Monday, February 10, 2014

Today's Top Ways to Save Money on Vacation

When you and your family head out for vacation this year, don't leave your household budget at home. 

The price of rest and relaxation ought to be priceless but in more cases than not are quite expensive. Add up all your cost: transportation, accommodations, sightseeing, souvenirs, food, attractions -- you might be tempted to cancel the trip altogether.

Alas - you can still enjoy your vacation, family, and stay within budget by following these simple tips.

Be Flexible

  • Travel during "Shoulder Season" (Not during peak season or off season)
    • April - May or Mid-August - October
  • Choose alternative dates or days of the week to travel
  • Try Vacation Packages or All-Inclusive Packages

  Eat for Free (or nearly free)

  • Many restaurants offer a free child's meal for each paying adult.  There may be restrictions such as two children maximum or might only be available on certain days.
  • If you do eat out, lunch might be your best time.  The prices are reasonable and any leftovers can either be dinner or a late night snack. 
  • Restaurants often have coupons for a free meal or appetizer.
  • Use your discounted gift card or ask if club discounts are available (AAA, AARP, Good Sam).

Use Discount Clubs or Coupons

Remember to take along your school ID, membership cards such as Costco, AAA, AARP, Good Sam and ask the theme park or museum offers discounts.

  • Kayak - Compares several travel sites at once
  • - Book or bid for your hotel, vacation package, airline tickets
  • - Book your hotel, hotel package, or flight (also has a rewards program)
  • Costco - Purchase vacation packages, gift cards, theme parks and attractions for your destination (also has a rewards membership program)
  • Search for "Online Coupons" or "Discount Codes"
  • AAA - Purchase your vacation package, get tickets for theme parks (online or in your local office)
  • Vacations To Go -  Discounted Cruise vacations
  • Check with your bank or credit union
Sign up for Local Discounts such as Groupon, Living SocialsAmazon Local or Mamapedia.

Discounted Gift Cards

Since you're going to be spending money anyway, try purchasing discounted gift cards.  That way, you're spending less, staying within a budget, and not having to carry so much cash.

  • Gift Cards
  • Gift Card Granny - Buy or sell your gift cards online
  • Card Cash - Buy or sell your gift cards online - "Free Shipping On All Orders.   All Transactions Guaranteed.  45 Day Buyer Protection."
  • Costco - Discounted gift cards for Restaurants, Theme Parks, Activities, Theaters - shop online, at your local store or find out if there is a Costco near your vacation destination

Find a grocery store

Chances are high that no matter where you're vacationing, there are grocery stores nearby.  Whether your hotel has a kitchenette or not, you can still buy some food and enjoy your own version of "Room Service".

How smart are you - room service without the inflated price and additional surcharge, not to mention the tip.
  • If your hotel room has a kitchenette:
    • Juice
    • Milk
    • Cereal
    • Mayonnaise, Mustard, Butter
    • Bread
    • Cold cuts
    • Vegetables
    • Spaghetti, Spaghetti Sauce
    • Soup
    • Cheese
    • Microwave Dinners
    • Bottled Water
    • Bag of Ice in case there isn't an ice machine near by to fill your cooler for day-trips
  • If your hotel room has a microwave and small refrigerator:
    • Juice
    • Milk
    • Cereal
    • Mayonnaise, Mustard Butter
    • Bread
    • Cold cuts
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables (carrots, celery)
    • Cheese
    • Microwave Dinners
    • Microwave Popcorn
    • Bottled Water
    • Instant Oatmeal
  • If your hotel room doesn't come with any amenities:
    • Bottled Water
    • Bring your own cooler so you can keep food and drinks cold
    • Bag of Ice in case there isn't an ice machine nearby
    • Heat up water using the coffee pot for instant oatmeal
    • Fruit
    • Vegetables
    • Snack or protein bars
    • Peanut Butter, Jelly, Bread
    • Other non-perishable foods
  • Pack a cooler for snacks and at least lunch while out.
Bring your own microwave-safe dishes and utensils for each member of the family along with some dish soap.  That way you can enjoy breakfast and snacks in the room.


In case your budget or time isn't conducive to traveling outside the state this year try staycationing.  It's essentially a vacation within your own hometown or state.  You can either stay at home, camp, or get a hotel room.  The point is that you're staying local.
  • Find out what is happening locally.
  • Book a hotel within town or near the local amusement park.
  • Take one week or your allotted vacation time and spend it as a family unit being tourists in your own hometown.
  • Choose a local city within an hour or two driving time and be a visitor.  Try choosing a new town or city for each vacation day.
  • DO NOT stay home and do chores or have separate activities.  This is still a family vacation!
Additional Ideas
  • Plan some downtime and take advantage of the pool or game room at your hotel.
  • Plan ahead - having daily suggestions keeps everyone happy.
  • Include everyone in the planning process. 
  • Take advantage of your smart phone and use apps for local discounts in the area, gas prices along the way, and coupons.

Some questions to keep in mind:

  1. Can we drive rather than fly?  Even with the price of gas today, the breakdown of cost per person may be much less.  You'll also have a car at your final destination.
  2. Is the journey just as important as the destination?
  3. What is our budget and how can we stay within and still have a memorable time?
  4. What excursions are we willing to forgo in order to still have fun and save money?
  5. How will we pay for this vacation?  Save monthly - how many months and how much do we need to set aside each month?  Use discounted gift cards?  Splurge and use the credit card?
Where are you going to vacation this year?  Please share your ideas of places to visit, how to save money, or how you plan your vacation in the comments below.

P.S., This was not a sponsored post.  I was not paid.  However, if you were to purchase anything through the Amazon links, I will receive a small payment - you will NOT be charged any higher than if you were to purchase through Amazon on your own.

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