Spend Time, Not Money

Having empty pockets or a low bank account does not mean you have to sacrifice an enjoyable summer vacation with your family.  A cruise to Hawaii might be out of the question.  However,
there are several less-expensive alternatives for creating fun summer memories.  Before throwing your travel plans out the window, consider the following summer vacation spending tips:


Staying with Family.  If hotel prices have kept you from taking that summer road trip, consider staying with relatives and friends along the way.  This not only helps cut down on travel expenses, but can also facilitate a visit with friends or family you have not seen in a while.  It might take a little extra planning or structuring of your route in an effort to make the appropriate stops along the
way, but having such destination goals can add anticipation to your trip and a
sense of accomplishment upon arrival.  It is always a good idea to call ahead of time and make sure the addition of house guests will not interfere with anything your hosts might have planned.  Given the appropriate notice, most loved ones will be happy to have you for a visit.

Buying Vacation Packages. Another great way to save on lodging is to look for packaged deals.  Some hotels will team up with restaurants and entertainment providers to offer incentives to  travelers. Take advantage of these deals but be sure to crunch the numbers.  Sometimes the packaged deal may look nice but may still not be much of a bargain.

Subscribing to Travel Email Alerts. By subscribing to top travel e-mail alert sites and checking them often, you can find some really great deals.  This may require some flexibility in your travel plans, but can save your family lots of money. If an offer for a trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas costs less that an originally planned trip to Branson, Missouri, simply change plans and travel a bit more spontaneously.

Asking for Discounts.  I have never been eager to haggle over price, but swallowing pride can be a real dollar saver. Sometimes all it takes is asking the hotel clerk if there are any specials or discounts you might qualify for.  Most hotels have discounted rates for certain professions, such as those in the ministry or military.  By simply asking what is offered, you might be surprised what you qualify for. You can also negotiate your price by pointing out that the hotel down the street has
vacancy and is renting their rooms for ten dollars less.  Some hotels will lower their price to keep
your business. 


Planning Ahead.  Planning and preparing are great money saving tools in life and certainly apply to travel.  Always eat before you leave the house so you can tie over hunger pangs.  If there are restaurants offering special deals during certain times of the day, such as happy hour, schedule your trip so that you will arrive during that period. If this means driving a few extra miles before stopping, slip a few snacks into your travel pack.  They will come in handy to satisfy impatient appetites.

Packing Picnics.  Taking a picnic lunch can be more fun that stopping at a fast food drive thru and is certainly a healthier and cheaper option. Simply fill a cooler with ice and pack a few sandwiches, chips, fresh fruit or veggies, drinks, and cookies.  Children especially love planning a picnic and searching for a spot to spread a blanket. Bring a Frisbee and make the meal a nice break from the travel monotony.

Cutting Coupons.  Restaurants will often issue coupons in an attempt to draw customers in.  Start by checking your local paper, which should be filled with coupons for fast food restaurants and national chains.  If there is a particular establishment at which you plan on dining, check their website for special offers or call ahead to see if that have any travel incentives. 


Taking Advantage of Free Events. Visit free parks and wildlife reservations. Tour museums when they are promoting free exhibits.  Search the internet for attractions open to the public that your family would enjoy. Veteran memorials are a fantastic and inexpensive place to frequent around summer holidays such as Memorial Day and Independence Day and can give your family a sense of patriotism.

Enjoying the Outdoors. Most outdoor activities are inexpensive and enjoyable. Camping, swimming, hiking, fishing, and biking are not only cheap ways to spend the summer, but are also great sources of exercise.  If your family prefers a less-active lifestyle, try bird-watching or leaf-collecting.  These are great ways to get out of the house and get your family interested in nature. Swimming in rivers and lakes, rather than pools and resorts can save money as well.

Staying Close to Home. Traveling is not the only way to have an enjoyable vacation.  Many families are choosing to experience “staycations” instead.  Make the most of your time at home by turning your attention to local attractions, which may have been overlooked due to their proximity. You might be surprised to find what fun and inexpensive places are right in your neighborhood and
surrounding communities. Backyard bonfires and wienie roasts with family and friends can be more fun (and less exhausting) than anything else you might plan and will certainly cost less.

If having a limited budget has discouraged you from planning summer fun, remember that the most important part of a vacation is spending time making memories with family.  When you look back at the fun you have had, you will be able to reminisce about how the time was spent instead of
regretting how the money was spent. Create a money-saving summer memory with your family!