I just returned from a week-long vacation with my family. (I use the term “vacation” loosely, as a week with two preschoolers is not quite the same as a trip to the spa.)
There are a number of things I was able to do to keep costs down. For anyone planning a last minute summer trip, here are a few tips:
• Plan ahead for the cities you’ll visit. We knew where we were going months in advance, so I started monitoring group deal sites for all of the cities we would be going through. I was able to pick up tickets to a number of attractions for half price. I also printed coupons for fast food restaurants and restaurants along our travel route and in the cities we’d be visiting. One thing I considered but didn’t do: buying coupon books for entertainment for the places we were going to visit. I’ve had success doing this in the past, but since our trip involved multiple stops instead of a long visit in one city, I decided against it this time.
• Pack your own snacks and meals. I bought snacks in bulk when they were priced low, thus eliminating the need to pay quadruple at a gas station or rest stop. We also had thermoses of water so we could refill my girls’ sippy cups without having to stop, and we had coolers with sodas.
• Utilize technology, specifically your smartphone. On this most recent trip I fell in love with Foursquare, an app that allows you to “check in” at various locations such as businesses or restaurants. A number of places have started offering coupons that you can only access by checking in via Foursquare or Facebook Places. Also, check the app store to see if the attraction or business where you are has an app; some offer you coupons or a free tour. Another way to receive coupons on your phone is by text; a number of businesses and Chambers of Commerce will allow you to sign up for text-specific deals. When going this route, just make sure that the business is legit and that you’ll be able to unsubscribe easily.
• Take advantage of reciprocal memberships. Here in East Tennessee my family has memberships to the Knoxville Zoo, the Knoxville Museum of Art, and the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge, and each of these has reciprocal sites (other museums/zoos) around the country where we can get in for free or at a reduced cost. Also, websites for attractions may have coupons, so check them out ahead of time.
• Rest stops are great places to pick up coupon books.
• Finally, when you’re traveling with kids, realize that you don’t have to squeeze everything in. In fact, they’ll appreciate it if you don’t. This was a hard one for me, as I want to see every recommended site when in a new city. However, my daughters, ages 2 and 4, were just as fascinated by the playground at a new Chick-Fil-A as they were by the $20 horse-drawn carriage ride. Maybe more so.
I would love to know what your family does to save money while on the road; you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the Blount Moms Today website.
Christy Bramblett is a mother of two girls, ages 3 and 1, and she is married to Ash Bramblett, Minister of Youth and Outreach at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. Her blog is updated daily and is featured at ww.BlountMomsToday.com. She is featured on Page 9 in Blount Today every month and will also be in Blount Moms Today magazine, due out on July 28.