I’ve read once “what’s the point of working so hard that you cannot enjoy life?” Most of us will work our butts off doing are 9-5 just to get by. We may put a little bit to the side so we can have a nice staycation or even a little vacation close to home. But those much needed week or two vacations are sadly out of the question.
But wait…. What if we can go on a nice vacation and save some money doing it? Here are 5 tips to help save you money on your next vacation.
1. Drive DON’T fly
Depending on the size of your family driving might be the better option. Besides road trips can be their own mini vacation anyway. I have a post here on hacks for a bearable road trip with kids. With airfare costing on average $400 a person for a round trip. For a family of 4 that will run you $1600. Now for driving your average vehicle you are looking at $50 per fill up. On a trip from Philly to Orlando you will stop about 3 maybe 4 times at a total cost of $200 for gas and about 15 hours of drive time.
Now that’s a saving’s of around $1400. You will either need to add an extra day or two to your vacation or take some time away from your destination, but it is well worth it. If you plan your trip well, you can even get more out of your vacation by stopping at different places on your road trip.
If I am going anywhere east of the Mississippi I will be driving. I’d rather take the extra time in the car and use that money I saved on my vacation.
2. Going shopping before you leave
Once you get the hotel out of the way, another one of your big expenses will be food. We all have to eat. Some more than others. Regardless you will either be eating out every day or you were lucky enough to book a room with a kitchen.
Going shopping before you leave or even having food shipped to your hotel for your arrival can save you big money. Most hotels if not all of them will have a mini fridge that you can use in your room. Now you won’t be able to make a lavish 4 course meal but you can at least put some lunch meat and milk in there to cover breakfast and lunch.
Personal I like to find a breakfast buffet to go to in the morning. It will usually hold me over to dinner time without too much trouble. Breakfast after all is the most important meal of the day and the cheapest.
Than all I need to do is get lunch for the little one and we are set. If I am hungry I’ll reach for a snack bar I bought before we started our trip.
If you drive to your vacation spot you will also have your car with you so you can hit up the local Walmart and grab some food. Bread, lunch meat, Peanut butter and jelly won’t hurt the pockets too much. Plus it will save you the much needed money so you can splurge for that “street dog”.
3. Go during the off season.
When planning your vacation take a look at the off season. For some places that means September and October while others it could be January or February or even the summer months. It all depends on where you go.
Don’t plan on saving money on a beachfront hotel in the middle of July. The one I looked in Hilton Head, SC came out to $404 a night for 3 nights in July from 7/19-7/22. That same hotel 2 months later…. $251 a night from 9/13-9/16. That’s a savings of $153 a night. South Carolina is still hot in September and the ocean water will still be comfortable to take a dip in. Bonus: It will also be less crowded. The southern US goes back to school much earlier than the northern states.
A good rule of thumb for what is an offseason is when the kids are in school. So you looking at September through Christmas. January to May. These will be the times when prices should be a little cheaper. Also remember when the schools are closed for long holiday weekends the prices will increase.
If your kids are young enough or you don’t mind taking older ones out for a week of school for an “educational” trip. The off season will save you boat loads of money. If you can bear the heat some desert locations can offer cheap deals in the summer since it is so hot out there.
Getting souvenirs before you leave can really save depending on where you are heading. If you are going to Disney World (which I do often) than this could save you hundreds of dollars. Buying pins on ebay or going to the local dollar store to pick up some mickey related items to hand to the kids while you are out and about in the parks.
If you have your car with you check out the local Walmart or outlet mall. If you are in a popular spot they usually sell t-shirts, bags, postcards of the destination you are going to. Walmart’s around Orlando sell a lot of different Disney or Universal merchandise. Most of the time you can save at least $10 per shirt by just getting at a local store than at the main destination.
Another great idea is to have a bunch of quarters and pennies on hand for the press penny machines. A lot of places now have these machines scattered around. You can pick up your penny “passport” before you leave to save even a little more money.
One thing we like to do is buy pins of where we have gone. They usually cost around $5 and we place them on a bulletin board. T-shirts get small or worn out. Stuffed animals get lost. Those plastic junk things, well break. Pins on a board will always be where you left them. Unless they grow legs and walk away, much like many of my toys when I was younger.
5. Plan, Plan, Plan
Although this is not listed at number one I feel this is the most important tip that will save you money. Start a month or two before you think you will even book your trip and start getting a feel for what it will cost. Keep checking back every week or so. Hotel prices seem to change almost on a weekly basis. Airfare on the other hand always seems to be about the same. Maybe a few dollars cheaper or more expenses depending on the day.
You can sign up for fare alerts for emails when the price changes. Also look into signing up for reward programs offered by airlines, hotels, car rentals, or restaurants. It has never been easier to get freebies and discounts from the many different reward programs. All you have to do is sign up with an email address.
Hope you found some of these helpful like I have for years. A few months ago I saved on my next Disney trip by looking at the prices and planning on booking in February. Than in January Disney announced “free dining” and I jumped on the deal. It saved me over $300 and now I won’t have to worry about food for that week.
Let me know if you use any of these methods to save money or if you have another one we should all try.