Going on vacation is something everyone likes to do. It is exciting to get away and visit new places. It relaxes and refreshes the mind, body, and soul to get away from everyday life and stress.
Vacation, however, can be expensive if there is not a plan. Making a plan for how much we are going to spend and what we plan on doing helps us to fully relax and enjoy every minute of vacation.
We recently went on a mini vacation,3 nights and 3 days, to Chicago. This was something we had been planning since early in the year. As a family of 7, going on vacation can really add up and, if I am not careful, will send us into over spending in the blink of an eye. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want our vacations to follow us home. I want to have fun and not worry about having to pay for our vacation after we have already been on it.
Here are 5 ways I saved money on our recent vacation:
- Make a budget for the trip.
Yes I said it, the horrible “b” word! Seriously though, if there’s a plan for the money that will be spent on the vacation it will be much more enjoyable. A budget gives freedom because, as I stated above, there is no worrying about how it will get paid for when it is done and over. I can not tell you how much we truly enjoy our vacations knowing we made a plan and paid cash for it.
- We signed up for a deal on our sleeping arrangements.
My husband travels a lot for work and is a holiday inn rewards member. We received an offer in the mail, back in January, about Holiday Inn’s Vacation Club which is similar to a timeshare. Now before I go any further, I DO NOT recommend booking one of these and going unless you have a lot of self control. The point of Holiday Inn getting us to book a stay with them is so they can sell their product to us via a 2 hour long presentation. If you do have a lot of self control and won’t feel pressured into buying then I highly recommend you go because there are different rewards you can get for attending the presentation regardless of whether you buy or not.
My husband and I have done 2 of these before and we got cash back both times without purchasing anything. So we went ahead and booked for a 3 night stay for $349 total. If we went to the 2 hour sales pitch we got $249 cash back, yes we got cash, which made our 3 night stay a total of $127.63. The $27.63 was the tax we paid at the end of our stay. We did not have to go but if we didn’t go we did not get the $249 in cash then. There was no penalty for not going either.
When we arrived we were upgraded for free to a 2 bedroom unit, we had originally been booked for a studio. The unit slept 6 people, had a kitchen, dining area, and living room. The 2 bedroom unit normally booked for $349 per night. So all together on our 3 night stay we saved $919.37 on our lodging.
- Cook most of, if not all, the meals.
So much money, and calories, are wasted on eating every single meal out while on vacation. What I like to do is plan a menu and precook most of, if not all, the meals so they are ready to go. I do not enjoy cooking or cleaning up dishes while on vacation. I spent less than $75 for 3 days worth of meals. Meals included were 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 suppers, and 7 snacks. We did eat our supper while traveling home at Bob Evans but that was the only time we planned to eat out. We picked Bob Evans because it was family friendly and we could get away with spending under $60 (tip included) for all 7 of us. So we spent under $150 for food. That is amazing all by itself.
There have been a couple of times where I have waited to go to the store after we arrived at our destination but seeing as we live in a Midwest state, prices are pretty cheap at home. Where as when we travel it is usually a bigger city and prices of food are a lot more expensive. Don’t get me wrong it is still cheaper to go to the grocery store than to eat out every night but, I chose to do it before we left rather than after we arrive.
I want to break this down so you can see the amount of savings here. On average restaurants charge around $5 for kids meals, which may or may not include the drink. We have 4 children who eat full meals so that is $20 for 1 meal times 3 meals is $60 times 3 days is $180, WOW! This is just for our kids. Now if I add in an average of $15 for adult meals, notice I said average some are lower and some are higher, that’s $30 for 1 meal for 2 adults. So $30 times 3 meals is $90 and then take that times 3 days is $270. Now take the $270 for adult meals plus the $180 for the kids meals and the total is around $450 on just food!! I know I can find 10 other ways I would rather spend $450 while on vacation.
One other side note is the total above does not include drinks for adults. We always get water and it does not include appetizers of any kind, we never get appetizers unless they are free.
- We did not go out everyday
I grew up with parents who thought going on vacation meant we cram as much as possible into every single day because we were not coming back. I do not know about you but for me, vacation is supposed to be relaxing. The first couple of family vacations we went on I did exactly what my parents did and everyone was exhausted and cranky.When we were running behind because we got lost or traffic was bad I was frustrated.
Over the years I have learned to simplify our vacations from crazy busy to relaxing at the resort for at least 1 if not 2 days and then only doing 1 activity a day. It is so much more fun and relaxing when you are not rushing around trying to fit it all in. Not to mention I have little ones who still take naps even if we are on vacation. Everyone is happy when there is a slower pace.
I challenge you the next time you go on vacation to rest and relax for 1 full day and then only plan 1 activity each day after that. I want you to really, truly enjoy the vacation. Soak up every moment whether it be with just a spouse or the whole family.
- We did not give our children spending money
This may sound harsh but our children are paid for the work they do at home and they are expected to save up their own money to use on vacation. From the time they are 3 years old they are expected to help out and get paid for it. Our kids also save up money from Christmas and birthdays to put toward vacation.
At Christmas we tell our kids where we are going on vacation for the following year and then gently remind them throughout the upcoming year to save their money for vacation. Now ultimately you have to let your children make mistakes and learn while at home. On our recent vacation one of my kids saved up most of their money which totaled around $300. On the other hand one of kids was constantly spending $20 every time we went to Walmart, book fairs, or the zoo. Needless to say this child only had $60 to spend and was very disappointed when they could not purchase the item they so desperately wanted.
I know you are asking if we helped this child? The answer is no. Yes it is heartbreaking as a parent to watch your child struggle or be disappointed because they made the wrong choice. On the other hand it helps them learn a valuable life lesson. You see, we don’t want our kids growing up and using any kind of debt or thinking they can have whatever they want whenever they want. We are teaching them now, that hard work and saving for what you want pays off. I refuse to raise entitled children.
Long story short our kids tend to only like a few brand name toys. My daughter loves American Girl and our boys love Legos. These 2 toy brands hold up very well but usually come with a pretty price tag. We tend to pick our vacation location based upon there being a Lego store and an American Girl store close by because, for now, this motivates our kids to save.
Going on vacation should be fun and relaxing. It should be enjoyable and a time to unwind and slow down from the normal pace of everyday modern life. I hope these ideas inspire you to not only save money on your next vacation but to truly slow down and enjoy it.
What are some ways you save money while on vacation? I would love to hear your suggestions.