It’s that time of year again. The kids are out of school, adults plan some time off, and everyone needs a break. But you wonder if you can afford it. You want to do something different this year, but you also want to watch those pennies. Fear not, here are a few ways to both cut your vacation/travel spending and add some adventure as well.
1. Let the journey be the experience. You say you can only afford to go to Kansas to visit mom and dad or grandma and grandpa this year? No worries.. There are adventures and sights and fun to be had just a few hours off every highway and byway in the US. Why, there’s a whole book just on the subject of adventures off the Kansas stretch of interstate 70. You can see an old fort, a dinosaur museum, and the largest prairie dog in the world, just to name a few.
2. Consider driving if you have the time. This is true for families especially. A family of four will travel more cheaply in a car than by plane, and eliminate waits, tarmac delays, and airport checks.
3. If you must fly, do your research. Call the airlines, call a travel agency, and search some websites. Don’t rely on a single source.
4. Be flexible when you travel. If the flight looks full and you feel you can handle it, offering to take the next flight may net you a reimbursement or even another plane ticket. Stopping early on the road and comparing a few motels will get you a better deal than if you hit the first thing you see dead tired.
5. Choose a decent sized cooler and plastic dishes or bring dishes from home. Pack it full and then refill at a grocery stores (not the gas station concessions) along the way. You’ll be able to get out of the car at a rest stop and relax while you eat, and cut your food bill in half. Not to mention the health benefits of homemade sandwiches over burgers, tater tots and cokes.
6. Eat Locally. Rather than eat in the hotel dining room or that three star guidebook choice, ask some locals where the best place is to get crabs in Maryland. Chances are it will be a family run restaurant with newspapers on the table and mallets. You’ll appreciate it more than the white tablecloth and bib restaurant and it will be much cheaper.
7. Choose a hotel or motel with a breakfast. Not only will it most likely save you money, you’ll be much happier haven eaten before you head out again, even if its oatmeal and scrambled eggs.
8. If you travel often, consider a hotel rewards program. They often have discounted gift cards and specials for members. Unlike airline rewards, you’ll probably earn enough to get a night or a meal if you travel on a regular basis
9. Think outside the box on lodging, especially in tourist and vacation areas. Look at home shares or trades, family rooms, bed and breakfasts and even hostels. Hostels are no longer for twenty year old hikers with backpacks, although they certainly use them as well.
10. Remember that it’s the experience that counts. While a souvenir may be nice, the best memories will be of the things you do and the places you visit together. Taking that idea even further, consider that walking and exploring a city or town and is just as valuable experience as a museum. In other words, while the MOMA is nice, nothing can beat walking down 5th avenue, exploring the village or standing in the park looking out towards the Statue of Liberty in New York.
11. Plan, plan, plan. Learn about where you are going so that you can plan ahead to maximize your time and dollar. Learn which museums and events are free, what kind of discount coupons are available and if there are family or kid prices.
12. Remember that vacations are to be enjoyed. The important thing is that you are together with friends and or loved ones-relax and recharge, whatever your plans are.