Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vacation Planning on a LOW Budget!

We have been planning our family vacation.  Money seems to always be in short supply, but this school  year it seems particularly tight.  (We’ve had one surgery, one car repair, and replaced one washing machine….all while my husband’s school district hasn’t decided what the teacher’s salary will be for THIS year….and this year is more than half over!  Yes.  If they decide to cut our pay, we will have to “give them back money”.  Yikes.)

Anyway…family vacations are important to us.  We aren’t going to let a lack of funds deter us from have a lot of fun as a family!!
HOW do you select a vacation that is budget friendly? 

1.       The 1st thing you should think of is: WHERE?  I would recommend looking around at unique locations within 2-4 hours of driving distance from your home.  This will greatly aid in keeping costs down.  Do you have National Parks or State Parks in the area?  Museums?  Concerts?  Pageants?  Summer Festivals?  You can incorporate ALL of these into your summer vacations!  I have done a couple of posts on this.  Check them out!
2.       The 2nd things you should think of is: HOW MUCH TIME AWAY?  The shorter the vacation, the cheaper it is.  Try keeping your vacations to 2-3 nights away from home.  You might be surprised to see how much you can pack in such a short time!  OR…you might be surprised to find out how many vacations you can have in one summer when they are shorter.  (Try several short vacations instead of one long one!)

The cheapest way to vacation is to camp.  However, I realize there are LOTS of people out there who are NOT campers.  This does NOT mean you are doomed to expensive vacations!!  Check rest stops and trucker gas stations to find coupons for motel/hotels.  Usually Monday-Thursdays are the best rates.   Check for deals online.  Even better, contact the university near your vacation location and see if they are renting out their empty dorm rooms and arrange for your family to have accommodations on campus!!  (I can’t think of a better way to promote going to college to your kids!!)
When you choose a place close to home, you can also “pretend” that your home is a rented “cabin”.  My kids are BIG fan of this.  We tell our friends we are going out of town.  All “normal home business” is STOPPED during the “rental” of our own home.  (We are already paying “rent” for the building…it is NO extra lodging cost on top of our mortgage!)  We turn off all phones, don’t answer doors, arrange to have our mail stopped at the post office (so there won’t be a temptation to take care of business) and we don’t check email!  We do not have chores.  We don’t do laundry.  Remember we are on vacation!  All “normal” home type activities are ceased!  We stay up late and watch movies, we explore our town like tourists- doing things we normal term “too expensive”.   (A great feature is this practice is you have everything you need at your fingertips!!  There is NO forgeting anything!)   My best “example” of how much my kids like this….Once we had to go to the store to get milk during one of these “pretend rentals”.  We ended up running into someone we knew.  My children looked at them and promptly said, “You can’t see us!!  We are on VACATION at our cabin!!  You need to pretend we are NOT here!”  Because our behavior is distinctly different, my children can FEEL when it is “life” and when it is “vacation”.

This year we will be going to a nearby National Park approximately 2 ½ hours away.  We have reservations to camp nearby, therefore keeping costs down.  We will bring plenty of food from home.  We are camping type of family, so we have all the gear to comfortably sleep AND cook gourmet food so the cost should be minimal.  There is plenty to do and see.  Sometimes the most “simple” fun is the most memorable.
Happy Stretching Pennies....
P.S.  Someday I will do a post on the virtues of family camping and how to make it a pleasurable experience.....