Thursday, April 4, 2013

Frugal Vacation Tips From Frugal Sally Readers

I asked my readers on Facebook to send me their best frugal vacation tips.  They came through with some really great ones.  Now I get to share them with you. 

Frugal Vacation Tips -

From Amy Crosby Griffin:
Vacation tip: When we take our vacation to the beach, we always eat out at lunch instead of supper. The prices are cheaper and the food is the same!

From Blythe Walker:
I heard a good tip from a friend today. When people go on vacations to warm places, they often buy beach stuff like chairs, toys,etc. When they leave they don't take this stuff home with them. Instead of buying these things, ask the hotel you are staying at if they have left-behinds. Also, the dumpster near the beach often has cast-offs that could not be taken home.

From Marlene Joshua:
We vacation on a super tight budget, heres a couple of things we do to stay "cheap".
we always pack a cooler of food and bottled tap water so there is no need for restrauants, on the plus side who does not love a picnic
we check out our trip on google ahead of time to see which towns we are passing through, so we can see if there are any free things to see and do while there. there are lots of free muesuems and attractions to see for free, plus you get to learn about the town while there.
we usually camp while traveling, when camping ask for a non electrical site, its cheaper and really what is so important that you have to plug in, on the plus side you get to rough it a bit and get back to nature.

From Christy Parsons Rowe:

This is a "weird" vacation tip, but I worked with a woman who got so sick and tired of the airlines losing her luggage, that she started shipping her items via ups (or whoever had the best rates) and only taking a carry on with her. She always paid the extra for insurance so if the shipping company lost her package, she would get refunded faster than waiting on the airline.

From Maven Cynthia Wilcox:
See if your hotel will allow a slow cooker and put a beef stew or some chili in it to cook all day while you are gone. Also, if you have a room with a fridge and microwave, you can bring meals from home and warm them up in the microwave. BIG TIME TIP, since I travel alot. I bring my coffee maker from home with milk in the ice bucket if there is no fridge and sugar for hubby. We brew our own coffee in the morning. It's nice to wake up to the smell of the programmable timed coffee and saves big time cash not getting a super mocha latte ....calories too!

From Trisha Kelly:
I have 5 children from 3 to 13. We decided instead of spending all our money to go somewhere we decided to spend our money at home. We called it a "HOME CATION". We turned off all our cell phones and only answered phone calls if it was an emergency. We took a week off and told everyone we were on vacation. We bought fun easy foods and went out to eat. We made huge posters with the scheduled activities. We had activities every day that we did together. We had a girls spa day and did homemade facials, manicures, and pedicures while we had a Barbie movie marathon and a picnic on the floor. The boys went snowboarding and skiing ( we live close to a ski resort). We had Wii tournaments, and did fun things that were available near us. We spent money but we were in our comfortable home. It ended up being so much fun we all wanted to do it again. Vacations can be so expensive, especially for big families and we did not want to go into debt for a vacation.

From Carrie Myrick Hirmer:
Vacation tip: whenever we are planning to travel, I always purchase an entertainment book through for the major cities/areas we are planning to visit. You can sign up on their email list and get emails when they're having a sale, which is when I buy mine (the sales get better as the year goes on.) Order early enough that you don't have to pay for expedited shipping. Also, go through to get cash back on your book purchase.
I love these books because they have a lot of buy one get one free coupons - things like meals, admission to museums, etc. They also have retail coupons you can use at retailers around the country as well as online. Most of the restaurants we visit using the book coupons are locally owned, so you get to experience eating somewhere other than the chain restaurants, which we enjoy.
I teach money saving workshops, and this is the only time I advise people to pay for coupons - it really does save you a lot of money!

From Donna Zalensas Jones:
Frugal Vacation Tip -- When you go somewhere, avoid staying in a standard hotel room, which may not even include a tiny refrigerator. Look instead for an "extended stay" hotel, which will give you a kitchenette, and possibly a living room area. Make your own breakfast before heading out to explore for the day, and take sandwiches and snacks with you. Then you can eat dinner at a restaurant without breaking the bank (we usually choose buffet-style places so everyone can fill up without it costing a lot, plus we get more variety that way). In some areas, you can also rent condos or cabins, which give you the same advantages of kitchen and living space without being cost-prohibitive.

