Guest post from Jackie of Mom on a Mission
Months ago, my daughter had a field trip to Charleston, SC, and the carriage ride was a part of her package cost. My teacher husband was one of the chaperones and after the carriage ride, he told the driver how much he enjoyed the tour and shared that our family was returning for a vacation.
The driver gave him a business card signed with admission for 4 adults. Wow, that was a $100 gift! It pays to compliment the driver.
When we arrived back in Charleston a month later, our two oldest kids served as the adult price and we decided to hold our 4-year-old for no charge and pay one child admission for our 6-year-old at $14.95. We could have paid $155, but only had to pay $14.95 thanks to my complimentary husband and a blessing from the driver.
We enjoy almost all our vacations in this fashion — knowing we are using our resources wisely and saving money while enjoying ourselves. If you’re planning an upcoming vacation, here are 9 ways we like to save that might work for you, too:
1. Plan Ahead With Freezer Meals.
When I’m on vacation I like to be in the kitchen as little as possible. By planning ahead with freezer meals, we not only save time and energy by having our meals prepped, we also save money for extra entertainment.
I pack a cooler full of frozen food of homemade versions of waffles, pizza bagel bites, lasagna, marinated meat or chicken, muffins and/or desserts or snacks. Once the cooler is packed to the brim, it doesn’t thaw. I’ve had frozen food last overnight when tightly packed with solid casseroles and such.
If hotel/motel space is an issue for freezer cooking, a plug-in griddle, hot pot or sandwich maker could provide some quick inexpensive meals to offset dining costs.
2. Check Groupon & Living Social.
We scan our destination to look for entertainment or restaurant coupons. This year on Groupon, we saw the Children’s museum with half-price tickets. We opted out since we’ve done it several years in a row, but I’ve seen specials on everything from spas, plantation tours, riverboat cruises, and Aquariums.
It’s worth checking out.
3. Find Restaurant.com Deals or Local Specials.
We typically eat out at least once during our vacation week, and it’s often using a coupon from Restaurant.com or eat during the lunch hours. Another option is sharing a meal at night.
This year we splurged and took advantage of Sonic half-priced shakes after 8 p.m. for a family walk on the pier. We visit the water park on Tuesdays when admission is half-price and pack our own lunch. Visiting the restaurant or calling ahead about specials can save a great deal of money. Our theme park cost us $60, but it would have cost us $120 on a different day.
Another treat our older kids enjoyed was a reusable Kangaroo cup. The cup was $7 upfront and they enjoyed a bike ride to the gas station for a 25 cent slushy refill, which would have cost $5 each. I ended up giving in to the daily unhealthy splurge since it was a vacation and thankfully, there are no Kangaroo stations in NC.
4. Look for Free Movies/Music on the Beach.
We check out the local website to see what’s happening. An outdoor movie was showing and we popped our own popcorn and brought water. It was a frugal movie night for the whole family.
State parks offer fun activities for the whole family. The state park nearby cost $1 per person and there is a free water splash play area and playground. They also offered family and kid’s activities centered on nature, some which were free. It pays to do research before traveling.
5. Visit Chick-Fil-A on Cow Appreciation Day.
Chick-Fil-A Cow Appreciation Day only happens once a year. Dress like a cow for free chicken. You bet we jumped on the opportunity to wear spots on our black and white attire and sport a mask for any meal on the menu.
Our family of six saved over $45 for dinner. This is a franchise celebration so our cow attire traveled!
6. Pack Picnics with Frozen Water Bottles.
One of our favorite activities to do is go on picnics and rather than picking up lunch, we go for our own healthy options consisting of deli meat, cheese, and whole grain bread. I often pack grilled chicken pitas with leftover grilled chicken and shredded mozzarella cheese. I wrap them in foil and place them near a frozen water bottle to stay cool for hours.
A recycled juice bottle filled with water and frozen water stays cooler longer and you have fresh cold water when thawed.
7. Bring Your Own Bikes.
Bike rentals cost up to $30 a day. We purchased our own and take them with us. My husband found an inexpensive bike rack on Craigslist and we’ve picked up a bike or two from garage sales for less than $10. Our bikes go with is so our older kids and at least one parent can enjoy riding, saving us at least $100 per person for the week.
8. Make Breakfast To-Go and Snacks To-Go.
A fast food breakfast is not always the healthiest or most frugal. I plan ahead for an early morning departure and boil eggs, pack cheese sticks, unsalted almonds, mini-whole wheat bagels with light cream cheese or homemade muffins and reusable water bottles.
Snack ideas include homemade trail mix with low-sugar cereals, pretzels, nuts and dried fruit. I make no-bake granola bars and spread peanut butter crackers on whole wheat crackers to avoid vending machines.
If we want ice cream, we stop by the grocery store and for a box verses the vendor. Large families can benefit from a box of treats verses paying $5 each. I found a half-price box of sorbet pops and the kids enjoyed two treats.
9. Rent a Vacation Home With a Clean-it-Yourself Option.
We rent a house two rows back from the beach front — which is cheaper. Walking two streets over is great exercise. In addition, our home rental does not require a cleaning service so there is no additional fee. We clean it ourselves upon departure because we’d be doing it anyway at the end of the week at home. Everyone pitches in and it gets done quickly and saving anywhere from $60 to $100.
Consider a vacation rental in early August when the price drops. Homeschooling families can take advantage of late August or early September with fewer crowds and the best rates.
Camping is another frugal option that could be considered. We enjoy half-price savings at many campgrounds through Passport America.
How do you save money while on vacation?
Jackie Brown is a mom of four whom blogs at Mom on a Mission: sharing Christ through Freezer Cooking. She makes abundant freezer meals for her family while inspiring others to bless the poor and the needy with their freezer bounty.