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My family doesn’t take very many vacations but when we do you can be sure we pull every thrifty trick in the book to make sure we get the most bang for our vacation buck.
10 Ways Thrifty People Save Money On Vacations
1. Go Off Season
Going on vacation during the off season works for our family because we homeschool. I realize not all families can do this, but the 9 steps below will help those of you that can’t go off season.
2. Book Through Point Earning or Rebate Sites
All of the sites above offer either points or cash back when you go through their shop and earn links to the various well known discount travel sites like priceline and hotels.com . The offers change from time to time and vary from site to site so it pays to join each site and then compare sites to see who is currently offering the best deal. I have earned as much as a $50 Amazon gift card code when I have done this for our families one week vacations.
3. Use Daily Deal Sites
Daily deal sites like Groupon and Plum District offer travel packages to various destinations, I myself have not booked a vacation package this way but have had friends that have and they have had good results. I have however bought restaurant vouchers for the city we are visiting off Groupon with success. Simply add your travel destination to your email preferences in Groupon so that you get the daily updates for offers in that area.
4. Look For Coupon Books
Most people know that you can buy coupon books full of entertainment and food coupons for large cities but you can also get a lot of free coupons by stopping at the local tourist information booth as you enter the area you are going to be vacationing in. My family does this all the time and have saved 10 to 20 percent off our meals and local attraction tickets at no cost for the coupons.
5. Book A Place With A Kitchen
If you are going to be staying in one area for 5 to 7 nights or more chances are you can book a place with a full kitchen for the same price as an average hotel room (our family has done this 2 vacations in a row). Having our own kitchen has kept our costs for food low on our last two vacations.
6. Pack A Small Cooler
Our cooler comes in handy for more than just the road trip to our destination, each morning before we head out for the day we pack it with fresh snacks and drinks for the day. In between our days events we have snacks on hand that help tie us over to meal time at the hotel room.
7. Compare Cost Of Transportation
When our family went to Disney World a few years ago one of the first things we did when planning for the trip was to sit down and compare gas cost to flight cost and car rental. For a family our size (5) driving worked out to be much less expensive but this might not be true if you have a smaller family, and also depends on exactly where you are headed and what flight and car rental deals you can find.
8. Consider Camping
State parks are often offer very inexpensive campsites that come with more comforts of home than you might think like hot showers and flush toilets. Private campgrounds often have small cabins that can be rented for less per night than a hotel room. Of course if you are dragging a trailer behind your vehicle your gas mileage is going to go up so you need to factor that in.
9. Eat Out For Lunch Stay In For Dinner
In general many restaurants have lunch menus that are several dollars cheaper per person than dinner menus, which can add up when you are feeding a family (especially one of teenagers who eat as much as adults).
Even if you don’t book a hotel room with a full kitchen, most hotel rooms now come with fridge and microwave. Keep the makings for sandwiches in the fridge, and heat up some soup in the microwave for a simple and quick family meal. (make sure to pack a few simple cooking dishes is you do go this route since the hotel rooms won’t have them)
I once met a woman who brings her crock pot and electric skillet on vacation to use in a regular hotel room to feed her family. With a little bit of brain storming these two kitchen items certainly would increase the different meals you could make in a standard hotel room.
10. Cut Costs On Trinkets And Treats
When we arrived in Orlando as a family the first place we stopped was Walmart to pick up the food we would need for the week. We noticed right away that they had a great selection of Disney t-shirts, mugs and hats for inexpensive prices. When our daughter said she wanted something to remember Disney we brought her there.
As for how to not spend a fortune on treats such as ice cream and cookies and fancy slushy drinks, here is what works for our family, we stock the kitchen in the place where we are staying with treats that we normally rarely buy such as ice cream bars and bags of candy and chocolate and tell the children when we get back to the hotel room each day they can pick something from the stash. This plan has worked well for us for years.
Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to load up your smartphone, or tablet with helpful travel Apps. I like gas buddy which helps us find the least expensive place to buy gas along the way. I also like the ibotta App I can use it to save money eating out, on movies that we might see during vacation and groceries that I buy on the trip (check out my ibotta tutorial).
For a list of 52 different websites, apps, and stores our thrifty family uses to help us keep our expenses low, click here to visit our Thrifty Tools Resource Page.