beach

It’s been four years since we’ve gone away for vacation. That’s how many years I’ve been a SAHM. Coincidence? Nope. Dropping down to one-income meant making sacrifices and our annual trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was one of the first things to go. We’ve had fun camping every year, but I’m looking forward to this week when my family and I go to Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. Stay-cations and camping are great alternatives to an expensive vacation, but there are many ways you can cut the cost of going away.

1. Go Off Season – Since we’re headed down to the Jersey Shore at the very end of the season we were able to get a great discount on our hotel. Most hotels have more affordable rates during off peak times.

2. Prepay – We also got a 20% discount on our hotel stay for prepaying before June 1st. Thanks to our tax refund, we were able to send one payment, but we also could have sent installments if we wanted to just as long as our payment was received in full by June 1st.

3. Groupon Shop Your Outings Before You Go – Always check groupon for deals on excursions and resorts. We found a great deal on a water park we want to visit while on vacation just by doing a simple search.

4. Sign Up For Newsletters – Have a hotel or resort you love to stay at? Sign up for their newsletters and get notified of special deals.

5. Bring Your Own Car – If your car or van is in good shape, skip the car rental and bring your own. The car rental is usually the second largest expense after the hotel if you’re driving to your destination. If you have to bring your own vehicle I recommend getting any work done before you hit the road. A few years ago, my family was stuck on the side of the road on our way to Lake George when my husband’s car overheated.

We just finished a TON of work on my mini-van that needed to be done, as well as some routine maintenance like changing the oil, tires, and brake pads. We needed to do the work anyway, but doing it before vacation gives me more confidence in taking my vehicle. We would have spent $500 minimum to rent a mini-van.

6. BYOF (Bring Your Own Food) – Eating out is always expensive on vacation, especially in tourist areas. One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that grocery store prices also vary widely from one area to another so I’ll be hitting up my local Aldi for cheap and easy breakfast items, snacks (which my kids will go through a ton of), and ingredients for easy dinners we can make in our hotel room which has a microwave and stove top. I’m also packing my crock-pot for ready to eat dinners like lasagna after a long tiring day at the beach. Loading the car up with drinks, sandwiches and snacks is also a must for a road trip with small kids. Stopping at rest stops for food is a budget killer.

7. Skip The Souvenirs –  I have a pretty firm rule on not buying souvenirs. I’d rather take lots of photos or have the kids collect shells to remember our family vacation by.

8. Find Low Cost Entertainment – My family and I plan to spend most of our time on the beach, in the hotel pool, or walking along the boardwalk. Beyond our one planned trip to a water park, which is mostly a birthday present for my daughter who turns nine while we’re away, we plan to just play and relax. Limiting paid entertainment is a great way to save money on vacation. Also check your hotel lobby for coupon booklets for local restaurants and attractions.

family, beach

9. Go Away, But Not Far Away – With three small kids and a limited budget we wanted to pick a place that was “away,” but not “far away.” My kids get really antsy on long drives so we decided to head to the Jersey Shore five hours away instead of trying to drive to Myrtle Beach and renting an extra hotel room on the way down and on the way back.

This year there was a gap of three weeks between the end of camp and the start of the new school year. Usually we go on vacation before camp starts and then by the end of the summer we’re all anxious for school to start. I’m so glad that we still have a great week of vacation to look forward to so we can savor these last days of summer with our kids.

What are your favorite ways to save on vacation?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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