We Paid Cash: A Vacation for Our Family of 7!

We paid cash!

A testimony from Colleen

A little over a year ago, we decided to pay cash for our vacation. I was especially excited since it was going to be the first time I had taken my mom on vacation… without her spending a dime.

I began setting aside whatever leftover money we had in our checking account. Thinking that I was already close to our goal, I asked my husband to guesstimate how much we would need to cover the cost for our family of 7. His total was $2800 — without doing anything fun!

Unfortunately, I hadn’t even come close to saving enough and it was May!

Then, I got creative…


After endlessly searching for somewhere to stay, I was discouraged. Everything was just too expensive! However, my husband was pastoring a church at the time, and I remembered that many places offer a clergy discount.

I looked again and found a whole house in PA! It was a B&B at $580 for 5 days! Check the memberships you currently have: belonging to organizations like USAA, AAA, and Knights of Columbus can have an add bonus in travel savings!


Eating out was normally one of our biggest vacation expenses. To help with these costs, I cashed in some rewards I’d earned and got gift cards for restaurants in the area.

We also tried to max out the value of each card by eating a big, later lunch getting the same items we would at dinner for half the cost… AND, several weeks before the trip, I signed up for restaurant loyalty programs that gave coupons for free items which extended our savings.


To save on fuel, we mapped out our route and got gas cards to stations on the way. It didn’t cover all our fuel costs, but it certainly helped!


I ordered a guide for my family members to choose things they were interested in, and then found deals for them. Then, at rest stations, we gathered free guides with coupons for other discounted activities.

I also did some internet research for free or discounted events in the area. I discovered that it was National Ice Cream Day (free ice cream), Dress like a Cow Day at Chick-fil-A (free meals), and 7/11 Slurpee Day that week!

Just like our B&B, meals, and fuel, I looked for ways to extend my buying power. I used Daily Deal sites to buy deals that included Food and Entertainment. We also weren’t afraid to ask for discounts.

We discovered that on taping days, certain seats are discounted at Sight & Sound. We were able to take in a circus, visit a petting zoo, see a Broadway-quality show, watch trains — big and small — plus so much more!

Our grand total was $1600 dollars for a fun-filled, 5-day vacation for our family of 7!

It took some planning and a little ingenuity, but we definitely made a memorable, family vacation on the cheap!

Colleen  is a homeschooling mother of 5, former pastor’s wife, and avid couponer. She enjoys reading, writing, and baking gluten-free goodies.

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  1. says

    What a fabulous list, I never would have thought of the coupons in the rest stop guides.

    Your list got me thinking of other things to do as well. If you’re driving think about bringing an ice chest. It means less times you need to eat out while traveling.

    And ask what the food policy is at you lodging. You might be able to bring a crock pot which makes an easy and cheap dinner for little work. If there’s a coffee pot in the room it’s possible to make oatmeal in it too.

    Thanks for the creative ideas!

  2. Kathy says

    I loved seeing Sights and Sounds mentioned. We saw a show a couple years ago and LOVED it. My kids still talk about it.

  3. LovinSavin says

    I love your idea to eat a late lunch to save money. Now I need to know what places have cheaper lunch menus to use this idea for my family.

  4. Julie says

    My husband is also a pastor. Could you tell me what places you found that offer a discount for clergy? I would great appreciate it! Thank you!

    • says

      So glad this was helpful to you! I’d be more than happy to share. The first organization we’ve used for clergy discounts is called The Christian Hospitality Network and the second is called Makahiki Ministries. There are several more that don’t require you to be clergy, just similar in spiritual beliefs. If you need more details, just fill out the contact form on my blog and let me know. Blessings, C.

  5. Marie says

    I’m from out East but live in MN. Sounds like maybe you were near the Lancaster or Strausberg area. If so did you go to the Stausberg Railroad? It’s such a beautiful part of the country with the scenery and the Amish.
    Sounds like you really used your resources and had a fabulous time and won’t have to “pay” for it later!

  6. says

    When we lived in Pennsylvania, we also visited Sight and Sound for a number of performances. We loved the Roadside America with all the trains in Shartlesville and the Crayola Factory in Easton. Sounds like a great trip!

    We use our family memberships to find reciprocal locations which offer free or discounted admission. Thanks for sharing!

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