Every year at this time, when the temperatures dip, I start thinking about vacations. Maybe it’s the cold weather or that the holiday excitement is done, but by January I’m ready for a vacation. This year will be no different other than the fact that vacation is already booked and the countdown is on. So, instead of planning a vacation, I’m sharing how we plan our vacations on a budget.
Chris and I have managed to get away, either alone or with the kids, at least once a year for the past 5 out of 6 years. It may seem extravagant for some, but we are always conscious of our budget and always searching out the best deals. So here are some of my tips for planning a memorable and affordable family vacation.
Set Your Budget
This is obviously the most important piece to the puzzle. Be realistic about what you want for your vacation and how much it will truly cost. Vacation isn’t something we tell ourselves we have to have and worry about the financials later. By the time we’re in the air or on the road our trip has been paid for. If you’re a budgeter like I am, create a specific area in your budget to save specifically for vacations.
Consider booking last minute. This is probably the way we’ve saved the most. In our case we don’t have much flexibility with taking time at the last minute, and we won’t book last minute if we are going with the kids, but when it’s just the two of us and our time is booked, we’ve often waited for a last minute deal and gone wherever that deal has taken us. Last time it was to the Bahamas, so we’re not doing too bad I’d say.
Travel Off Season
This one is tricky if you’re in desperate need of sun and sand. Choosing the wrong week could mean the difference between hanging out in the pool or just staring at it while you’re bundled up. We’ve found choosing just one week off peak times has really worked for us, but it’s still no guarantee.
When we went to Disney World 4 years ago, we were there end of January/beginning of February. Heading down we were in Savannah the day everyone ditched their cars on the freeway in Atlanta and I had to buy a hat because it was freezing there. But, once in Orlando we managed a few days at the pool and the crowds were “light” by Disney standards. It was so quiet, one night after fireworks Violet and I were told we could stay on Dumbo until we didn’t want to ride anymore!
Three years ago we chose Hilton Head at the end of April. Again, the weather wasn’t a guarantee, but being just outside of high season there, prices were great and we ended up with tons of sun and had a blast.
There’s definitely savings to be had travelling off season and you’ll find you don’t need to stray too far from the season to get great deals.
Skip the Hotel
Unless you’re choosing an all-inclusive vacation consider renting a house or condo for your vacation. We’ve had great success using VRBO several times and it’s really nice having a home base with a kitchen. We really appreciated having our own condo in Hilton Head. The one time we attempted to eat out the girls, being so exhausted from being in the sun all day, were absolutely wrecks going out to dinner. From that day forward we cooked our own dinners while the girls would often pass out on the couch. It might seem like a lot of work to go on vacation and have to cook, but if you have small kids or dietary restrictions this might work out for the best. Plus, there’s always takeout, right?
Are you planning any vacations? What travel tips do you have?
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