From Gail Ann Fuller:
I've used Groupon for hotels. Not bad deals during the week. Can't say anything special during the week-ends.
I've been reluctant to use for traveling. I suppose it all depends on your schedule, but while we schedule, nothing is fixed in stone... a museum may take longer or shorter than we planned.
I also find our AAA card is worth it. For the roadside assistance peace of mind, but also hotel discounts, and some restaurants.
Memberships are perhaps the biggest savings. For a family, a membership can be cheaper, even with a one time trip. And, generally part of the membership is tax deductible as a donation. Also, many memberships have agreements with other museums/zoos/etc. So, if you belong at home, you get a free or reduced entry when traveling. Or, join the one on vacation, and get admission to other sites while on vacation.
Also, pre-purchasing admissions. Sometimes there is a discount by purchasing directly, and other times, using AAA or other sites provide discounts.
We also have a no junk rule with respect to purchases. So, we will purchase tshirts or gold shirts or sweat shirts, but not the other tacky offerings of shops. Clothing tends to get worn... the rest collects dust. Other than books. We are mostly history tourists, so we do purchase books. Even if they are to be had cheaper on Amazon, a purchase at a historical site helps fund that site.
Which... I think is something to remember. Being frugal and being cheap are different. I may be able to get a book $3 cheaper on-line, but I'm not helping preserve the site with an on-line purchase. It's important to remember that admissions and other revenue help preserve the place. Many sites receive minimal government aid.
Oh, special events... again, we are history tourists. Events can drive prices up or down... hotels tend to be more, but there are deals to be had on meals, attractions, etc. as everyone competes for the tourist dollar. But, for larger events, sometimes there are special rates at hotels. Which... check out what's going on before you plan our trip. Heading to Chicago during the marathon probably isn't the best idea.
We don't have children, so we can travel in the spring and fall. We find places are not as crowded, and cleaner.
Which reminds me... we go to Cooperstown each year for a history conference. The Baseball museum has a deal... purchase a ticket after 5pm, and you get a free one for the next day. Cooperstown also has a number of baseball clinics, etc. We have found that going after 5 each day is nicer because the children are off having dinner or swimming at a hotel. Many places offer this type of discount.

From Heather Krawzoff:
There are better days of the week and month to buy your airline tickets online , you get better prices at certain times. I think it's midweek, also prices are cheaper if you fly on certain days. You'd have to look it up, I always have to look up the info before I book, as I don't fly often

From Joshua C. Overgarrd
Couchsurfing - website that helps you find people willing to let you crash on their couch/spare room/etc for some period of time for free.

Hostels - Many cities (more in europe, but also in the US) have places you can stay very inexpensively while traveling, at the expense of less privacy.

AirBNB and comparable sites -- instead of staying in a hotel, rent someone's apartment or house (or a room in it in some cases). Especially if you're traveling in a group and would need multiple hotel rooms, this can be a great option. We rented a beautiful, luxurious suite in a wonderful woman's home in Puerto Rico for part of our honeymoon and she was an amazing hostess, who showed us places we'd never have known to go and taught us things about the city and the culture that we'd never have gotten to learn as outsiders, and it cost less than a typical hotel room there.

GameDayHousing - if you're traveling for a sporting event, these guys specialize in renting out entire houses in sports destinations.

Cruises are one of the cheapest ways to vacation. Sometimes they cost as little as $35/person/night, including all your meals and lots of free entertainment.

House Swapping is getting more popular. If you live in a place someone else might want to visit for a vacation, you might be able to trade houses with someone for a week or two.

Driving to a destination can be more economical than flying if you're not going alone and people are willing to nap in the car while you drive for many hours. You can drive about 1/3 of the way across the country in about the same time you'd spend traveling to an airport, getting there 2-3 hours before for security, waiting for the plane, flying, debarking, waiting for your luggage, renting a car, and traveling from that airport to your destination, and you'll have your own car that you're comfortable driving. -- If you have to fly, and especially if you're flexible on the timing of your vacation and you live within a reasonable distance of multiple airports, this mostly unadvertised service from a google subsidiary is amazing. You tell it which airports you're willing to fly from, which airports you're willing to fly into, and put down within a couple of days when you want to leave and arrive. It will search through all the airlines and find all the available flights, and sort them based on your preferences. And it's only a search engine, not a travel agent -- you can't book flights from it, so it's not incentivized to give you more profitable results. You can take the flight info you choose, and go to another site like Orbitz to book the flight.

