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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Vacation Perks #2-Big Family Vacation, Big Price Tag??

We flew our family and spent 5 days in San Diego and did everything we wanted to do, including a lot of eating out, transportation, souvenirs and site seeing and spent $4,700. That's is about $100 per person, per day for EVERYTHING. How did I do it? We did save for a year, and the kids were part of the planning and saving too.

Traveling is great. Traveling with a small family I am sure is wonderful--one hotel room, smaller car to rent, smaller dining bills. Traveling with a big family requires a bit of planning and more money. Here's a few simple ideas in the planning and execution of making some BIG memories.

Making Money

1.  Let your money work for you. If you have a credit card that you use Responsibly (meaning you pay if off EVERY month) then use it to earn travel points. We use a card that gives us 5% back on travel --I only put groceries and medical costs on this card because I have those amounts in my budget to spend. Then I pay it off monthly. It earned us some cash back.

Also many travel oriented credit cards allow one checked bag for free since you are a credit card member. We saved $350 in travel fees with our card.

2. Siphon your budget. If you are lucky enough to have a "slush" fund consider taking a part of it and put it directly into your savings account. A little bit each month will help in the long run.

3. Sell your stuff. We all have stuff that we don't use, don't need, don't want, but sometimes getting up the energy to organize it and get rid of it is overwhelming. Could have a family garage sale, partner up with some family members or friends and host a big sale so everyone helps with the set-up, organization, clean-up. Or you can likely find (or start) a Facebook page with online yard sales in your area. This is a great way to get rid of a little bit at a time. This suggestion comes with the caution that since you are meeting strangers to exchange your stuff for their money, you go with a friend and meet in a public place for the sale. Local papers also offer online ads you can place for free.

4. Travel off-season. It's my favorite way to see places, without huge crowds. We went the week before summer season officially started, the lines were short, and the most we waited was 15 minutes for a ride or to see an animal or attraction.  The staff told us we were lucky because lines were often 2 hours during the summer.

Saving Money
1. Join e-clubs. Southwest, Delta, Jet Blue and many other airlines has specials for their email club members. Usually you get an email with a "heads up" about early ticket sales too. A few of them even have a survey program where you can earn cash towards airfare.

Also many big tourist attractions have deals, discounts and coupons on their websites. And group discounts may work in your favor!

2. Use search engines to find discounts. Visit your destination's travel and tourism page (for example you can Google "San Diego tourism") and there are links for things to do, coupons, lists for restaurants, etc. Also,, Hotwire,com, and many others can help you find cheap hotels. If you know where you want to stay you can often negotiate directly with the hotel. Get Away Today, and other online planning websites can also help a lot, especially in getting discount tickets to local attractions, and having the ability to compare hotels side by side.

3. Buy an "Entertainment" book, or check out your local Costco or Sam's Club. Members of these organizations often get discounts with their annual membership.

4. Plan your day. I know, you're on vacation, however a little bit of planning can save money. Check to see what local, free events are going on during your vacation. Some days entrance fees to some attractions are lower than other days.

5. Get a room...with a fridge, or pack extra snacks in your luggage. We had both, and it saved us money at the beach not having to buy treats. You can also buy fresh stuff at a local market and store it in your fridge so you don't have to eat out all the time. Also look for a hotel with a breakfast included. We did this too, and it was great!

6. Have a limit on souvenirs-both in number and cost. I know everything is so cute, and you've just had this amazing experience you want to remember forever. This $20 stuffed animal will help us remember...or not. I allowed my children the opportunity to earn extra money so they could pay for their own souvenirs. They were not allowed to purchase the first thing they saw. I suggested they wait and see if they really wanted it, and if they did we went back. I also took lots of pictures to make into books later.

7. Plan to take all the basics you'll need. I forgot aloe and didn't have a back up sunscreen. When going to a sunny vacation spot these are a must. Yes you can buy them on vacation, but I guarantee you'll spend a lot more than you will at home. Plan for "downtime" and bring cards, games or books to keep the kids happy, and you'll be happy.

8. Check out local transportation options. We love metros, subways, trains, etc. We used a hotel with a free shuttle to local attractions, and used the public transportation system ($5 per person, per day) which saved us renting a car (would have been $500 for the week, cuz we'd need a van), and we didn't have to pay parking fees which saved us more money.

Vacation time is a great way to reconnect and strengthen family bonds. A little bit of pre-planning will go a long way to achieving a fun, memorable, affordable family vacation.

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