Dan and I decided we could be professional vacationers. Wouldn’t that be the life?
We have always enjoyed exploring and seeing the beauty of God’s creation, so any opportunity we get, we try and jump on it. In fact, when we first moved to Minnesota, we found a little magazine that listed some fun places to visit in Minnesota, so we started to explore. Of course there are many places we haven’t been (have you ever looked at a map and noticed how big Minnesota is)?
We also enjoy traveling within the United States. Of course we’d love to get to Europe (to our native land, the Netherlands), but those things will just have to wait because of price. We’ve been to Mexico for two vacations and to other countries for mission trips too. So we aren’t only bound by the USA borders!
For those who have a limited budget, you really can travel for cheap(er) and you can make any trip as cheap as you want.
We recently spent a week in the Florida Keys (our new favorite destination – have been there 3 times now!) Each time we learn something new about that area. Really I could do a whole blog post on it’s own about the Keys. On that trip, we realized that each time we had gone, we found different ways to save money. And these tips could apply to any trip!
1. Condos vs. Hotels. I never thought I would say it, but we have found that staying in condos is a whole lot cheaper for us than hotels. Of course you have your different star-rated hotels, and that’s where there can be a difference (no, we are not 5 star hotel people). Though, when we were looking at staying in the Keys, we realized that what it would cost to stay in a hotel there, we could get a condo – our own little living space, for the same price. Thanks to vrbo.com. Plus, condos also offer more space, more privacy (typically with your own balcony), and can have more to offer on the condo grounds versus a hotel.
2. Stay in a condo to save money on food. So not only did we find that hotels and condos were close to the same price for a week, we could save money on food because we could cook ourselves. I know, I know, you are probably thinking “the last thing I want to do on vacation is cook.” Those were the exact words I said! Think of it this way. How much would you spend per meal for two people? Times that by 3 (breakfast, lunch, dinner). Now, would you be spending that in a days worth of groceries? I doubt it. We have saved major dollars by throwing in a frozen pizza or making a tuna fish sandwich. And those meals are easy to make! A bowl of cereal for breakfast is a whole lot cheaper than a breakfast out. That is why it pays (or doesn’t pay) to stay in a condo.
3. Excursions. You can spend as little or as much as you want on excursions. We have found that the most beautiful places have been at state parks, where we have paid less than $10 for the day. The reason places can charge so much for guided tours and so forth is because people are willing to pay the money. Go off the beaten path and see what you can find, creating your own excursion.
4. Research. Learn from other people who have been to that place before. Trip Advisor, blogs, websites, are all helpful in forming a fairly well-rounded idea of what an area has to offer. Also in researching, look for groupon deals and other coupons that are available online. You never know what you can find!
5. Be patient. One of the biggest ways we have saved money for our vacation was to be patient. Airline tickets (which are pretty spendy right now) and car rentals are things that fluctuate in price often. Watching the prices gives you a baseline on what is cheap and what is expensive. Then you know when you happen upon a great deal! When you find that great deal, jump on it because just as much as those prices fluctuate, that price may go up in no time.
Speaking of car rental, we have been known to be very cheap and rent basically the smallest car possible. Let me tell you, two over 6 foot people do not fit in those cars very well. In fact, the first time we made that mistake, the car rental lady felt sorry for us and bumped us up for free. Another time, they ran out of the car we rented and all they had left was a Ford Mustang or Chevy Corvette. I’m telling you, it was a rough life in the Mustang for a week. Then the last time, we decided to go up a step to ensure we fit in it, so we got a Prius, which had an electric feature, so we saved oodles on gas too.
6. Set a budget. You knew that word was coming, right? We do not have an exact amount we are willing to spend, but we know a round about. In fact one night we were thinking about going out to eat at a nice restaurant, and realized we probably would have dropped $50 after tip and so forth. That type of eating we rarely do, but we realized we just wanted to eat in and enjoy the view we had from our balcony. And we saved $50! What are you willing to spend? Decide that BEFORE you go so that you do not come home to a credit card bill that makes your eyes fall out.
Vacations are something to look forward to. Though I’ve often heard it said that it’s actually the planning and excitement leading up to it, that can be some of the most fun too. We all know the depressing feeling of having to go back home. Instead of spending your life savings on a vacation that will come and go too quickly, save a few bucks and make a good vacation GREAT!