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Traveling on a Budget, Part 2: You Got There, Now What?

Traveling on a Budget, Part 2: You Got There, Now What?

Congratulations! After reading part one of the travel savings series, you have chosen to go on an adventure with your family. With careful planning in advance you can continue your savings even once you reach your destination.

Food to Fuel the Fun

As mentioned in last month’s post, the easiest money saved is staying at a hotel with a breakfast included in the price. When I take a road trip I pack a cooler to begin the vacation filled with: yogurt, apples/grapes/bananas, a gallon of milk (disposable cups – the ones in the hotel are handy), a loaf of bread to make Nutella and peanut butter sandwiches, snack crackers and trail mix. That way any road side picnic area will make a beautiful lunch spot for our crew. If you flew to your destination, make use of local farmer’s markets and grocery stores to stock your hotel mini fridge with breakfast essentials and handy snacks to carry in your backpack during the day. It is amazing how much you will save by having bottled water with you and little snacks. Kids get hungry at odd times, even after you just fed them!

Dining out could be an entire blog on its own. Some money saving tricks I use include utilizing the following websites for restaurant dining:

Make sure you use a site like Yelp or Urban Spoon to check out reviews from people just like you before going to eat at a restaurant you know nothing about! Another great source for restaurant suggestions and coupons is your hotel concierge or front desk personnel. If eating in a bigger city or at the beach take advantage of their early dinner specials. They like to fill the restaurant during slow times and offer great discounts. Also inquire about kids eat free specials, just like Huntsville, other cities offer this as well.

The travel bug bit me early in life!
The travel bug bit me early in life!


The first thing I do when planning a trip is a Google search of free activities in the area. In St. Louis, for instance, we only included two paid attractions in our vacation. The rest of the activities were offered at no charge.

If you don’t already own a zoo membership to any zoo, it is a great investment. For instance we paid $85 dollars for a family membership to the St. Louis Zoo because my Birmingham Zoo membership had expired. Most zoos are a part of the national reciprocity program offering my family an entire year of free zoo visits! Check around, you can get zoo memberships online and some zoos have a lower annual membership rate than others.

Same with museum memberships, there is a fancy list for them too. For instance, with a Space and Rocket Center Membership, you get into the McWane Center for free. Check out the museum list HERE.

If you have time before your vacation, sign up for the Groupon and Living Social sites for your particular city. You will be amazed at the savings you will find on fun activities you were planning to do anyway.

The Chatanooga Duck Tour was a really handy Groupon!
The Chattanooga Duck Tour was a really handy Groupon!

Tickets and more

In larger cities such as Chicago and New York most visitors want to take in a show at the local theater. There are discount sites for that as well! During our visit to NYC last Thanksgiving we used to purchase our seats for the Rockettes. If you are patient and not set on one particular show, you should try for general rush or lottery tickets the day of the show. We did this for Spiderman – we did have to stand in line for 1.5 hours but it was great to people-watch, our seats were awesome, and I had money left in the budget. If you don’t want to stand in line for rush tickets use the TKTS Discount Booths.

Another rule my kids are well aware of is that we either walk or use public transportation. Taxi fare can deplete your vacation budget VERY quickly.

Some tourist stops are a must-do, for those ask about late admission. Many water parks or museums for instance have a reduced admission after a certain hour. Call ahead and inquire about that. Your AAA membership will come in handy for discounts as well.

We saved a bundle on a dolphin cruise in Destin thanks to LivingSocial.
We saved a bundle on a dolphin cruise in Destin thanks to LivingSocial.

When traveling with five children the phrases “Can I have ___________?”, “I want to ___________”, and “Will you buy me _________?” quickly became exhausting. We want the kids to learn to make wise choices and enjoy a treat or two on the vacation, all while learning that money is a limited resource. The children are each allotted a certain amount of money before a trip. We learned quickly that cash gets lost, so we began using an app called Bankaroo. This allows each to use their money how they please. One might want an ice cream with three scoops, the other just a kid cone, while one skips the ice cream all together to save for a souvenir. This allows them to make individual choices and teaches them financial responsibility.

Bottom line, frugal travel takes a little advanced planning and research. Once you get the hang of it you will naturally look for the discount deal. HAPPY TRAVELS!


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