The difference between a ‘vacation’ and a ‘getaway’ is distance. How far is it from where you live? Walt Disney World is a ‘vacation’ to my family, whereas to someone living in Tampa, FL, it might be a ‘weekend getaway’. 🙂 Planning a weekend getaway is the same as planning a vacation…just on a smaller scale. It’s less complex planning, involves less travel time and is certainly less expensive, but other than that… the SAME!!
A Weekend Getaway may be the solution for families on an extremely tight budget OR families who can’t get away from work or commitments for longer than 2 or 3 days.
If budget and finances are tight for your family, take heart! There are STILL ways to make these getaways financially feasible and travel without breaking the bank.
These tips can help.
- Choose a destination nearby. You need to be able to get to your destination within 4-5 hours at the most. Added financial benefit, the closer your destination, the less you’ll spend on fuel. Getaways can be anywhere…a metro area…a state park….. a quaint little town. Are you fortunate enough to live close to a National Park? (What luck!! 🙂 ) See a map of your area with a different eye than you’ve ever seen it before. On the map, draw a circle at a 200 – 300 mile radius of your home. Look within that circle for someplace with a few things to do and a place to relax and enjoy with your family. Remember, you’ll only have 2 days there…it doesn’t have to be breeming with activities…a few options will be fine.
- Now, it’s time to look for a place to stay.
Are you planning to “go and do” the entire time? If so, then all you really need is a clean and safe place to sleep…. If your goal is to relax and enjoy time at the hotel, then invest a little more money on getting a few more “nice amenities” there.
- Tips for finding inexpensive accommodations: Start at Finding Frugal Accommodations to find an economical place to stay. In urban or resort areas, Groupon or Living Social may have deals worth considering. These are typically for weekend stays as urban areas are trying to fill their rooms after business travelers leave. Check out other local deals on Groupon too. CAUTION: Most people probably know this, but these are pre-paid and non-refundable. After they expire, they can still be used for the purchase value, but you lose the ‘coupon’ or discount value. Always read the fine print on the information page before purchasing. For more information on vacationing with these check out Vacation By Groupon.
- Search online for coupons/discounts on activities and dining. Just remember that a coupon only saves you money if it’s for something you were planning to do all along. Doing or buying something BECAUSE you have a coupon “costs” money.
- Finally, Make plans for your days. A ‘plan’ is how you keep the budget under control. Make your ‘plan’ fit your ‘budget’. It should come as no surprise to anyone that amusement or water parks, museums, etc.. will cost more money than a state park. For less expensive options, consider hikes through National or State parks, historical sites, long picnic lunches in beautiful places, or walks around the area. Browsing through shops CAN be free…You control that one! 🙂 If your hotel has a pool, an afternoon or evening there is fun, great family time and FREE!
MEALS: Meals are probably the one area where you control the budget more than any other. How tight is your budget? If you have a little money to work with, as mentioned above, Groupons/LivingSocial offers can help. Also check online for coupons or offers. If money is extremely tight, bring an ice chest with sandwich items and have picnics in beautiful places. Make the picnic PART of the trip experience by spending the entire afternoon enjoying your surroundings. If you need to bring along hotdogs that can be fixed in the hotel microwave or a camp stove or grill in a park, (if permitted) ….that’s ok. Add a family favorite homemade side item and you have the makings of a very nice evening. Maybe you’d rather bring meals you’ve prepared at home to heat in the hotel microwave or on a camp stove. As I said, food/eating is the one area you have the most control over spending…. Honestly, any meals/food you bring from home isn’t really an ‘expense’ at all…. Wouldn’t you be eating if you had stayed home? 🙂 Just do whatever you need to do to this category to make the budget manageable and get your family on that weekend getaway.
I ALWAYS bring along snack items and 2 liter beverages, lemonade or drink mixes and of course, microwave popcorn (our family’s favorite snack) rather than stopping for over-priced treats at vendors or convenience stores. I shop for sales on these items prior to our trip….even then, I have an eye on the budget. 🙂
Remember, family trips are really all about family time, not expensive activities or luxurious accommodations. You CAN have a pleasant time, enjoy your family and get away from the stresses of your everyday life for a few days. And you can do it on a budget!! 🙂
Other Tips of Budget Travel
- Dollar Store ‘Finds’ for the Frugal Traveler
- 8 Things to Do When Checking into a Hotel Room
- Vacation Meals on a Budget
- Family Games on Road Trips
- Silly Songs for the Car