Spring Break starts this afternoon for us, so it's the perfect time to share a few ways we're keeping our vacation plans frugal and fabulous! Peace, B.
Stay with family and/or friends. I know, I know. That sounds so scary, right? Well, if you have friends and family in prime locations, you need to get off your high horse, put on your smiley face, and stay with them. First of all, it's good for your Littles who love to see relatives and friends from out of town. It's like Christmas for them and you should give them that as much as possible. Second, depending on where you are, you'll save a ton of money. For us, we're looking at upwards of $170 a night (that includes the cost of having our dogs stay, too). Oy, vey.
Drive instead of fly. I have a family of five. If we were flying this Spring Break, we wouldn't go. We just wouldn't be able to afford the airfare. Even with gas prices hovering at around four bucks, we are looking at $120 for gas round trip as opposed to $1,500 in airfare. Plus, we'd have to rent a car once we arrived at our destination. Plus, we wouldn't be able to take our dogs. Plus, it's easier to pack the thngs you need to keep costs down when you drive your own car.
Pack a picnic basket- the whole time you're gone. This is one of the best frugal strategies I use when we are at theme parks. Any of them- Disney, Universal, Six Flags, Dollywood. It costs less to pack a picnic. When we aren't in a theme park, it's even easier for us. I pack our lunch every morning, put it in the insulated cooler and we get gone. Easy peasy. I figure we'll save about around $200 this Spring Break by packing our lunch. Plus, it really gives us an opportunity to find cool places to eat. We've eaten at old historic forts, beside streams and a giant playground, underneath ancient oaks, in the middle of a busy city, and many more places, too!
Take your pets with you if you can. If not, have a friend watch them. My poor dogs... seriously. Boarding is not an option for us. Not only does it cost too much, but both of my sweet boys are kennel aggressive and will eat your face if you get near them. Thank goodness, we can take them with us. When we can't, we have friends who will come over every day and care for them. If you can't take your pets with you and don't have any friends to watch after them (And seriously, I want you to examine your life if that is the case because I'm afraid you aren't letting people in close enough to bond with you, but we can explore that in another post.), ask around for a trusted local pet sitter.
Plan low cost activities. Our Spring Break activities include fishing and frolicking on the beach like total lunatics. Neither of these activities cost more than a can of worms and some sun block. Make sure you take in local free (or close to it) museums, historic sites, and parks.
Pack your own snacks. What is it about vacation that makes you want to/have to/need to snack? Especially at theme parks. Lawd mercy, we snack. I pick up a bag of apples and a huge bunch of bananas as well as bad for us stuff (Bugles and squeezy cheese, anyone?) and we graze on this while we are gone. If I need to replenish our snack supply, I make sure to do so at a major chain like Target or a large grocery store. Never at a small, convenience type store where the mark up on items is astronomical.
When you do splurge on a meal out, eat where the locals eat. Why travel hundreds of miles to eat at a chain restaurant you could experience in your own home town? Why travel hundreds of miles to eat overpriced tourist food? The trick to eating good local food for less is to find out where the locals eat and go there. How do you find out? You ask about a dozen folks throughout the day. You'll figure it out before meal time rolls around, I promise.
Bring a thermos for your coffee or tea. I enjoy coffee all morning and now, so does the Teenager. If we indulged in Starbucks for the two of us every day of our vacation, we'd drop $60 in coffee. Um, no. If we were staying in a hotel, we'd brew our own. Since we are staying with relatives, we'll brew our own from home, add our cream and sugar, and take it with us for the day. My middle-Little is a hot tea drinker and she will do the same with her own thermos just like she does before school each morning. (I have trained them well.)
Think outside the box when it comes to souvenirs. We'll be at the beach this year and my Littles think it's the end all be all of treats to take home a pail filled with shells. Those shells are absolutely FREE. We also like to pick up locally produced honey, jams, herbs, and other products we can only get where we are visiting. If you really, really, REALLY want a shirt, check for the local drug stores and Target. Souvenirs will be much less expensive there than in the tourist traps.
House swap with friends. We have friends who will be vacationing in our area while we are out of town, so we offered our house while we're gone. Not only is this super nice of us, but whenever they can return the favor, they will, providing my family with a free vacation home. (And while I live close to Atlanta and lots of cool stuff, they live in Florida near even cooler stuff.) Our friends get a ready made house with toys for their kids, computers, kitchen, hamster, and much more. (The hamster, I assure you, is not something my friend required, but is willing to take care of while she is here.) I get the peace of mind of knowing that my house won't sit empty for a week, making it vulnerable to criminals. If you have friends that are willing to swap houses over a certain week, that could be so much fun for your families and you'll save a bundle, too.