Vacationing on a Budget

Posted Sunday, February 05, 2012

Today we have a guest post from Sweet Child of Mine.
For many people at the moment money can be a difficult issue, and with summer vacation only a few months away here are a few tips to help make a vacation less stressful on the wallet.

I live without many of the luxuries that most people consider to be necessities. I don't have cable, my cell phone is a TracFone that I share with my husband, and I drive a 15 year-old vehicle. One thing I refuse to do without though is vacationing. My husband and I agreed early on that we would take lots of vacations, because neither of our families did when we were growing up. Sure, we took some trips, but it definitely wasn't something we did every year. Vacationing is so important to us, because it gives us a time to relax, make some great memories and see new places. While I tend to let loose with our budget a little while vacationing, there are many ways to save money but still have an enjoyable trip. Here are some ways you can have a great trip on a budget.

1. Start a vacation fund. Deposit a small amount of every paycheck into a savings account. Even if you can't save up your entire vacation budget this way, every little bit helps. The more cash you have, the less you'll need to charge to a credit card.

2. Travel in the off season. This may not be an option for those of you who have kids in school or work for the school, but for everybody else, this is a great way to save money. An added bonus is that most destinations are less crowded. Most hotels and airlines have less expensive rates between September and May (excluding holidays and Spring Break). We have traveled during the first three weeks of May the last few years, and it has worked out for us. Spring break is over, schools are still in session and the weather isn't unbearably hot. You will need to check to see if there are any special events (sporting events, Nascar races and Bike Week, etc) in your destination during your desired travel time, because this could result in higher prices and crowding.

3. Eat in. If you are staying in a resort or hotel with a kitchen, you can save a lot of money by cooking some of your meals. If your hotel doesn't have a full kitchen, but has a microwave and mini fridge, you can still cook some of your meals. Even if your room doesn't have a mini-fridge, you can take a cooler (or buy a cheap foam one if you flew) so you can store things like sandwich meat, juice and milk. You can use the coffee pot to heat water for things like instant oatmeal and Easy Mac.

4. Save at restaurants. Even I don't cook all of our meals. It is vacation after all! There are a few ways to save money on your restaurant meals. One way is with gift cards. If you receive gift cards for Christmas or other occasions, you can save them for vacation. You can also buy discounted gift cards on websites like eBay or Plastic Jungle. During the holidays, many restaurants have a promotion which adds $5 free when you buy a gift card for $20-$25. Another great way to save on gift certificates is to purchase them at You can buy $25 gift certificates for as low as $2 with promo codes. Purchasing an Entertainment book in your destination city is another great way to save money. They are full of coupons for dining, movies and other attractions. You can also check for any Groupon deals in your destination city.

5. Use discount travel sites. Websites andKayak can help you find discounts on airfare, hotels and rental cars.

6. Go on timeshare tours. Okay, now you think I'm a nut job, so let me explain. My husband and I have gotten several free or cheap trips and free Universal tickets by agreeing to see a timeshare presentation. It just takes about 2 hours of your time. If you already have your lodging reserved, you can take a timeshare tour and earn money or discount attraction tickets. Last year, when my family vacationed in Myrtle Beach, my husband and I went on 4 timeshare tours and earned $400! That paid for our gas money, which was the largest expense of our vacation. This year we went on two tours and earned $70 and a $164 discount on Disney tickets. We could have gone on a third tour and earned another $100, but that place would not allow us to keep our children with us, so we declined. If going on timeshare tours is not your cup of tea, that's fine, but if you don't mind sacrificing some time, this is a great way to save money!

7. Buy a timeshare. Now you think I'm totally nuts. First of all, let me explain how most timeshares work now. When you hear timeshare, you probably think of being stuck at the same resort for the same week every year with a complicated process and fees if you want to go to a different resort. Most timeshares are not like this any more. Trust me, I know, I've toured with eight different companies and only one still used the old system, and that was over six years ago. Most timeshare companies use a points system now. You purchase X amount of points and then you redeem those points at any of the company's resorts whenever you want, as long as you have enough points. With some of these companies, you can even use your points for airfare, food, and amusement park tickets. Obviously certain locations and times require more points than others. If you plan on vacationing every year for the rest of your life, this will save you money in the long run. Plus most of the companies give you an actual property deed that you own forever and can be passed on to your children. You can save even more more money if you buy from an owner selling their timeshare instead of the company. Plus you are staying at really nice resorts, not hotels. The resorts have a full kitchen, and laundry facilities either on the property of even in your villa. This will help you save on food costs and travel because you won't need to pack as much clothing. My husband and I bought our timeshare five years ago and don't have any regrets. We are actually hoping to buy more points soon. The pictures shown are actual resorts where we've stayed with our timeshare.

Some of these suggestions may not work for everybody. I know people have different needs and standards, but hopefully everybody will find at least one helpful tip. Most of all, I just wanted to show that even with one income and a tight budget, you can still have a wonderful family vacation. You can't put a price on making sandcastles with your children or seeing the joy on their faces when they meet Mickey Mouse.

1 comment:

Dr. Seth Gambee said...

Vacations for our family of 5 used to mean trying to save enough to do something every other year or so.

Now I've found a little "loophole" for vacations,
And it's 10x better than a tax write-off.

We call it the "hidden path".

It's like owning your own private vacation home, on all the best properties, in all the best locations in the world... hassle-free. You gotta check this out!

(...and it's NOT timeshare!)

Seth Gambee
in Kona, HI~

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