Part of planning a vacation is setting a budget. Lets face it, regardless of what our budget is, it seems like we always want our money to go further than it does - get more bang for each buck, some might say.
I have pulled together 10 simple tips to stretch that budget, and maybe even put more money into the budget. Want to get the most out of your next vacation? Check out my tips, and then relax and enjoy the memories you created on your special trip!
What is your ideal travel?
Trip with the kids, romantic get-away, opportunity to serve others? Regardless of your idea of travel, it doesn’t happen without some planning, and usually yields more returns than the cost. Getting on my soapbox here.
This was taken in 2007. We took the cousins on a camping trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. Since then, the girl has become a mommy, and we lost of of the boys to cancer. Thankfully, the memories DO last a lifetime.
The trip was 11 years ago, and my first trip with this extended family. Every day I look at the various photos around my home featuring this trip, and remember a comment, a joke, a shared opportunity. Lesson here – WHAT you get out of travel lasts forever. The cost to get there (financial or personal) comes and goes. I had to borrow money to go on this trip, and haven't regretted that for a moment. Not that I recommend borrowing money to travel, but for me it was worth that sacrifice.
I know there are folks reading this, that think that finding the money to go on vacation just isn’t going to happen. I say this to you…. My idea of vacation may not be your idea, but I challenge you to broaden your horizons.
Here is my challenge to you.... Living in the USA Midwest, we have several medium to large cities within 3-4 hours drive, and most people in the US and Europe have similar opportunities. Find a cheap hotel room. Eat the same as you would at home, and find inexpensive-or wait for it……. FREE things to do.
We travel to Kansas City for a weekend almost every year. The art museum is FREE. The World War I Museum is very low cost. The zoo is very low cost. Union Station’s train display is FREE, and their science exhibits are very low cost and geared to making young minds think.
Works for my brain too. See an inexpensive weekend here? Even staying in a nicer hotel, driving there, and meals, we usually keep our weekend in KC around $150-250, depending on meals. Now, that still might mean several months of savings for some families. But remember the story and photo from the first paragraph?
Most places within the US are within a half day travel from a National Park or Memorial, or State parks.
We have had the privilege of visiting many of our National Parks, and the most rewarding visits have been shared with family – again, refer to the photo in paragraph 1. National Park admission is usually priced per car, which makes family outings inexpensive, and National Memorials and State parks usually do not charge admission.
Budget is incredibly important. Papa Joe and I have a portion of our paycheck deposited into a “stash” account every payday. Out of sight, out of mind. Others use apps like Smarty Pig, but the principal is the same. Decide where you want to go, do your research to determine how much it will cost, and then check your household budget and determine how much you can save. That will help set your savings plan.
Common areas to save money out of a budget:
Eat out less. Whether it is fast food or fancy dinners, eating out adds up fast. Papa Joe and I have become semi-gourmet chefs, because even though we don’t go out for supper, we still like good food. Example: when we go out for supper, it usually costs a minimum of $50, usually $75 a night. Cutting out one of those meals a month equals the cost of a short trip every 2-3 months.
Yep, there’s a trend with us, and it almost always revolves around food. Work-day meals are expensive. Work-day lunches out usually run $6 or more per day, same goes if you eat breakfast out. Instead, buy a box of cereal or meal replacement bars, and take last night’s leftovers or sandwiches for lunches. Instead of spending a minimum of $60 per week on work-day food, I take meal-replacement bars and my own lunches. Compare a weekly estimate of $60 ($240 per month) to my actual breakfast/lunch budget - less than $10 a week ($40 a month). Adds up fast.
Car pool if possible. Papa Joe spent the majority of the last 10 years carpooling with a co-worker. He bought a tank of gas a week, and cut his cost from $50 to $25 per week. Over a month, that is $100 savings. For both him and his co-worker. On the other hand, I am unable to car-pool, but have been able to negotiate working from home a couple of days a week. Cut my commute cost almost by half.
Do you use your gym membership? Many companies will help sponsor gym memberships or even have facilities onsite. Ditch the payment if you aren’t using the gym. Minimum $25 savings per month, in all reality, probably more than that.
What about your cable bill? Do you use all the channels you are paying for, or could you go with a less expensive package? How about looking at on-line streaming channels? On-line streaming TV has become huge business. Use the features that smart-TV comes with. Figure up your own savings, but if you look realistically at what cable features you use versus what you pay for, most people will find a significant savings.
Entertainment. Been to a movie lately? With tickets $10+, popcorn and a drink, its not unusual to have a $35 night at the movies, if not more. And that’s just for a couple. Wait a few months and watch it on Redbox or bundle it with your cable cost and use NetFlix instead.
Girls – I know we love those designer jeans, but those are available without spending the big bucks. Check out your local re-sale store, for instance our local shopping area has a Plato’s Closet, and those same jeans are MUCH less expensive there. $100-$250 savings. BAM! Add the designer purse and the world becomes your oyster! And, I'm sure this is hard to believe, but I'm cheap. I can't remember the last time I paid full price for anything but groceries.
Speaking of oysters, us girls LOVE the expensive makeup and fancy creams. Make sure to take advantage of the freebies – I would NEVER spend the money on mascara or eyeshadow that they charge, but it helps stretch the makeup budget when I get it in a freebie. Buy the most economical item behind the counter – just enough to get the promotional items, and makeup budget just went to nil. AND you usually get a nifty makeup bag that has oh so many other uses. Like being a travel bag for the go-pro camera. Oh, which by the way also means I didn’t need to buy a $30 bag for the go-pro......
And sometimes it is just simple. Keep your spare change. While this doesn’t add up as fast for us in the current days of debit cards, we still keep a decorative jar with loose change. Papa Joe throws his change in nightly, I rarely carry cash so whatever I have left at the end of the week – dollar bills included – goes into the jar. We cash it in when the jar gets full – every one -2 years, and there’s usually $150 or so in the jar.
How hard to you want to find extra cash? We don’t do this, but when I used to collect cans and bottles and return for recycling, I almost always had $20 a trip. A couple of times a month, for a couple of months…… there’s almost a weekend trip. My granddaughter has an opportunity for travel to Paris next year and has plans to get there by cashing in and and bottles. With a wide enough network, she may make it....
I think you get the picture.
I’m not a "bag lady" by any means, and Papa Joe and I live a comfortable lifestyle. But we have found a few ways to stretch our budget, augment our savings, and plan trips well in advance so we can DO things instead of just dreaming about them.
My pops was pretty special - I got the passport-ink for blood from him, as well as many of the lessons we have shared in our blogs. One of the more difficult challenges we have (and its an awful problem to have - NOT) traveling is to find our own places to go, not just follow in his footsteps. One more soapbox here. During his last days in hospice, in his mind he traveled back to the places he had visited through his life. Each morning we would ask him where he was that day, and he always had an exotic answer for us. And it would bring a smile to his wife’s face, or one of us kids – whoever was with him on that particular trip. The memories TRULY are a gift and worth the sacrifice to get there.