Last weekend we went away on a little road trip to the Central Coast of California. It was a great time to get away from our everyday, see family and friends, and have a mini-vacation. As you can imagine, traveling with six children in a minivan is neither easy, roomy, or inexpensive. So, FishPapa and I did quite a bit of problem-solving, trying to make the most of what we have and making plans for improvement. We love to travel and want to do it some more, even if it’s just day trips or short jaunts throughout the Golden State. (Stay tuned because I hope to feature some great vacation tips and destinations in the coming months.)
The following are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned about how to save money or stress when on vacation:
Borrow, rent, or buy a GPS if you don’t already have one. Yes, I know a Global Positioning System seems like a luxury, doesn’t it? But, if it saves you gas, some stress over being lost, and some fights with your spouse, it may turn out to be a regular bargain! Quite honestly, I have resisted this like a trip to the dentist. But, after more than a few times getting lost and more than a few minor squabbles with FishPapa because I often mis-navigate us on roadtrips, I’m beginning to see the wisdom of this. It isn’t a problem when we go “home” to Santa Barbara or Santa Clarita because we know the streets well. But, in San Diego where we still don’t know the lay of the land or when we go to locales unfamiliar, I think this is so helpful. Sure, you can print maps for free at home. And if you have an iPhone, I imagine that “there is an app for that.” However, neither of those options work for us, especially when we just want to know where we can find a $5 footlong! I found this Garmin GPS Navigator that we’re considering buying with Swagbucks; still doing some research, but hope to get it ordered this weekend. Our family wants to go on more road trips to places unknown, so I think this will prove to be a great investment.
Do some homework and find out all there is to do at your destination. Talk with people who’ve been there. Scour the internet for information on your vacation spot of choice. Read restaurant reviews. Request free travel guides in advance. Sign up for the Dunhill Vacation News, an e-newsletter with the heads’ up on any number of travel deals. Read blogs that tell you all there is to know about Disneyland. Browse your library’s database about books on your destination.
Find out what the locals have to say. We always laugh when we read guide books and reviews about places we know well, like Santa Barbara. Sometimes they are spot on, other times? Not so much. So, talk to the locals. If you know someone who knows someone who lives there, ask if you can email them. Regional parenting magazines are a great source of fun things to do in your vacation spot. Many of them even publish a vacation or visitors guide. Almost all of them have feature a calendar of events for the area. Browse their websites and see what local happenings might be on interest to your family. Read blogs for the locale you are going to visit. Many will offer ideas on restaurant and attraction deals. Springs Bargains is a great example for those traveling in Colorado. Check out Bargain Briana’s Frugal Map to find out where other local bloggers may be.
Don’t take a vacation from bargain shopping, else you will pay through the nose. If you’re okay with that, go for it. Otherwise, when you’re on vacation and need to make a trip to the grocery for snacks and breakfast supplies, scope out the sales. If you’ve got a wifi connection, browse MoneySavingMom’s roundup of regional grocery store deals before you go. Choose snacks and treats based on what’s on sale. If you’ve got the space, bring your coupons with you in order to maximize your savings.
There’s no law that says you have to be frugal on vacation. If you’ve got the cash, you’ve got my blessing to splurge. But, if you’re on a budget or just want to make your vacation dollars stretch a little more, then you might want to do some advance planning. A few minutes researching a vacation attraction can save you a few bucks later.
What do YOU do to save money?
Feel free to share your budget-friendly vacation tips, but you are not required to comment or post about vacation tips. Simply share whatever YOU do to save money.
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