It works with eating too. Whenever I write down exactly what I eat, I’m much less likely to eat things that I shouldn’t.
While I love the cash system for grocery shopping, I don’t like carrying around a lot of cash when we travel. So writing down everything that we spend a cent on while traveling really does help to keep expenses to a minimum when we are using the credit (debit) card instead of the cash envelope system.
2. Pack your own food and drinks.
Can you believe how much a bottle of water costs at the gas station? Most of the time it’s more than $1.00… for just ONE bottle of water! Instead, buy a 24-pack of bottled water before you leave at $3.50 (or much less with coupons!)
If you want to be really frugal, you can get a couple of gallons of water (or even fill empty gallons up at home) and bring plastic cups for everyone (and sippy cups for the kids) to drink from during the trip!
Packing your own cereal, fruit, lunch meat, cheese, peanut butter, and bread – or whatever else you eat – can save you tons of money when traveling! It’s definitely worth it to keep refilling the ice in the ice chest to keep the food cold. Instead of buying bowls, we buy a bag of paper cups that we use for drinking as well as for cereal for the kids in the mornings.
Another idea for food on the road is to make beef jerky at home before you leave. Buy rump roast and have the butcher slice it thin, then add your favorite seasonings and put it in a food dehydrator to dry. A food dehydrator is a little bit of an investment, but something that is very worth it! You can make all kinds of great dried snacks with a food dehydrator (apples, pineapple, blueberries, veggies, beef jerky, etc…)
If you don’t have a food dehydrator, you can make jerky in the oven.
3. Use the deal sites!
If you need to stay in a hotel, fly, rent a car, or go out to eat, then you’ll definitely want to check out the websites that help with finding the best deals on these things.
If you’ll be staying in a hotel, sites like Priceline help you to find the best hotel deals, and typically their prices are MUCH better than going through the hotel website. Priceline allows you to pick a star rating, pick the amenities you want, and then name your price. They assign you to a hotel (you don’t get to choose), but we have used the “name your price” method and it’s worked out great for us! My recommendation is to always go a star above what you think you might want.
Be sure to check out my post on how to get the best deals with Priceline (there are a few tricks!)
Daily-deal sites like Groupon also have some great travel deals… just be sure to take a look at the Yelp & Google reviews before you buy.
If you do know that you want to go out to eat while you are on vacation, then a couple of months before you leave be sure to check out the Groupon food deals for that area (just again, check the yelp reviews before you purchase a Groupon at a specific restaurant… ask me how I know!)
4. Be extra prepared.
It drives me nuts when we go on a trip and end up having to buy something that I have a cabinet full of at home. Like toothbrushes. Or toothpaste. Or a razor. UGH!!
So my recommendation is to have a small duffle bag that stays in the trunk of the car/van with extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, shampoo, etc. so that you never have to go pay full price somewhere when you’re on a trip!
Although needing this bag has been much less frequent since I’ve started to use Wunderlist for keeping track of everything I need to pack for all 6 of us (one of my top 8 must-have travel apps).
Another extra expense that you don’t have to have while traveling is medicine. Just make sure you bring your most important items with you when traveling so you don’t have to run out and buy them AGAIN at or above reg. retail price.
5. Stay home.
Okay, not really home. But stay close! The amount that you’ll save in travel expenses is huge by vacationing places that are already close to you.
Do you know what things I remember most about the majority of our family vacations growing up? Being together as a family without distractions. Listening to Abbott & Costello & The Bickersons tapes in the car with my parents. And probably the biggest memories of all – the pools at the different hotels that we stayed at.
So why not make the same memories close to home?
I have a ginormous post listing out staycation ideas for just about every major city in the country (and some not-so-major cities)!
What are your favorite ways to save on summer vacation expenses?
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