Here are a few of my penny savers-
- Skip buying soda, juice boxes, and the like. Bring a refillable water bottle. Fill it in bathrooms, in your room/cabin, etc. If you absolutely need flavor, get boxes of flavor packs. Dollar stores sell boxes with 8-12 packs in them for $1.00. 12 bottles of flavored water would cost you $12-18. Instead, it's gonna cost you just $1.00.
- If you plan to site see, pack your lunch. Make sure it's filling, and include a few extra snacks for those times when you just HAVE to have something. A sack lunch can cost under a dollar. You can't even do that on the dollar menu at McDonalds.
- If you do want a treat, give yourself a daily budget, per person. For instance, I budget out $3 per person, per day for snacks. If someone wants an ice cream cone, they can get it. If someone wants to snag a bag of chips and a candy bar, they can. It isn't as frugal as bringing your own, but at least you won't feel like a total miser the entire time.
- Starving? Out on the road? Well, it happens- you get caught off guard, and need to eat NOW. Check around for places that are off the main drag. They're more likely to be less expensive than the flashy restaurants on the main drag, geared at tourists.
- Check rates, and look for coupons. Some places offer coupons- use them! If you can save $20 on your room, why pay full price? That $20 is fun money!
- If you do plan to eat out, do some research. Find a family restaurant- not a chain. You'll find wonderful food, and low costs. See if you can find coupons as well!
- Plan meals ahead of time. What will you have each day? What will it require? What do you have on hand to cook with? Some hotels come with microwaves, some have an area where you can use a microwave and toaster. If you are in a cabin or camping, bring the items that will allow you the most versitility in cooking, without taking up a ton of space.
- Consider cooking some things ahead- got a fridge and a toaster? Make pancakes and french toast. Pop it in the fridge, warm it in the toaster, and you are good to go, without the mess of cooking them. Got a sandwich maker? Research recipes- last time we went camping, I learned how to make pop overs and corn muffins in mine, to add to our meals.
- Consider local attractions wisely. Price them, call ahead, and ask if they publish coupons in brouchures, entertainment guides, the Sunday paper, or anywhere else. See about getting some sent to you! Again, why pay $5.00 per person, if you can save $1.50 off each person, and pay $3.50? A little bit of research is well worth it's weight in money saved.
- Know your area- know where the things you want to see are located. You'll save money in gas alone, not to mention frustration and time spent trying to locate something!
- Going to be gone for several nights? Save room on packing things. Pack light, and bring some laundry detergent, so you can wash items. This is good when you have very limited room to pack- we have a cavelier- plus a 9 year old, 12 year old, and 15 year old. To say that room is tight is an understatement. We get so creative in packing, that the kids sit on their blankets and pillows when they're in the car.
- Find out where the local grocery stores are- look their ad's up online. Are they more expensive or less expensive than your stores? If they're more expensive, consider packing your groceries to bring with you. Last time we went up north, I didn't consider how much more expensive the groceries would be, and over spent my budget by nearly $20- AFTER I dropped several items off the list. That's a costly mistake to make!
- When it comes to souvenir shopping, it's hard to save money. A store selling shirts in a tourist town will easily want $20 for a shirt. Check for shops off the beaten path, look for mark down racks, and check if there's a department store in town. Quite often, you'll find gear branded with the town name, or the tourist location name, but cheaper. And don't always assume that things might be more expensive in one location! We shopped the first day in Mackinaw City, and I got totally ripped off buying a sweatshirt- thanks to a very fast talking guy, who didn't explain HOW the items in the shop worked. Sure, I loved the sweatshirt I saw on the rack, but I didn't realize the price marked in big numbers were for un-decorated, plain sweatshirts. The designs cost extra. I also got sucked into the whole, "It's cheaper than the Island!" I paid almost $45 for a sweatshirt. I felt horrible the rest of the trip over that 1 splurge- then on the last day, we were on the island, and guess what I found? A very similar, embroidered zip up hoodie for $15.00. Yep, snatched it up, and still love it. And I wear both. But, bottom line? Price shop before you pull the cash out- and make sure you know what the bottom line price is before agreeing to anything!
Vacations can be expensive. But, there are still ways to save- it just takes a bit more work!