When our son, Beckham was born nearly two and a half years ago, one of the most common things I heard people say was "Congratulations! Your life is over for the next 18 years!" What a thing to say to new parents. In fact, comments like that jolted me and made me unsure if I even wanted children. Being raised as an only child meant that I was extremely independent and accustomed to many freedoms. But when the unsavory comments came, I brushed them off, because I knew that wasn't us. We aren't homebodies. We aren't fearful of the world. Simply put, we aren't afraid of a challenge. I would look down into Beckham's precious little eyes and I knew God sent him to us to be our adventure buddy.
In the short time our sweet boy has been with us, we've gone on many adventures together as a family. We enjoy frequent hikes, day trips to the lake and sometimes 1,200 mile road trips. But what I want to focus on in this post is how Mom and Dad can enjoy some R&R on a budget (because you deserve it)! Don't let the fear of spending money scare you from planning a great adventure! Here are my top tips for planning a budget friendly getaway!\
Do Your Research Well In Advance
Any travel guru will tell you that the best deals take time to unveil themselves. What could be a good deal today may cost you money a week from now. It's important to research every avenue before you make your final decision.
The internet makes it pretty easy to get travel updates and deal notifications. Don't forget to check places like Costco and Groupon for travel packages (these are especially great if you live close to a metropolitan area, as their deals include airfare). Compare prices, deals and all inclusive travel packages to find the best fit your you and your budget! Planning your trip well in advance (we planned a trip to Mexico over a year ahead of time) also allows you to pay for different aspects of your trip over time. That way you aren't forking out a lump of cash all at once!
Choose a Trip Location & Dates
Obviously, this is the first step in planning any vacation. But this is particularly important when you are booking a trip out of the country or to a tropical location. When you are planning your trip location and dates, you want to keep in mind:
Weather: What are the seasons like in the place you will be traveling? Is it hurricane or rainy season?
Travel Dates: Is it peak season? Are you willing to be flexible with your travel dates?
- If you want cheaper tickets you will need to research this and possibly go on the off season.
- Traveling on Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to fly. If you are traveling to a foreign country this is especially important if you want to save money. Our ticket prices decreased by as much as $100 dollars just by choosing to fly on a Tuesday.
- Also think about the airport in your area. If you live in a smaller area with a small, local airport, your airfare will likely be more expensive. Choosing to travel from a bigger airport will save you money on tickets. But what about storing your car you ask? Call local hotels that are next to the prospective airport. Sometimes they offer parking for a low fee. We were able to leave our car at a hotel for $20 dollars for an entire week. The car lots usually do not offer any protection from break ins or vandalism, but it was a risk we were willing to take. We didn't leave anything important in our car, so we felt that if someone stole it, oh well! The other option is hiring an Uber or bribing a sweet friend to drive you. Cookies anyone?
Duration of Trip: How long do you want to soak in that sunshine? Four days? Two weeks?
The longer the vacation means the more money you'll spend. Even if you aren't shopping or going out to eat for every meal, you will still need to eat to stay alive long enough to enjoy your vacation...so there's that to keep in mind. You'll also pay more for your hotel and rental car (or taxi fees).
What Kind of Trip is This? Do you want to just relax at your hotel with a good book or do you want do participate in activities, excursions, shopping and eating out? This will help you create a budget that includes everything you want to do while you're there. If at all possible, plan, reserve and pay for all of your activities and excursions before you go. This makes it easier to determine how much money you have to spend on food and shopping once you arrive. It also guarantees you a spot if you reserve ahead of time. Deciding your intentions for your trip will also help you choose the perfect hotel/condo location!
How To Choose a Place To Stay
The two pictures above are from a trip to the Olympic Peninsula that my husband and I went on. Our intentions for the trip included two things: hike and relax! Therefore, this cute little cabin, deep in the Washington old growth forest was a perfect location for us! Intentions for your trip and choosing a place to stay go hand in hand. Reserving a hotel or condo will eat up the majority of your budget (besides buying the plane tickets), so it's important to ask yourself a few questions:
Fancy Schmancy or Hostile? Think hard about how much time you will actually be spending at your hotel and what inclusive benefits you look forward to using. My husband and I have regularly used Airbnb for affordable and unique vacation homes. We actually just returned from an 8 day stay in Cabo San Lucas and only spent $487 US Dollars on an apartment. It was basic and just what we wanted. And honestly, it was what we could afford! We used our humble apartment to sleep, shower and toast the occasional bagel in. We decided to spend our days (and our money) on the beach, shopping downtown and eating out A LOT! If you want something with more inclusive benefits like a gym, on-site shopping or restaurants, and exclusive member-only activities, you will have to pay more for that.
Proximity to Attractions: This also comes down to what exactly your intentions are for your trip. If you want something within short walking distance to the beach, downtown or other activities, you might pay a little more, but you won't have to rent a car! My husband and I chose not to rent a car while we were in Cabo. We are young and able bodied, so we decided the 10 minute walk to the beach would be okay (it also helped us feel less guilty about all the eating out!). Because we chose a condo that was within 10-20 minutes walking distance to everything we wanted to do, we saved a ton of money by not renting a car and only using a taxi a few times. When we stayed at the little cabin in the woods, we enjoyed walking the grounds, picking wild blackberries, watching wildlife and reading. Even when we weren't hiking, the activities around our cabin were entertaining enough (and FREE)! I can't stress how important this has been to the success of our trips.
Last, but surely not least:
Plan Your Attitude
Keep in mind that your dream vacation might have some nightmarish days. When you planned for sunshine, there could be rain. Your carefully selected flights could be rescheduled. You might be sat next to an especially smelly individual on the plane. You might go sailing and get sea sick. All of these things have happened to me while I was traveling. Boy, do I have horror stories! But, I planned my attitude beforehand! I chose to be happy in the midst of chaos. Not everything will be picture perfect and that's ok! Embrace it! Laugh it off!
The writer in me always says, "it'll make a great story someday!" That's what all of us are trying to accomplish right? We are trying to live out a truly exciting story that, ultimately, is our life!
When you plan to have a cheerful spirit, you won't regret spending your hard earned money on a vacation that (maybe) doesn't go as planned. You will be able to look back and say, "Wow! What a fun time we had, even though that guy on the plane kept farting on me."
I hope this post gave you some insight on how to successfully (and cheerfully) travel on a budget! Happy adventuring!