For many traveling is costly and expensive. It doesn’t have to be however. Whether it’s just you, or your entire family, you can take that vacation and enjoy it with a little planning. It’s perhaps easier today than ever before. Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t do anything, you just need to be smart with how you allocate your resources.
Time of Year
Many people think you can only take a real vacation when everyone else does it. Most people travel in the summer when kids are out of school and the weather is nice. But what about taking a trip off season.
Many places offer steep discounts of lodging and other travel related expenses during their slower times. Want to go to the beach, how about before Memorial Day or after Labor Day? It may not be prime time but in most parts of the country it’s either starting to warm up in the spring or it’s still months away from turning into winter and the water at the beach is the warmest it’s been all year.
Just take for example a large house rental on the beach in Myrtle Beach. One that would run nearly $10,000 a week the Fourth of July, would rent for half that much come September.
For everything there is a peak season, and looking for a place to stay during that peak season, you’re going to pay for it.
Location, Location, Location
Just as the season, a location next to a popular attraction will raise the price considerably compared something a few miles away. Ever heard of Disney in Orlando? Just compare the price of staying there versus driving a half hour and look at the difference in price. Many towns in the United States are built around certain tourist attractions. For Example Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN, Branson, MO, or Hersey, PA. The same applies to all. What’s a half hour drive to and from those attractions when it could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in lodging costs.
Another money saving tip when renting a beach house is to rent a house a street or two in. A house that still has ocean front views but doesn’t sit directly on the beach front will shed thousands of dollars off the rental price. If you rent a condo instead of a house the price drops even more. There’s just as many amenities, and sometimes even more than a house itself. The same can be said for hotel rooms.
Why Not try Camping?
Growing in popularity, but still affordable, camping is a great alternative. Many private and government campgrounds are located nationwide. Many State and Federal Parks have campgrounds. Renting a lot for a few days can sometimes equal nearly the same as a single night in a resort. Camping brings with it its own challenges and it’s not for everyone, but it’s a good family activity and a cost effective one at that.
Growing up my parents would do craft shows (long before Etsy, and Amazon) with stuff my mom used to make. We would take our vacations corresponding to the dates of the shows. We would stay in smaller hotels most of the time, but some of my fondest memories are when we would camp in between. Camping in the Smokey and Blue Ridge Mountains was quite an adventure and we did so on very tight budgets, even then. We ate dinner my Mom would make on a small camp stove. They always had a cooler full of food to feed us that they brought with them. They’re were 3 of us boys, so you can imagine the amount of food we ate. We sometimes would eat fish we’d catch around the camp site.
I could probably write a book on all the fun we had on those trips back then.
Thinking back on it now it was some of the best times we had growing up, and probably some of the cheapest vacations we ever took. My wife and I went with my brother’s kids last summer (the hottest days of the year unfortunately). Camping on the Chesapeake Bay, and I’m glad we were able to give them some of the same experiences we had back then. I hope to take my daughter when she gets a few years older.
Many people have campers these days. Some of those are just like small homes on wheels. Really, a tent with sleeping bags works quite well if you don’t mind roughing it. A cook stove and some canned foods goes a long way and for a fraction of the cost eating out would be.
All About the Memories You Make
Trips should be about the experiences you have and the family time you spend together. Just because something costs more doesn’t always mean it better. Food is often the next highest expense when traveling behind lodging, as many times you want someone else cooking for you while you’re on vacation. That’s fine if you can afford it and don’t mind spending the money. Otherwise try to limit the times you eat out to once a day or less.
Many hotel rooms have a microwave and a small fridge in them and you can make your own small meals a few times and save a bundle of money. Buy a pizza or two and have some close family time.
You can buy some things ahead of time and pack to take with you to limit the amount of cash you’ll have to spend on restaurants and and eating out. I remember Mom would always have a cooler full of lunch meat and other stuff, and we used to think they were the best meals because they were something different than we would have at home.
Why Not take A Road Trip
Travel by nature means you have to get somewhere. Many people like to fly, and depending on where you’re going it may be cheaper to do so if you are able to find a decent deal on tickets. Be sure to look around and book far enough time ahead so you have time to find the best deal, although you can also find so great last minute deals sometimes. By waiting, you also risk being unable to and then you’re stuck. It’s a gamble either way.
Many parts of the country have a great deal of places to visit and explore within a day’s ride. Why not save a few dollars and drive. Your likely to see more sites and unique places along the way.
See our post on why road trips are great for the family.
Every summer we go to visit family and each time we head back we take an atlas and find a different route off the interstate. We enjoy it much more than being crammed in a plane even if it does take a bit longer. We’ve seen so many beautiful farms, relics of days gone by, and many picturesque small towns that remind you of Hallmark movies. Makes the drive so much more enjoyable.
You can’t always find cheaper options everywhere you go, and we don’t always have the luxury of time to plan every trip, but traveling on a budget is possible and can be quite relaxing and enjoyable.