Frugal Vacations

ninosMay 8, 2007

I think i have mastered the art of being frugal while on vacation. Whether it is a big family trip or just a weekend getaway, i know how to save a dime. On our big family trip to Disney we always drive. It is cheaper to put 5 in a car rather then a plane. I pack breakfast which saves time and $. Then i also pack a lunch for us too. We stay at the military disney resort since my husband is military. Its a very nice resort with cheap rates. Before arriving we stop at walmart and pick up breakfast for the week. Usually cereal, milk, fruit, breakfast bar,ect. Not eatting out for breakfast saves us alot. I also buy some snacks for the hotel. My favorite tip came from my girlfriend. Before the trip i shop at the Disney store outlet and buy souvenirs. I love that tip! I also pick up glow bracelets so the kids have some and they wont ask for them at the park. We then buget our money at the resturants. Does anyone have any other great tips. Please share them with me.

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If we are going to stay in a hotel, we stay at some place like a Holiday Inn where breakfast or brunch comes with the room. We get served a few different choices for food and dh and I get hot coffee. It's cheaper for our family of five and the hotels are usually pretty decent. DH is signed up for their reward program so we earn a free room every once in a while.

I buy car snacks and drinks before we leave home. I can get the same junk for about half of what you'd spend in a gas station. I manage to pack some healthy foods too. My kids love bananas, apples, etc.

My family tends to do more outdoorsy type vacations. We like to visit national parks, monuments, etc. We have a budget for souvenirs. We usually try to buy something nice, but non-touristy. We look for things like small pieces of local art so it's not overwhemingly expensive and the item fits into our household later. The kids only get a couple of dollars to spend on things like postcards unless we see something worth buying like an educational book. We don't get the t-shirt. We don't buy junk just because we're there.

My kids are still little so we can eat at some places like buffets for about the same amount we'd spend at McDonald's. We try to only eat one meal out a day on road trips. If we are camping, we cook most of our meals. We do pick one or two resturants in the area as a special treat to sample the local flavor. Most hotels have microwaves so if we are staying in a hotel, I pack a supper meal of microwavable food like the individual packs of mac 'n cheese, soups, etc. It's hot and cheaper than eating out.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 9:41PM
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Not everything you see on a vacation has to cost $$, either. My absolute favorite vacation is to fill the car with fuel and just drive in one direction until the tank is empty (that's about 600 miles for me). Along the way I can stop at any historical site I want. You learn something by stopping at county historical society buildings or interpretive centers or even buildings like old mills which have been repurposed as historical attractions. And most of them are free or inexpensive. Ditto for lots of natural attractions like lakes, waterfalls, and scenic lookouts. I'm also good for taking lots of pictures and not lots of souvenirs. :-)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 11:26PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

It's not exactly high class, but dh and I stay at Motel 6's a bit. The key is to only stay at the newest built ones. They are clean, fresh and usually have the basics. I'm paranoid about ALL hotel/motels and usually bring my own linens anyway. And flip flops. Never go barefoot in a hotel.
The worst experience I ever had was in the Hilton Head pee in the room and the air conditioner was broken. So, price doesn't always mean clean.

Also, we like to do brunch which saves a meal. I've been known to lug the toaster oven in the trunk for bagels and coffee in the room too.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 5:22PM
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Instead of going to a restaurant for dinner, find a grocery and grab up a rotisserie chicken & side veggies/salads, a nice bread and fluids. Find a park or waterfront table and have a feast.

Helps of course to have packed some paper plates, forks, etc, but amazing what you can get by with in a pinch...

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 11:32PM
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celticmoon, great tip with the chicken and a picnic. Why havent i thought of that one. I will definalty be doing that in the future.
bumblebeez, i have never had a bad stay at a Hilton. Was it a nice looking hotel on the inside and out. A few years back DH and i went to a ball. I insisted on staying at a Marriot hotel. I have never even seen a bad one. It looked like a repainted motel and that is what the room looked like. I was so made i contacted Marriot and they refunded my stay and have since closed that hotel. Did you call Marriot? Certain names you know you are taking a chance but other names like Marriot and Hilton you expect good quality.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 2:37PM
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A couple of years ago, my DH received free tickets to a Busch race at Nazareth (hospitality tent, pit passes, grandstand, etc). We loaded our 3 boys and one pup tent into a Dodge Van and hit the road. We had reservations at a camp site near the race track at $8/night (for everyone)it had the bbq, a swimming location, on site showers and bathrooms, ice machines. MY DH, me and the youngest (not smallest) son slept in the van (fold down seat into bed) and other 2 sons in tent. 2nd night after the race, we treated the kids to Domino's pizza, it starting raining and all 5 of us in the van, playing cards, trying to sleep.
That was at least 5-6 yrs ago (the boys are now 17, 21 & 23)
and they're still relating hilarious stories to their friends about the time Mom & Dad went "white trash camping".