Learning to pack light and to pack efficiently saves you money on extra bags or overweight bag fees, and it means less junk to carry around. If you can get it down to just carryons, you save a lot of time and headache as well as money. For women, a great option are simple lightweight silk dresses with a crinkled finish can be rolled up into very small balls that can fit into your shoes, and are wearable if you hang them in the bathroom while you shower in the morning. And you can hand wash them in the sink at night and wear them again the next day, with different accessories (lightweight silk scarves are a good match. You can have 4 or 5 of those with 2-3 dresses and a few different pieces of jewelry and easily get through 2-3 weeks). Men have it a little tougher, but again, sticking to lightweight silk and linen where possible, and rolling them up tightly will keep things compact. Don't try and pack a different outfit for every day (or worse, several for every day). Pack things that will mostly go together so you can have multiple combinations. For men, even if you don't typically wear one, go out and get a sportcoat (go for simple, like a navy blazer or a khaki sportcoat). They're a bit bulky, but less so than a sweater, and much more versatile. As long as you're wearing long pants, you can wear a sportcoat. (jeans and a t-shirt are even OK if you're being casual) It changes your look more than changing your shirt or pants would, it's warm if the nights get chilly (and you can take it off and give it to your lady who's freezing in her dress). You can bring a few different lapel pins and pocket squares if you want to make it look different every night without adding much bulk to your packing. Throw in a couple of ties and you can be almost as dressed up as in a suit -- perfectly acceptable for "Cruise Elegant" nights. Keep toiletries and makeup to a minimum -- pick up some small cheap plastic or glass bottles and jars from somewhere like Sunburst Bottle and only bring what you expect to use (decanting your cologne/perfume into a small vial with a roller cap is a good way to save weight, space, and reduce the chance of breakage). Cut back on electronic devices if possible. At a minimum, if you're bringing a laptop, don't pack chargers for devices that can charge by plugging into the laptop (unless they charge much more slowly that way). But if you like to read on vacation, bringing an e-reader if you have one - they're much lighter and less bulky than books. And you can put it in a zip-lock bag to protect it from the elements and still be able to turn the pages. If you need luggage and don't plan to use it again, try to borrow from someone, or buy old luggage at goodwill (just make sure it complies with modern sizing requirements). If you want to buy new luggage for your vacation, consider the Porter Case brand ( They don't advertise much, but are the go-to luggage for a lot of pilots and professional photographers. They're no more expensive than most other luggage, and are built to withstand years of daily travel. They're sized to fit down the aisles of any commercial airliner, they're lightweight but rugged enough to protect even expensive camera gear, and they have a built-in luggage cart you can put your other bags on top of instead of dragging several bags around tied to each other or taking up all your hands.

From Nancy Roshto:
Inexpensive vacation tips:
National or state parks near your home: websites have all the info you need.
Swap homes with someone who lives in an area you would like to visit
Travel with another family/couple/individual & share the costs
Local or nearby museums, zoos, parks (check City web pages)
When you get to your destination, check with the locals about good deals that may not be advertised
Bring "$x" and spend ONLY that cash. Shop/tour outlet malls or Outdoor specialty stores (i.e.Bass Pro Shop, Gander Mountain)
Bring a picnic lunch for the first day of travel. Bring an insulated container with water and bring your own soft drinks and snacks (chips, fruit, nuts, granola, homemade cookies).

From Jodi Jandreau-Guy:
Frugal Vacation Tips:
When we take our annual family vacation, we rent a cabin at a KOA. It's pretty much half the cost rather than a hotel room. It's barely furnished [bunk beds, a small table/1chair, & electricity] but the one we've been using has very clean public bathrooms/showers. We've been doing this for the past 5 years and have not had a bad experience yet. The KOA employees are also helpful in pointing out area attractions to see.
We also meal plan and pack our own groceries for the trip. For the inevitable need of condiments, we fill jelly jars with what we'll need and bring it along rather than buy new bottles - which take up a lot of room in a small cooler. A bag or 2 of ice is inexpensive compared to eating out every meal along the way. We try to plan sandwiches for lunches so we can bring them with us wherever we happen to be having our daily excursion but a small propane cook stove (or the charcoal BBQ at the campsite) allows us to have a hot meal at the end of the day. Bringing our refillable water bottles omits the need to buy bottled water.
It takes some planning and careful packing, but we're always able to stick to our meager vacation budget.

From Natalie Linder:
Travel/vaca tip, when staying a few days or more in a hotel, opt for a room with a kitchenette. Eating out is one of travels biggest expenses. A kitchenette will cost a little more but you will save by being able to make your own meals.

From Susan Trodden:
1. Use groupon or similar to ensure half price entries
2. Ask around, lots of people have family holiday homes in not too far away places that they will rent out relatively cheaply
3. Go on holiday with another family and halve the accomodation costs (and get to ease the load of childcare/we're bored symdrome/cooking and cleaning - this is my favourite and ensures fun for everyone!

From Tara Knott:
I have learned a few things that make traveling with kids easier and cheaper: Carry different size ziplocks with you. You can always bring home leftovers in them, or separate bigger boxes into snack size portions and bring with you. We always bring a box of granola bars, crackers and a box of fruit snacks with us. These can be shoved in a purse, backpack or pocket and stretch out the time until you have to eat a meal. This is especially helpful in an amusement or theme park where a snack could cost more than a meal!! In our luggage, I pack plastic cups, bowls and old spoons and a box of cereal and juice boxes.Breakfast is important and outrageously priced for little boxes of cereal which is what my kids want. I can buy a small thing of milk and keep it in the mini fridge and feed the kids for next to nothing.

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