7 Secrets to Stretch Your Vacation Budget Without Sacrificing Fun!

For most of us, considering the budget is just part of going on vacation.  And while it would be nice to travel and not think about the costs, that isn’t the reality for most of us.  I hold out hope that maybe someday…

As we all wait patiently for our ship to come in, consider these 7 secrets to stretch the travel budget without sacrificing any of the fun:

  1. Pack a Picnic:  Packing a picnic is my favorite way to stretch the budget.  Why? Because it is fun!  We started doing this several years ago when traveling with a toddler.  We found it was easier and much more enjoyable to have breakfast or lunch outside somewhere rather than in a crowded restaurant.  Saving money was an unplanned bonus! We’ve continued to pack picnics because it gives us more time in our destination – which is frequently a National or State Park.  But, this tip works in a city as well.  It was a blast eating breakfast in front of the Bean in Chicago!

    A Picnic by the Bean in Chicago
    A picnic by the Bean in Chicago made for a perfect breakfast experience!
  2. Embrace the Roadtrip:  It is a no-brainer that driving is often significantly cheaper than flying.  Our trips are usually to destinations where we’d have to rent a car anyway.  So, when we drive instead of fly, we avoid the cost of airfare AND rental car! This savings means we can either travel more or stay gone longer! WIN!  And, the drive itself can be fun!  Just view the roadtrip as part of your vacation!The road trip
  3. Be Flexible: While I love the idea of traveling during the shoulder season or during the school year, that just doesn’t work for our family at this time.  Even with the traditional school schedule, you can visit places during their less busy time – during that destination’s off season.  That means doing things like going to a ski resort in the summer!

    Ski Lift in Big Sky Montana
    Riding the ski lift in Big Sky, Montana was only 1 of the many fun summer activities!
  4. Consider Similar Destinations:  The popular spots are typically popular for a reason. But sometimes, a nearby but lesser known destination can offer a very similar experience without all the people or the cost! We used this strategy on our recent visit to Maine. Rather than spending a week in Bar Harbor (Acadia National Park), we spent a couple of days in Acadia and the rest of the time in another beautiful coastal town, Boothbay Harbor.  Guess what?  You can go whale watching, eat lobster, and sea kayak in both places, but the cost of lodging was less in Boothbay!  As a bonus, there was less traffic!

    Lighthouse in Boothbay Harbor, Maine
    Boothbay Harbor, Maine had all the elements of a coastal town in Maine without the traffic associated with a National Park in Bar Harbor.
  5. Select Budget Friendly Activities: National and State Parks offer many budget friendly vacation activities.  Enjoying outdoor activities like hiking or fishing costs very little or no money.  Some of the most fun we’ve had on vacation was doing things that didn’t cost a dime.  Even when we aren’t near a park, there are things to do that don’t cost much.  For example, hunting for sea glass in Maine was a blast. And, the free tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Ft. Worth was fantastic! Chances are that you’ll be able to find plenty of fun low or no cost activities wherever you go.

    Rocky Shoreline at Monterey Bay in California
    The shoreline in Monterey, California is a great place to kick back and enjoy the outdoors… for FREE!
  6. Watch Prices: Do you have a list of places you’d like to visit? We do, and I periodically glance at prices for those destinations.  That way, when a good deal comes along, I know it.  We have used this strategy in selecting our vacation destination for years.  And, it works!

    Lake Powell
    We found a great deal for a hotel in Page, AZ (Lake Powell).  It was high on the list, so we decided to go!
  7. Plan Ahead:  Planning your activities and meals before you leave not only helps you budget, but also keeps you from wasting time with the what-do-we-do-next conversation.  With a little prep work, you can not only avoid wasting time, you have a better chance of keeping your group happy with your meal choices.  To top it all off, when you plan your activities ahead of time, you can use your budget more strategically.

    Hamburger at Crave in Colorado Springs
    During pre-trip Internet research, I discovered Crave, a Colorado based restaurant in Colorado Springs.  I knew this hamburger restaurant would be a big hit with my family.  It was TASTY! (and now I’m just hungry)

Travel can be expensive.  But, I never have regretted spending money on these vacation experiences.  Using these strategies, it is  possible to plan an awesome trip without breaking the bank!

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