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Old 04-12-2009, 11:50 AM
267 posts, read 1,003,455 times
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I would like to hear suggestions and tips. We barely take any vacations once we do the math.

But we try: For day trips, we pack most meals and snacks. I am happy to occasionally eat a room temp can of soup for lunch or supper, but the rest of the family will not.
Longer trips, I try and find good deals for stays, but not had too much luck. The AAA card is useless, seems like the hotel always has a better rate without the card. And you can't always stay at the cheapest, there has to be a minimum quality etc.

How do you plan? How do you make your vacations easy on the wallet? What do you factor in? Thanks.
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Old 04-12-2009, 12:57 PM
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I search out gas prices before leaving. It's amazing how much difference there will be between 2 cities 40 miles apart. Sometimes it means I'm stopping for gas sooner than I might have.

I look online for hotels, but I've had as good or better luck using the free coupon booklets. When I traveled for business I would pick them up in McDonald's or Denny's located near the freeways. It helps to check out the neighborhood before deciding to stay! I'll "sometimes" stay in Motel 6 or other cheapie place, but often I like the comfort of a more expensive place.

Nothing wrong with stopping at a grocery and buying some rolls and sliced turkey, ham and cheese from the deli. I don't like to make a habit of that either.

I mix my own coffee at home, 1/2 Starbucks French roast, 1/2 store brand decaf, I'll carry some of that with me and make it with the hotel coffee maker. On a recent 2 week driving trip we actually took our coffee pot with us, 5 days in the same hotel, even though Starbucks is only $2 for a venti it's much cheaper to make my own in the room.

We often pick up some bagels, fruit, milk and juice the night before and have that for breakfast.

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Old 04-12-2009, 02:22 PM
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I look for places with kitchen (ettes) in them. Breakfast is at the hotel, dinner is at the hotel, lunch is sandwiches. I had learned that the cost of eating out was way way more expensive than the hotel, or activity charges.

Also, when paying for a hotel, I look for ones that give me more than a bed. A nice relaxing swim, free breakfast, many have discount coupons for local attractions, free ice cream cones.
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Old 04-12-2009, 02:35 PM
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
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#1, travel like the locals, it's lots more interesting and engaging (no more 1st class air, train, bus, or ferry tickets)

I do the above 'econo / healthy eating'. (try to eat very light when traveling, and NO Soft drink / coffee / alcohol expense for me, water does just fine, unless beer or wine is cheaper, which is sometimes the case)
I cook on my car engine (Manifold Destiny). I have a vehicle with 'motor-aid' HW heater which is quite nice for quick hot meals. (Looking for a refrig option if you have any ideas)
free ice cream cones

for overnight stays I use 'private guest home directories' (Not B&B, but private homes that offer spare room / RV / barn...). It is usually $15-$20 / night, but some folks won't take $$ or have you give it to a charity of choice. Had a great time (and learned a lot as usual) hosting some guests in my home this week. Been doing this for ~ 20yrs... for me it is 'the-only-way-to-travel', as I really like getting local info and culture. It is really nice internationally. I also do plenty of car sleeping often at Hospitals, train stations, back roads (I carry a bed roll). For showers I will stop by a public swimming pool or a mtn stream. I take naps in parks.

for Air, I use KayakDOT com, but usually SWA ($39-$89 each way)
Travel mid week / saturday & 'off-season'

Rental cars - Priceline, currenty $16 > $19 / day

Trains and buses, I do as many foreign countries, and use them for 'overnight' to save on lodging. In many countries you can ride from 10PM till midnight the following day (26 hrs) on a 1 day pass. I will 'overshoot' my destination to get some sleep enroute, then work my way back the next day, on the same ticket. After dinner ~8-10PM, I take off on a trip to another region / city, where I'll spend a couple days, and then do another 'pass'.

My $35 car gets 50 mpg on free cooking grease (or JetA, kerosene, heating oil, used engine oil, veggie oil, peanut, palm, canola...)

I've been known to take a part-time job or work for food / lodging while on vacation. (Harvest is a good time to get some work, especially hay season, or during snowstorms (shoveling)). I also get to chatting with folks and get invited into homes.

Walk / bike / hitch-hike, relocate vehicles, boats, and planes. Get a traveling job (truckdriving). Lots of options for cheap travel.

With kids... Have them do the vacation budget 1st, then give them "petty cash" and have them pay and manage your expenses on vacation. BE SURE they track it... and keep a $20 stashed to get you home. It was good addition to 'homeschooling education' especially when we would go through 3-4 countries in one day and they would have to exchange currencies (Pre-Euro) and barter for food with folks that didn't speak english too well. As you know, you have to go to a lot of food stalls to get enough groceries to make a meal. In France and Spain you have to buy bread everyday, as day#2 you use the Baguette for a baseball bat(at least if you're a kid !!). We tried it for French toast ONCE !

