July 7, 2014

Traveling on the Cheap: Tips from A Budget-Loving Traveler

Our vacation to Hilton and Savannah is a mere nine days away! What makes that thought even sweeter is it means our vacation to Disney World is less than two months out.

I've heard more than once friends and family wonder aloud where we get all this money to travel. After all, with a mortgage + car payment + student loans, we must be putting it all on a credit card, right? Oh contraire!

Ya'll know I'm all about budgeting and savin' a dime! I have a few secret strategies that help get the most out of our vacation dollar and even stretches our budget to allow two vacations.

Destin, Florida - Sept. 2013

I think it is important to note here that it is only the husband and I. We have no children yet. Once that bundle of joy comes along, our priorities will likely change as will our budget. However, I believe these tips are still applicable to families and can help with getting the most out of your vacation budget!
  • Speaking of priorities... When the husband and I married, we both agreed that we wanted to travel and spend our money on experiences and memories rather than things. That said, we made traveling a priority in our budget and committed to allocating money to it throughout the year. 
  • Save a little each paycheck... Saving up for a vacation should be something you do throughout the year - not in the few weeks before you leave. Even sticking back a small amount over the course of a year can really add up! I try to stick back $20 per week for our vacations. With $20 a week, that adds up to $1,040 a year. I will say though there are several weeks where I need that $20 to go somewhere else and that's okay! In reality, that $20 is fun money and if I don't have it that week, I don't have it. No big! The key here is try. You'll be surprise how far a little can take you.
New Orleans, Louisiana - July 2013
  • Make some money on the side... This is where most of our money for vacation comes from. My husband works with a baseball academy as an instructor for camps some weekends. That extra money goes into our vacation fund. When I babysit or pick up a non-PaperLark related project, that money goes into our vacation fund. When I was still at my part-time job, I would pick up extra hours when I could. That money would go into the vacation fund. When you work hard, you get to play hard!
  • Make your money work for you... How? Use card points wisely! Once again, I'll sing the praises of Delta Community Credit Union who we bank with. When we run our debit card as credit, we get 1 point for every dollar. It still comes straight out of our checking account, but we get points just like it was a credit card. Ha! See if a bank near you offers a program like this. Over the course of a year, those points really add up especially if you can run your debit card as credit when you pay your bills! For example, we paid for our entire hotel stay for our upcoming trip to Savannah and Hilton Head with these points. Zero dollars came out of the vacation fund for somewhere to stay. The money we would've spent on a hotel in Savannah is now being used to pay for our stay at Disney World. 

  • Select and use credit cards wisely! Do NOT put your vacation on your credit card unless you've got the money in your account to turn right around and pay the card off. There is no sense into going to debt for a vacation. For me, it would just be too stressful to think I'm on a vacation I can't pay for. What I mean when I say select and use credit cards wisely is to make them work for you. My husband drives a lot for his job. We purposely selected a credit card for him that has high return rewards for gas. He only uses that card for gas purchases. We can cash the points in to pay for the gas to get to our vacation destination. 
Walt Disney World - Sept. 2012

          Unannounced to him, I wrote into the fine print of our marriage vows that the husband had to take me to Disney World every year. That said, I got a Disney card for my business. With the card, you get Disney Rewards Dollars and other perks like private character meet n' greets or discounts off park merchandise and dining locations. We use the Disney Reward Dollars to pay for our vacation package or souvenirs. 

          The key with credit cards is to spend only what you have and pay them off                                     completely every month! 
  • Use fuel points strategically...In our area, Kroger offers fuel points. For every 100 points, you can save 10 cents off per gallon of gas up to $1 off. They also use the 1 point = $1 system. You have to buy groceries so you might as well make that necessary expense work in your favor! The two months before a trip (because the points do expire!), I save up my Kroger fuel points. Before we leave, we redeem our points and fill up.  Before we leave, I do try to find a Kroger between home and our destination to stop and use the last bit of points we have to re-fuel. [To find out more about Kroger's Fuel Reward Program, click here.]
  • Take advantage of discount sites like Groupon or Living Social...You can save on experiences or food by keeping an eye on these sites. In the few months before our trip, I make a point to stop by these sites every couple of weeks. When we visited New Orleans last year, I booked two guided tours for both of us for the price one ticket for one tour. Yeah! Big savings! I've also got two tours via Groupon bought and reserved for our Savannah trip. 
What are some of your favorite tips for traveling well on the cheap?


Disclaimer: I was NOT compensated in any way for this post. The opinions expressed here are purely my own. 
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