Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Gas going up? Family travel budget going down....

In honor of the crazy increase in gasoline and the fact that spring break is coming up, I wanted to share some of my money saving strategies for vacation travel.  As I have done in the past, I think the best way to explain these tips are in a top ten list.  Just a little planning and you can literally save hundreds of dollars over the course of the trip.

1.  My first tip is to always pack a cooler.  I really have a weak bladder when I travel by car.  Why?  I have no idea but it forces me to stop at gas stations quite frequently.  My family is notoroius for gas station shopping.  Over prices soda, snacks and treats somehow find their way to the cashier.  So instead, I take about ten minutes before we leave and pack a cooler full of chips, granola, beverages and sometimes even sandwiches to avoid stopping for lunch.

2.  My next tip is to research where the cheapest gas is located from where you are.  On my Blackberry I have an app called Point that not only gives me directions but also tells me where the cheapest gas is located. 

3.  My next tip is one that you can use at home or were every you travel.  Check the "kids eat free" sites for dinner and lunch deals in the areas where you are traveling.  Free food for my children and I don't have to cook or clean up?  I am down!

4. My next tip is to jump on and see if you can book a room at your price.  I typically try to aim really low and surprisingly enough, I have booked some amazing deals.

5.  Now if you need to pick your place to be close to an attraction, or don't feel comfortable letting pick for you, I recommend you check which searches all of the search engines for you and saves a boatload of time and money.

6.  The next money saving tip that I have is to pick a hotel (like that offer free hot breakfast in the morning.  This saves my family of five an amazing amount of money each day.  The food is delicious, the selection is great and there are plenty of healthy options available.  Just make sure you call ahead and see if they offer breakfast all week or only on the weekends.

7.  The next money saving tips is to remember to sign up for any rewards programs that are offered.  Alot of the reward program benefits can be used right away.  For example, Wyndham provides their reward members with a welcome gift basket and free internet connections.  No points required, you just have to sign up and provide them your rewards number.   Also eventually if you do use the same chain, you will earn free nights.

8.  For my next tip, I recommend that you always see what kind of amenities are at the hotels you choose.  I always try to find one with an indoor pool because my children love to swim.  It gives them something to do while I take the baby to the room and put her down for a really needed nap.    Free entertainment is always good!

9.  This tip requires a little planning, but when you first find out that you will be traveling, I recommend reaching out to the local chamber of commerce.  They will provide you with all kinds of coupons and discounts that you can use to plan ahead.  Some coupons are for buy one get one attractions, or maybe a free souvenir.  That coupon can put some extra cash in your pocket.

10.  My final tip is to plan, plan, plan.  If you know exactly what to expect, you will be able to stick to your budget and not buy a whole bunch of items that you don't need.  If you take the sun block with you, you won't have to pay three times as much at the theme park to get some.

I hope this helps with your travels this spring!  It has really helped me. 

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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