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 (Priceline.com, Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, 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 www.cheaptickets.com
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....