    Bookmark   May 12, 2007 at 12:43PM
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Yearly passes at our local museums, zoos, etc. really pay off when we travel! As a family of 5, only 2 visits recoup our costs-- add travel and they are a steal! We recently went to Chicago and saved at least 500.00 on museum fees -- especially because my kids wanted to go to the Field Museum twice!

Also, biddingfortravel dot com to check rates before bidding on priceline for hotels has saved us a bundle!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 10:11AM
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When kids are little, they don't care WHERE you go as long as it is somewhere new (away from home) -- and it has a pool. A friend and her fireman husband took "motel" vacations for years when their kids were young. This involved driving 10 - 20 miles to a motel with a swiming pool and staying over a long weekend. Nobody got carsick. No standing in lines at airports or "attractions". If a kid got sick, home was literally just around the corner.

I fail to see the appeal of hotels for most travelers. Much better, IMO, are resort condos with a full kitchen. You don't HAVE to cook, but it's there for snacks and sandwiches and microwaving. You get one or more BRs and usually two bathrooms, along with a ton more room that any hotel, even one that advertises suites.

If you're paying to stay in a lovely resort, you should have a lovely view. A rotisserie chicken w/some sides on your own private lanai is not only cheaper than dining out, but you can have a bottle of wine and not have to drive afterwards!

Today you can rent direct from an owner -- at a discount, and there's no room-roulette about what exact unit you'll be assigned by some agency or hotel clerk.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 11:27AM
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We haven't paid for a vacation in about 15 years. We usually travel several times a year. Some trips to distant places--Cancun, California wine company, Florida, and many others.

Usually, our hotel and travel expenses are free. Often, several free meals are included. Sometimes, entertainment is provided.

How do we do that? I'm very, very lucky and participate in a hobby where, if you get invited to a competition, the sponsor pays your way. Good way to take trips you wouldn't normally be able to afford. I've stayed in $1000/night rooms, eaten dinners that would have cost over $100 if I were paying for them. Great perk--and I always figure, just getting invited is a win, even if I don't end up on top when the acutal winners are announced.

Might be something to look into. Even better than all the free travel (and occasional prizes) are the great friends we've made over the years.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 8:42AM
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If you are talking about Disney in Florida and this goes for most resort areas, one of the cheaper places to stay is in "condo hotels." These are condo complexes where the units are rented by the night (sometimes with minimum stays of 3 days). The condos are supplied with everything you need...just bring your food and clothes. In the Fla Disney area you can get a 3 bedroom 2 bath for about $110 per night. Since you have a refrigerator, washer/dryer etc.. you can store food in the frig and wash your clothes. Pack your lunches for Disney and either eat in the condo at night, go out to eat or get take out.
Most condo hotels have indiviual owners for the units and are not connected to any national chain. Therefore, they are not heavily advertised. You have to either know someone or search them out on websites.
Anyway, you can often stay in one of these for the price of a hotel room and yet have the all the space and comforts of home.
If you want Disney products in Florida, there is a super Walmart on highway 192 in Kissimmee (edge of Disney property) that has a Disney department that is huge. All Disney product are just about 1/3 -1/2 the price of the same thing on Disney property.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 10:59AM
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Two words - Entertainment Book! Did you know that by regestering your book on EB web site, you can gain access to a lot of coupons by changing your zip code under your profile? Obviously, good B1G1 offers are available in the local book only, but a lot of 20-25% coupons for eateries - which are often located along main roads - can be accessed whether you do or don't have the local book. You can change the zipcode under your profile.

It should also be worth it to buy the local to your vacation destination book (which are often 50% during summers) to get those B1G1 offers to museums, amusement parks, etc.

Finally, if you are planning a trip to a museum that does not offer any coupons in EB, google the museum and check out their website. Often the museum will offer some $ off. Even for $2 off the admission, that's $10 for a family of 5!

Also, a lot of museums offer free admissions on Mondays.

BTW, EB is still running the $250 offer to Target if you get your 5 friends to buy the book. I got the gift card back in January and it was a nice contribution to my new vaccum purchase.

PS - ia m in no way affiliated with EB! Just a very satisfied customer who saves at least $500 annualy with EB :)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 2:49PM
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Thanks for the Zip Code tip, yanalg! I have the EB book and never thought of changing the Zip Code in my profile for coupons in other areas. Cool.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 3:38PM
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My tip is small but the grandsons love it. Before we start, I go to a local Dollar Tree and buy all the snacks they love: Chips, pepperoni, candy, etc. My local store now sells refrigerated and frozen items.