Last edited by StealthRabbit; 04-12-2009 at 03:18 PM..
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Old 04-12-2009, 05:52 PM
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janb....yes I forgot about getting off the beaten track. When we went to Paris, the tour dropped us off in a "good shopping/eating" district. We wandered a couple of blocks over and found an open air market that the locals were shopping at. We had so much fun. Our lunch was a loaf of bread from the bread maker, a hunk of cheese from the cheese maker, a bottle of wine from the wine dealer (who then went to other vendors to collect their glasses so we could drink from glasses) some fruit from the fruit vendor...it was great!
Did the same thing in Italy....

Get off the beaten path (and you don't need to go far) you find some great things, and the local people are also having fun having tourists.
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Old 04-12-2009, 06:33 PM
Status: "happy again, no longer catless! t...." (set 7 days ago)
Location: Cushing OK
14,423 posts, read 16,691,770 times
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I refuse to fly and take amtrak. It may not save as much but I consider the trip itself to be part of the vacation. The good thing is I can bring ALL my own food. I set up breakfast lunch and dinner for the days I'll be on the train and pack them in a carryon. I also bring snacks like crackers, hot chocolate mix, raisons, and pudding cups. I buy the one cup bags for coffee. You can get three cups out of two bags if your drinking it all at once. You pay through the nose for coffee but the hot water is free. I buy a subway sandwitch and freeze it for the second night and either refrigerate the one for the first day or get it at the station (Dallas ft worth has a subway at the station). I am bringing powered milk for coffee and can make mocha out of my homemade cocoa mix.

Energy bars and the like are nice but they crumble everywhere so I don't do them anymore. I ended up with the whole trip amid crumbs after trip number one. Anything dried in terms of fruit is good, cookies, or other munchies. The holders for two slices of bread and some peanut butter in a small jar will give you lunch.

I also fill every nook and cranny with water bottles. I buy these new and sealed so they don't leak. The water on the train is hidiously expensive.

If you want soda either bring your own and get ice (also free) or get off the train at the stops which are long enough and hit the vending machines or lunch areas.

Being able to bring your own food is one huge major advantage of train travel.
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Old 04-12-2009, 06:48 PM
Location: Knoxville, TN
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Check out state parks close to home. Many people miss great things in their own backyard. Look for festivals and events in neighboring towns. There are many wonderful small towns in America.
When I'm on the road a lot, I take a small cooler with me. I keep some small Rubbermaid drink bottles in it that I fill with ice in the motel. Gives me cold water along the way and keeps everything in the cooler dry. It helps to put them inside freezer ziploc bags.
I eat a big breakfast -- my favorite road food and cheap -- a medium lunch and cheese and light stuff for dinner, sometimes just a glass of wine and an appetizer. Keeps costs down since most places you can get a nice lunch for a lot less than dinner.
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Old 04-12-2009, 10:47 PM
Location: East Tennessee
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check out hostels, some have family rooms and kitchens that you can use to cook items that you bought at the grocery store.
go durning off season.
eat your biggest meal at lunch and save half for the evening meal (depends on what you actually order and if you have cold storage and if you will need it to be heated up if you can save it).
if you stay at a hotel, ask at the reception for restaurant ideas and most will offer free appetizer coupons or buy one get one free meal.
if your flying, don't say I'm going here, go where every there is cheap airfare to
I went to Berlin with frequent flyer miles, never wanted to go, but I knew I was going some place to use those miles and worked with the airlines agent and that is where she could get me, I had to pay 52$ tax and then said....looks like I'm going to Berlin and I loved it
stayed in hostel, ate the free breakfast offered there and took a piece of fruit with me for later snack.
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Old 04-13-2009, 01:24 PM
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We do house exchanges. Sometimes exchange cars also. Free place to stay and all the conveniences of home (kitchen, laundry, bedrooms, etc.)
When we can't exchange I will usually try to rent a house. More room for the $$ and cooking saves a fortune over eating out.
Most of our flights are free due to racking up FF points.
We are pretty flexible on when and where we are willing to go. I get emails from travel discount sites notifying me on current deals. When I see something that is a great deal I am open to grabbing it. Traveling off season saves $$.
Be a good house guest and people will invite you to visit. We have friends and family that like to have us visit so we do. We also see it as a mini vacation when they come to stay with us. Fun to see your local stuff through fresh eyes.
Think outside the box as to what kind of place you will stay. Sometimes you can find great deals on rooms that aren't being used. I've stayed in church retreats and school dorms (when school was out) Ended up with great accommodations and unique experiences for next to nothing.
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Old 04-14-2009, 07:17 AM
267 posts, read 1,003,455 times
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Great tips, everyone. Keep 'em coming! I'm learning a lot. This summer I really hope to take 2 small trips with the family. These suggestions are invaluable! Thanks.
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