At this time of the year, I tend to start looking at our summer traveling (and dreaming of warm weather). As a family of two teachers, of course we still spend plenty of time in the summer working by attending trainings, conferences, or planning curriculum, but we do have the luxury of having time in the summer to take family vacations. We enjoy traveling, but in order to visit all the places on our bucket list, we do have to save where we can. Though there are certainly other ways to save, these are some of the best ways to do so.
Go in the off season
The downside of traveling with a teacher’s schedule is that we are pretty tied to that school schedule, so we have little flexibility in when we can take vacations, and holidays and summer tend to be the more expensive times to travel most places. If you can pick your own vacation days, do research to determine the cheapest time to visit your destination: October has low priced cruises; August is a cheap time to head to hot climates, like Vegas; Disney is best between holidays when most schools are in session.
Drive rather than fly
We aren’t yet overseas travelers, so we do drive a lot for our vacations. We are looking to fly this summer and flights currently show $1,400 for all four of us to fly, compared to driving two long distance vacations we took last year, which combined cost about half that for round-trip gas and hotels on the way. Luckily our kids have little problem keeping busy in the long car rides, and we try to plan some fun stops on the way, like we did last summer by visiting the giant Superman statue in Metropolis, Illinois, for a quick photo (which was free), or stopping to see Niagara Falls on the way to Boston (also free).
There are lots of travel websites out there, and it can literally pay to shop around. Some airlines and hotels won’t show up on sites like Priceline, so it can be beneficial to look at their direct websites for deals. Sign up for deal alerts or look for low fare calendars if your dates are flexible. If you don’t care about the brand or exact location, I love Priceline Express Deals to book last minute hotel rooms because I always find great rates at nice hotels. For most trips, we aren’t spending much time in the hotel, so I hate spending more money than we need to for the hotel.
Find attraction deals
Most big cities offer plenty of things to do, which means there is competition, so you probably can find a good deal on activities and attractions if you look around. If you plan on doing a lot of activities, look for things like CityPASS or GoCard; my family did CityPASS in Boston last summer and it saved us about $100 than if we had paid for each activity separately. Of course, look for free activities in cities you are visiting. A quick Google search of “free activities in” with the city name could bring you a bunch of results you didn’t even know about. If you are a member of a museum, look for reciprocal offers in other cities for free or cheaper admission. Sometimes it’s just fun to walk around to explore a historical downtown for free.
Save on meals
One of our favorite things about traveling is trying local cuisine, so we do tend to spend a decent amount on food. But I try to book a hotel with a free breakfast, so we can instead spend more for lunch and dinner. We love to check out restaurants that were featured on restaurant shows. If your heart is set on a trying a more expensive restaurant, consider checking out the lunch menu for possible cheaper prices. Or look for hotel rooms with mini-fridges, or even better, a kitchenette, to make sandwiches for lunches and have a big meal out for dinner. More grocery stores are doing delivery and some cities even have Amazon Prime Now (two-hour delivery!), so you can get some snack and beverage items delivered so you aren’t spending a ton for those at vending machines or convenience stores.
Traveling doesn’t have to break the bank if you do your homework and look for ways to save. Take advantage of special offers and free opportunities. In the end, it won’t be about how much money you spent on the vacation, but the memories you made along the way.