Friday, June 15, 2012

Vacations on a Budget: Part 1

I love traveling.  Being a single mom, who is a teacher, means I get creative.  Creativity encompasses the budget as well as the trip itself!  Since I am a teacher, I obviously have to work around times I'm not working: Christmas, Spring Break, and summer.  Unfortunately those aren't always the best times for certain types of deals, but I've found some GREAT ways to save money and still take my kids to some amazing parts of the country.  Hopefully some of the tips I plan on sharing can benefit you as well!

Pigeon Forge, TN
June 2007

First of all, we drive.  Traveling in a vehicle is one reason why I bought the van I did a few years ago.  It's a twelve passenger van (that I'm proud to say is PAID OFF) and I LOVE it!  Yes, it might not get as good of gas mileage, but it's not much worse than the lemon of a minivan I had prior, and the extra space means that Santa's gifts are packed away if we go somewhere over Christmas, the kids' scooters can come with for extra outdoor activity, I can move kids around and sit them by themselves if we are having arguments, and we just plain have SPACE while traveling.

My kids do AWESOME in the car.  Yes, they do occasionally have an issue or two arguing or having attitude, but we get that at home just as easily, and for the most part they do great.  More on what to do in the car while traveling in another post.

Driving also skips the stress that airports and check through lines bring moms.  Trying to fold a stroller, wrangle 2-3 kids, take off and put on shoes, etc, just too much worry.  And then making sure the kids are behaving appropriately in the airport, in the airplane, driving is just so much easier and laid back.  Plus, driving affords the opportunity to stop at little known spots along the way to and from your destination - like the giant Superman in Metropolis, IL!

When I start to plan a trip, I first off don't wait until the last minute.  Sometimes you can find good deals this way, but for me I plan ahead.  Way ahead at times.  Next summer Braeden will be 9 1/2 and I will be taking him on his one on one trip with mom to celebrate his 10 year birthday.  I'm already working on planning for that: checking out ideas to present him to choose from, etc.  Most places I rent from will be taken well in advance if I don't act early enough, which is where I save most of my money.

April 2009

When I plan a trip I first decide where we will be going.  So far, with our trips to Florida being an exception, our family trips have all been drivable within one day.  Very doable and no overnight stop needed along the way.  As we exhaust the list of places within that driving distance, we will venture out into other locations.

Atlanta, GA
June 2009

After I have a location in mind, I begin my search for where to stay.  I utilize the website VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) for this.  VRBO is a site where people place their vacation rentals: houses, condos, apartments, etc.  They have to join and there is a way for former renters to leave comments and ratings.  I pay CLOSE attention to this. 

Door County, WI
April 2010

While there are some AMAZING rentals on this site (indoor pools, spacious bedrooms, scenic views, etc) I am very careful in what I am looking for.  Great comments, a good location to what we are there for, a house or cottage that is not connected (kids can be loud, etc), pet friendly if I plan on bringing the dog, and VERY affordable (Often around $500 for a 3/4 bedroom house for a WEEK!)  Every time I have found a place to stay that would cost us LESS than a budget priced hotel.  Every. Time.  The kitchen allows us to bring our own food, HUGE money saver.  Character is a must.  Luxury is not.  Of course I could pay to go to a resort, but why.  If I'm traveling to show my kids the country, I don't care about the coolest water park inside a hotel I'm staying at.  I could do that an hour north of here and stay put, saving on gas, time, etc.  My goals of vacation are seeing new parts of our country and "immersing" them in the local atmosphere as much as possible.

Gatlinburg, TN
March 2012

 Usually on these sites it's cheaper to stay for a week than it would be for five or so days, so we often plan a week's vacation.  Sometimes it's less, just depends on where we are going so that we have time to do the things we want to get in while there.

Upcoming posts will describe ways to save and how we go about deciding what to do there, the trip by car, and other fun facts I use in planning our vacations!  If you have any questions, feel free to ask away!

Our next family adventure begins in T minus 7 days...
Tune in then to find out where we are headed!


Kathy C. said...

I've never thought about rentals. We always do the hotel thing. Might look into that.

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About Me

I am a single mom to four amazing kids; each of whom just happen to have been adopted. The first three were adopted through foster care, and we just completed an international adoption from Haiti. Our family has grown through adoption and I am all the more blessed to know each of my children. I worship a mighty God, teach Special Ed, love bargains, and am inspired by Pinterest... come along with us for the ride!

Olivia - 14

Olivia - 14

Braeden - 11

Braeden - 11

Liam - 9

Liam - 9

Macy - 5

Macy - 5

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