometimes there are even discount coupons for restaurants and sights. If you're an AAA member, get a TripTik. Many motels and restaurants have free coupon booklets available. Keep in mind, also, that some local sights have picnic areas attached.
Note from Lucy: I usually purchase an Entertainment Book for the area we are going to for discount coupons to use on the trip. Right now you can get an Entertainment book for $ 15.00 on their website. I have ordered one for our trip, to New York City, this coming July..

Lodging: As with airfares, many hotels can be booked online. Whether you're booking online or stopping more spontaneously, remember that most hotels and motels offer discounts for AAA, for AARP, and sometimes just for asking. Even if you aren't sure you qualify for anything, always ask if there is a discount rate available. The worst that can happen is that they'll say no. And don't count on the travel websites having the lowest rates. Often the hotel website will offer a special that isn't available elsewhere. Note from Lucy: Check the Entertainment book for good hotel rates..

Souvenirs: Ah, souvenirs. Wood carvings and trinkets (most of them made in Taiwan or Mexico) that are hardly local crafts unless you're in Taiwan or Mexico. Saving money here is exercising common sense and self-control. Are you really going to wear that serape or peasant blouse once you're home? Set a budget. For example, everyone gets to buy one thing only and no more than $XX.00. Or set a theme. We get souvenirs to jog the memory of happy times. Good memory joggers are postcards, key chains, or even ticket stubs and brochures from places you visit. Keep them all together and make a scrapbook with the kids when you get home or integrate them with your photos. T-shirts are another option. Or select one special item that can be hung on the Christmas tree to remember the family vacation.

Finally, leave yourself some down time. It's good to plan, but don't over plan. Just because you know every single sight seeing option in an area doesn't mean you have to visit them all. A vacation is not a to-do list. Sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury said it best: "Half the fun of travel is the aesthetic of lostness" Chill. Relax. You don't want to return from a vacation needing one more than when you left.

Have a wonderful vacation!

Note from Lucy: There are a lot of good ideas here which can save you money on this years vacation. Every year my brother and two sisters and I go on a week trip down to Galveston in June. This year we planned to go to Destin, Flordia for our trip. We planned this trip in Janurary and my sister Pat made the reservations at the RV park. As gas prices started going higher and higher, I called my sister and told her that it would not be wise to go such a distance. We calculated that it would cost us $ 200.00 each way and with two vechiles, that amounted to $ 800.00 just for gas. We decided that Galvestion would be much closer to home and less expensive to go to. The main purpose of the trip is to be together as family and that can be done anywhere.

Have a great week everyone....


At 11:55 AM, Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Good Tips, Lucy...! Because of mny Health Issues I do not travel anymore and part of me is releived! Traveling has become so hard and stressful...I mean the Airport, The Flught, etc...Before you even get to your destitination. And going by car, as you said, can now add a lot of extra money to the costs. As I said, in some ways I am glad I do not have to deal with any of this anymore....!
I hope you have a WONDERFUL time with your coming Family trip!

At 1:45 PM, Blogger LZ Blogger said...

Lucy ~ Cutting costs without cutting the pleasure out of the trip, is one of my favorite things... even if I try and stay in the nicer hotels. You can still get bargins there to if you work it correctly! Thanks for the insight here! ~ jb///

At 2:35 PM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

Your idea of buying an Entertainment Book for the area you'll be vacationing is simply genius!!
Having one of those books with us when we were in Savannah would have been a smart choice. I wish we'd had one!!

My hubby flies back and forth to CA regularly. It is amazing how much airfares fluctuate. People really should check around before booking flights. Just by flying the next day or a day prior, my hubby has saved as much as $200. Crazy, isn't it?!
He generally flies on Tuesdays.

Hotel costs are NUTS!! I enjoy staying in hotels, but I always cringe at the cost. Even the low budget motels aren't cheap.

Thanks to you and your hubby for chiming in this past weekend at Blog Church. That subject really hit a nerve. I sure wish you were coming to Blogstock. It would be such a pleasure to meet you!

At 8:18 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Great tips, Lucy.

