Don’t have a wheelbarrow full of cash? No worries. Follow a few simple tips, and you can enjoy a fabulous weekend mini-vacation without spending a ton of money.
Spend less to get there
Why purchase a pricey plane ticket for every member of the family, when you can travel in one car for a fraction of the cost and enjoy an exhilarating road trip on the way? Visit www.shearcomfort.com and install comfy seat covers. Plot a course that takes you through beautiful scenery. Bring one cell phone, and keep it in the glove compartment for emergency use only. Pay-per text messages and time-wasting social networks can wait ’til you get home. Let everyone bring their favorite CD and have fun trying to sing along to each other’s music.
If you take your own car and you get in a fender-bender, or if the car breaks down, your mini-vacation could be ruined. Plan ahead, get the best rate, and travel in a rental car, instead. If you have car trouble, it will be the rental company’s responsibility, not yours. Visit Kayak to compare car rental rates and be sure to reserve your ride well in advance of your holiday. The earlier you book, the lower the price.
If you live in a great city, why travel at all?
If you’re like a lot of people, you don’t do the touristy things in your town until you have guests. A mini-vacation provides a remarkable opportunity to stay close to home and explore your local sights. Don’t worry. You can still get out of the house for a couple of days and nights. Check sites like Priceline and bid low on local lodging. As is the case with car rentals, the earlier you book, the more money you can save. Visit Yelp and search for “free things to do” in your hometown.
Spend less on meals
If your room has a refrigerator, stock it. If your room has a kitchenette, use it. If your room has neither, call the front desk and ask for a microwave, a coffee maker and a toaster. Bring your own coffee, because those little packets of hotel coffee can be awful.
The more you stay away from restaurants, the less money you’ll spend. Load up your hotel room fridge with a weekend’s worth of healthful, yummy food for around the same price you’d pay for one family meal in a fancy restaurant. Whatever you do, stay out of the hotel room mini-bar. If you wish to imbibe while vacationing, bring your own and enjoy it in hotel cups with free ice.
Make lunch your main meal. Eat at a nice restaurant before the dinner hours begin, and you might pay a whole lot less for the same meal. When dining with kids, eat at places that allow one kid per paying adult to eat for free. Ask for a “doggy bag” and take leftovers back to your room for a midnight shack. Request an extra basket of bread and take it back to your hotel to nosh for breakfast. If you have a small appetite, or if you’re eating light, ask your server if you may order a less expensive kid’s portion.
Get discounts on everything
Whether you’re traveling to another town or sticking close to home, it’s always worth checking Groupon for deeply discounted deals. Start scouting for dollar-saving coupons several weeks before your trip and save a bundle on sightseeing tours, meals, movies, spa treatments, nightlife and more. Organize your adventures around freebies and available deals, and you could wind up spending 90 percent less on the fun things you want to do on your mini-vacation.
One crucial key to a successful (and enjoyable) on-the-cheap weekend mini-vacation is good planning. Spur of the moment trips and surprise expenditures often turn out to be the most expensive. Start soon and collect as many discounts as you can. Make reservations early. Plan an itinerary and stick to it. Do it right, and you can save gobs of cash on your next weekend mini-vacation.
Lisa Anderson is a stay at home Mom to 3 kids under the age of 10. She loves spending time with her family, but with only 1 income coming in, also has to budget to be able to afford everything her family needs. In her articles she shares her frugal tips for lifestyle, parenting and personal finance blogs.