Monday, June 1, 2015

How to Have a Frugal Family Vacation!

With summer right around the corner (only 1 more week for us!!!) we wanted to share some of our tips on how to have a frugal family vacation. Our friends and family often give us a hard time when we tell we are leaving for vacation again but we are able to take so many vacation because we usually take frugal vacations and we make them a priority. 

As new parents we suddenly felt the importance of  re-evaluating our priorities and we decided we needed to make taking family vacations a priority because those are some of our own greatest childhood memories and we want our kids to make similar memories.

Like most families we wanted to be able to take multiple vacations to spend quality family time without breaking our budget. After having our son last spring we took advantage of my maternity leave and took a three week long road trip from Michigan to Florida and Florida to Maine. Here are some tips that have worked for us.  

  1. Use a tent (not only for camping!): A good quality tent such as a Kelty has an upfront cost of $200 but will quickly pay for itself. We highly recommend an air mattress as well because it is very uncomfortable to sleep on the ground! Trust us the money is worth it to be more comfortable and will again pay for itself. Our first air mattress we really liked was a Coleman which lasted three years before it got a leak. I think the next one we are going to try is this one. Besides camping you can use a tent while on a road trip instead of staying at a cheap hotel or motel which can still cost $60/night. And your air mattress will come in handy when you have overnight guests.

(Camping in Acadia National Park, Maine)

A good quality tent is a must on a Christmas or birthday list, wedding registry, or baby registry (Thanks Rafe for one of the best wedding presents!). If you cannot afford to get a tent or do not think you will use it enough then borrow one from a friend or family. Most people are willing to share their stuff but you may have to overcome your fear or reluctance to ask!

  1. Camp at state parks: State parks usually cost $18-$35/day with an $11 passport fee for the entire year. Private sites, on the other hand, are usually $35 and up. Again, even a campsite that is $45 is better than a cheap motel for $60. We found sites as cheap as $10/night.

(Rockland, Maine)

  1. One meal a day: Limit eating out at restaurants to once a day or less by grocery shopping and bringing/making your own food. Pack food for the car ride and premake as much as possible and bring a cooler! It is easy to eat your own food for breakfast and lunch and then eat out for dinner. Or you can eat out for big lunch and healthy snacks for dinner. We love trying new or unique restaurants but usually once day is enough! This is our cooler but I wish it was a little bit bigger like this one.

While on our road trip we fell in love with shopping at Trader Joe's which unfortunately is not available where we live. We would shop every couple of days and buy oatmeal and fruit for breakfast and hummus, vegetables, salsa, avocados, and other easy items for lunch.  An easy guacamole we ate a  lot was 1/2 jar of salsa mixed with an avocado or an easy sandwich is a can of tuna or salmon mixed with an avocado. Click here for a great resource for camping tips from my friend's blog, Kitchenstewardship.

I hope your kids made wonderful memories of having a picnics like me can remember my family having picnics on the lawn in front of Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island and other vacation locations.

  1. Bring a camp stove or skillet/griddle: You can reheat and make a lot of meals with a simple one burner camp stove or skillet/griddle. We even use our camp stove when we stay in hotels to reheat our soups and other pre made meals.(Disclaimer: this may be frowned upon but we have never seen any signs saying it is prohibited, so we do it, but we are not going to take responsibility if you choose to do this.)

(This one is ours but a two burner would be nice!)



(My brother uses something similar to this for his family of 9 because it is very versatile and can replace a grill, stove, etc!)

  1. Go with friends or family: This is an easy way to cut your bill in half or more by dividing the price for lodging and transportation. You can also take turns watching each other kids so you can have a date night without paying a babysitter.

(Our free tour of Cape Cod Chip Factory)

(Walking the golf course at our timeshare resort for a free color tour)

  1. Use a timeshare/vacation ownership: Timeshares can be very expensive to purchase but if you know someone who owns one they can purchase vacations for you and you can pay them back. If they are generous and have extra points that they will give you then you only have to pay a transfer fee of $150. Otherwise, you can get “Last Call” vacations for as cheap as $250/week plus the $150 transfer fee. Keep your eyes open for a future post about the pros and cons of a timeshare.

(Cocoa Beach, Florida)

  1. Use Groupon and other similar deals: Start searching a couple of months in advance and keep checking for restaurants or activities that you would like to do.  

(NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida)

  1. Use cash: Research shows that you spend less if you use real money instead of swiping a card. You’re more careful to track your purchases if you will eventually run out of cash. The only time we do not follow this rule is if we get a better deal by using our credit card such as when we get 5% back at restaurants.
    (Cape Cod, Massachusetts)

When we returned from our three week vacation we realized our three month old son had spend 1/3 of his life on vacation. It was great to spend this much time just the three of us before I had to return to work. Happy Vacationing!

Have a great day and thanks for reading. Please make sure if you've been enjoying the blog to put your email in the right column and check us out on Facebook and Twitter!

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