If you're visiting a foreign city and are not part of a tour group, the first thing you should do is schedule a bus tour. That way, you can see all the touristy stuff and then decide what to do for the reamining time you're there.

I use Priceline when I can. It will usually cut the cost in half for renting a car.

And, you can sometimes get a lower price if you call the hotel directly. They sometimes have special discounts that call center employees don't know about.

At 10:26 PM, Blogger Jess said...

Great advice..I always love reading your blog...I really do learn alot..and thank you again for the me anytime.

At 11:12 PM, Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Naomi, isn't it ironic that when we get older and can actually aford to go somewhere, our health keeps us away. I'm looking forward to my June (and July) trip.

LZ - I am always looking for ways to save money and make my trip more affordable.

Rev. JD - If your husband is traveling to the same place for business, he could probably use that Entertainment book more than any of us. And yes, I am going to miss coming to Blogstock this summer. I really did want to meet many of my blogging friends. You will just have to take lots of pictures for me.
Blog Church was fun this week, what a discussion.

Fred - thanks for the tip about the tours. Bonnie took several tours when she went to Italy last March on her spring break. When TF and I were in Washington DC, we took the tour and had a wonderful time.... We also went to the Aeronautic/Space museaum of the Smithsonian and loved it....Thanks for the price line tip for renting cars, I didn't know about that one.
Are you going to Vegas this summer?
BTW: Wrigley was a dream come true.

Jess - Glad you are enjoying my blog, I know I enjoy yours. I just love watching Emily grow up before my eyes, what an angel.

At 11:18 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Good things come at small prices sometimes. These are good ideas, we do a lot of those things.
There isn't anything we would call cheap in NYC. Those people do, but their idea of cheap and mine are about 50-100% apart.

I will be at class with Charles this Friday night! I already had the book the teacher is using.

At 12:18 AM, Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Yea!!!! Jim, I am looking forward to finally meeting you. I think you will like the teacher, you can tell that he loves teaching this class.

At 3:37 AM, Blogger Merle said...

Hi Lucy ~~ Lots of good advice in this and the last post. Dollar stretchers are good aren't they?
I hope you have a wonderful time with your sisters and brother, and it is great you spend time together, every year. I have never been a blonde either, but I don't think all blondes are silly, It depends on the person.
They make for good jokes though.
Take care, my friend, Love, Merle.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger Daniel Barlow said...

800 dollars for just gas, 800 DOLLARS FOR JUST GAS....what was that for just gas?

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Oh great One said...

I'm so glad you mentioned! I forgot all about them! I checked before I even finished your post and they had tickets back in the range I was looking for! YAY! Now to scrounge up the money.....*wink* Thanks!

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Susie said...

Great & timely ideas for saving money during travel.
Thanks for sharing

At 5:12 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Of course I'm going to Vegas!! I'll be there in early June.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

Great tips Lucy! Staying in an RV park is fun! I haven't done that in years. How wonderful to get together and spend time with your family!!

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Mountain Mama said...

I guess I'll just drive down the road to the beach. That's vacation enough for me.

At 7:07 PM, Blogger Fred said...'re quick. I was working on putting the roof picture together and accidentally posted it. Indeed, that was me. I'll tell the whole story this winter.

At 12:00 AM, Blogger Lucy Stern said...

merle - I love spending time with my brother and two sisters. We talk about things that happened to us as kids, laugh at jokes, fish, cook, take moon light walks on the beach, shop and all kinds of things.

Daniel - 800 bucks is a lot of money JUST for

Oh Great One - Cheaptickets is one of my favorite sites.

Rachel - come on down and have some fun with us. Sorry to hear about Gooseberry...

Susie - it is a sign of the times.

mountain mama - nothing like listening to the waves roll in or watch the sea gulls fly by and hope you have some food for them. Have you ever seen a thunder storm over the water? It is just fasinating.

Fred - Hope you have a fun time in Vegas. Maybe you will come home with some money this year..I have to wait till winter to find out about that picture??? Not fair!

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Putz said...

i won't be going on vacation, i love my home, my city, my state, my bed , my easy chair, my fire pit, my birds, my porch, my birs, my cat, my dogs, my t.v., my rojects


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