One grandson loves his crackers with pepperoni, another glow-sticks, another candy. Everything only costs me $1.00 and I buy each grandson three items for the vacation. So I spend under $10. for everything including tax but my grandsons think I'm great. But I know I'm frugal.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 8:57PM
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There are all kinds of ways to save on a vacation - once you know where you want to go, you can get coupons, online discounts as mentioned above. (AAA discounts!)

If you aren't committed to a place yet, think about State Parks (some have very nice accomodations - it's not all tents in the woods). If you can get off the beaten path at all, you'll save money - if you are in to the beach, there is a whole lot of coast line in this country that isn't already a tourist destination with sky high prices.

If you really want to see a specific place, try to travel in their off season.

There's always a way to save money - it's mostly just taking the time to plan for it.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 1:42PM
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I agree on the planning. Every year we manage several vacations on a budget.Most to state parks as we love to hike and camp. If you don't like to tent camp some of the cabins are reasonable and if you want an adventure some parks have yurts.
Also talk to your friends. My hubby put out the word he wanted to run the Boston Marathon when he qualified but finding a place to stay was going to be spendy. A friend of a coworker was active in the Boston Running scene and hooked him up with a place to stay. We also have been offered a condo in the keys at a reduced rate as a former co-worker owns it. We always do something special to say thank you to anyone who extends a kind offer- dinner out, etc.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 2:05PM
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I thought it was on this forum that someone mentioned Amtrak, and I came in to thank them. After reading the post, I checked out the options. We have always wanted to see New York and New England, but we are too far away to drive and flying was not an option. Amtrak was the perfect solution. I joined the guest rewards program and earned points toward other trips. By using Amtrak, we were able to get discounts from the car rental and motels. So thanks to the person who made the suggestion. Amtrak was not exactly the vacation destination it was advertised to be, but it was an affordable means of transportation.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2007 at 9:20PM
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I love this thread. We have had some fantastic vacations by visiting cities were we have friends and returning the favor for them. Our last vacation was a week in Cleveland (people always make fun) but we had a great time.

We stayed with a friend. They were working during the day so we did day trips to the zoo, museum, etc. They borrowed passes to some of these places from their local library so we were able to go free.

Breakfast was home, lunch was a picnic at different locations, dinner was home. We hit ice cream parlors and bakeries to sample local treats.

Souvenirs were items that we wanted like t-shirts, local gourmet foods, framed print by a local artist, and as always a Christmas ornament from one place we visiited.

While we were there we did a couple of projects around their house- I weeded her garden, we stacked wood that was delivered. I made dinner each night and babysat their children so they could go out on a date.

On the way home we met other friends in different states for day outings.

We are a family of six and that trip including gas was under $500 for ten days.

They also came here and we went apple picking with all the kids, went the children's museum on the free night, joined a friend on their boat for a sunset tour of the harbor.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2007 at 8:07AM
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For others in the military, if you have a camper try this Its campgrounds at bases throughout the country. Average stay is about 15 dollars per day. There is one right in Orlando at McDill. Its less than a quarter the price of most hotels in the area. A little less scenery for a lot less money..

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 9:50AM
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I've mastered the art of vacationing very cheaply in Europe. I fly only on frequent flier miles, and stay in very inexpensive pensions (bathroom down the hall-type places. Spotlessly clean, breakfast included, but spartan). Like many Europeans, I make lunch the main meal and just pick up some market items for dinner back in the pension. I walk a lot and take public transportation. I spent less than 1,000. for a 10 day stay in Austria and the Czech Republic this last summer and had a blast!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 3:03PM
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When we traveled in an RV, I checked out the city/area way ahead of time and look for local fundraiser dinners or fairs, sometimes church sponsored. We went to a Salmon BBQ for the fire department in a small town in Oregon. It was wonderful, and the kids got to ride on the fire truck.
Its a wonderful way to meet people, casual, fun and very reasonable. Sometimes they also have a raffle and you can win something.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 8:48PM
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We went to Dollywood this past summer. Military discount is very good, and if you enter the park after 3PM, you get in FREE the next day, for the entire day!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 10:07PM
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Wow! I am slowly learning the military discounts that are out there. Dh and i were at Fort Shnelling this weekend for military business. We stayed at the military hotel on base. It was a simple and clean room for only $33 a night. The Mall of America was near by and i suggested taking the kids next time. I am getting into the habit of asking for military discount almost everywhere. They are out there. You just have to ask.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 12:31PM
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