Neither one of our families vacationed regularly as we were growing up, but we have made it a goal in our marriage that we take some length of “vacation” each year. Some years it has been a long 4-day weekend in the summer and in the winter, but in the past 2 years we have been able to take a full week in the summer since my husband now has vacation time at his job. We have found that now with no kids that a vacation is such a benefit to our marriage – we enjoy almost feeling like newlyweds on our honeymoon again and come back with a stronger, renewed marriage. There is just something about getting away from the stress of everyday life – work, cleaning house, paying bills, and yes, even couponing and blogging -and being able to spend one-on-one time together that is so refreshing! But this post is not all about convincing you that taking a vacation is beneficial, but how to do it and do it with “Centsible Savings!”
Here are some tips to help you save money even while you are on vacation.
1. Save throughout the year for vacation. We do not just up and decide one day that we are going on vacation and book a hotel and spend money and come back with our credit cards maxed out. We save throughout the year. We put away a small amount ($50-100), each month if we can, specifically for vacation. That way when we book the hotel and have extra expenses like gas and food (which we do charge on a credit card just for convenience and safety factor) we have the money in the bank to pay it off when we get home.
2. Use a discount site to book your lodging. I am a big fan of the discount hotel and airfare sites. Here is a few I frequently check or use: Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, Hotels.com, Hotwire and Priceline (the last 2 require you to bid on a certain star rating, you can’t choose the actual hotel but you can get a great deal if the unknown doesn’t bother you). I have used them throughout the years to book hotels and flights and have had good experiences with them. In fact, in the past I have looked up a hotel or flight using one of the discount sites and then gone directly to the hotel or airline website and compared rates the discount site has been lower! These sights will sometimes offer last minute deals, “stay so many nights get a night free” deals, and offer savings when booking a flight and hotel together deals. Last summer when I booked our hotel in Myrtle Beach I used Travelocity and they offered a $50 gas card when you booked a trip with them. So a few weeks after returning from vacation we received a $50 prepaid visa gas card in the mail – in essence reducing our hotel cost by that amount of money.
3. Try one of those “Telemarketer Timeshare offers.” This is not for everyone but if you are willing to sit through a 90-minute presentation and it is with a reputable company try it! We did this for the first time this year. We received a call last fall and I got all the information and asked them to call me back so I could talk it over with my husband and research the company. For $149.00 we got 2 night/3days in Gatlinburg and 3 nights/4 days in Hilton Head. We also got 2 tickets to the sky lift, black bear habitat, and the Gatlinburg aquarium and a $25 check while in Gatlinburg; and while we are in Hilton Head next week we are supposed to receive a $50 restaurant gift certificate, a $50 check, 2 golf course packages, and a coupon book! So the “perks” alone that we received would total the $149, not even counting the hotel stays. We did have to listen to a sales pitch in Gatlinburg (and they always last longer than 90 minutes!) and we have to listen to another one in Hilton Head but it has been worth it for us this year.
4. Consider staying in a hotel, villa, condo or something that offers a kitchen and separate living area in the room and that has “extras” at the hotel. This year we are not doing this because of having to stay where the timeshare people put us up, but we have always done this in previous years. That way we can spend the evening in the hotel sitting on the couch just watching a movie if we want and not have to feel like we have to be out on the town spending money on some attraction. If you have kids, look for kid-friendly hotels with kiddie water parks and lots of things to do at the hotel. Our hotel we stayed at last year in Myrtle Beach had a water park, bowling alley, and about 9 swimming pools – very family friendly!
5. Plan to eat most or all breakfasts and lunches in the hotel and only eat out for dinner. Eating 3 meals a day for 7 days at restaurants can really add up! But planning ahead and bringing food along can easily be done if you have a kitchen where you stay. Or plan to stay in a hotel that has a good continental breakfast. We don’t have a kitchen this year, but we are still going to eat in our hotel room with just a small refrigerator and microwave. We will bring our toaster, a large and small cooler, paper products, and lots of food and drinks. We plan to eat maybe one breakfast and lunch out, and lunch on travel days out. Here is our “menu” for the week.
- Bagels and cream cheese
- Cereal and bananas
- Cinnamon raisin toast and fruit
- Yogurt and fruit
- Sub sandwiches – bread, lunchmeat, cheese, tomatoes, mustard
- Pimento cheese sandwiches or crackers
- PB & J or PB & honey
- Sides - Fruit salad, chips, pretzels
- Microwave popcorn
- Chex mix
- “No-bake” cookies
- Icecream (we will buy a carton there)
7. Collect all the local coupon books you can find! If you have ever been in a tourist area you know what I am talking about – at the entry of every restaurant and hotel there are stands with coupon books. I drive my husband crazy grabbing everyone of these that I see! Here are some things we did with them last year in Myrtle Beach – we got free sand dollars, and free taffy at the local tourist stores and also there were coupons for restaurants, pizza, etc. and discount coupons for attractions that we used. Plus the phone #’s and addresses for places like this are listed so you can call ahead and get prices and directions.
8. Bring everything with you that you will need for vacation. I got beach chairs last year on clearance at CVS for $3.00 and we are excited to use these this year as the lifeguards charge you to use the ones on the beach! I also have been stocking up on sunscreen, bug spray, flip flops, paper products, snack foods, and anything else we might need as the stores have had them on sale in the past weeks. Last minute purchases on these items could have cost a lot as sunscreen alone runs $8-10 a bottle!
When I get back I will share with you how we did on our vacation budget and any other new ways we were able to save money on our vacation. If you have any other great ides of how your family saves money while vacationing, please share it with us!