How To Summer Travel On A TIGHT Military Budget
by Bobbi Pack from MyMilitarySavings
WOW, I can hardly believe it…summer is here!! Woot~Woot! We love summer, not only are the days longer and the the temps are amazing…we get to travel as a family! But, we are on a TIGHT budget, we are a family of four which means we have to save and be careful to not get carried away under the sun, buying too many souvenirs, eating at restaurants and upgrading our accommodations. But, we do have to remember we are treating ourselves…so we still need to have some fun!
Here are some tips for budgeting…no matter what type of getaway you’re planning.
1. OK…Let’s be realistic..what can we afford? Don’t get me wrong I want to make our vacations amazing, but I don’t have a unlimited budget. So, I choose a trip I can afford which means less stress and more time to relax.
2. Come up with a travel fund. This is super easy and will help you save when you have a specific goal in mind. Our goal is Hawaii…whoohoo fun in the sun! So, I have a jar in the kitchen marked Hawaii this is where we place all our loose change and no matter what we add $50 to the jar every payday.
3. Create a trip budget. Check out this awesome Travel Budget Calculator I found! I am using this to help me stay on track and only spend that I have allotted.
4. Make sure you shop AROUND! There are so many sites out there offering this great deal and that great deal…take it from me you want to compare prices. For example: we are flying Space-A from Travis AFB to Hawaii…BAM…saved on airfare right there. I have been planning this trip for about a year now and have been searching packages, hotels, activities you name it I have searched for it. I looked at military hotels and beyond, I found a better package then staying at the military hotel. This is why I took my time and did not jump into anything….I want to have fun on my vacation but I want to pay the bills when I get home too.
5. Always Pay Attention! Protect yourself…when you are ordering tickets, family passes for the waterpark, making hotel reservations, car rental…everything….make sure the websites you are using are legitimate! When you are on vacation make sure you safeguard yourself against theft. Keep your passports, military and civilian ID’s and all credit cards in a safe place and out of site!
6. Expect things will go wrong. Murphy’s Law…yep that is me! If it is going to happen you can get your bottom dollar it will happen to me. I could write a book on the odd, silly things that have happened to me while on vacation. Just take a deep breath and remember you are on vacation!
7. Pack your own food. I know that may sound super silly…but we do it all the time. When we went to Disney World a few years ago I packed a cooler and that is what we ate. I packed all the food we needed for the trip from Fort Bragg to Orlando, lunch for the parks, snacks, water bottles and juice. I was not about to pay $10 for a bottle of water…NOPE never going to happen. You would be surprised how many vacation spots, parks, etc will allow you to bring food in…just make sure you check before you go, you don’t want to waste your food and hard earned money.
8. I love souvenirs…oh my goodness do I ever! But, honestly I can’t see paying $20 for a stuffed turtle, that is just silly! So, here is what we do: 1. Take a ton of photos. 2. Look for sale prices in the gift shops. 3. Ask the gift shops if they have any free buttons…and trust me 9 times out of 10 they do. 4. Buy a soda at the cafe in a souvenir cup…usually if you do this they will have free refills all day or discounted. 5. This may sound silly but we take napkins from the cafe with the parks name on it and then frame them….they make really cute art projects for family night.
9. Travel close. You don’t have to travel to Hawaii to have a good time. Research the state where you live and find fun family activities. One thing we do every summer is search out all the places in the state that have been featured on Food Network then we travel around checking them out. We do not eat at all of them…but taking pictures is super fun! Also, when we do eat at the places we purchase two-three plates and share…it’s more fun that way….trust me!
10. Get everyone involved. Don’t stress yourself out planning the trip all alone…have the family help too. One thing we did when the kiddos were little, is we all wrote down five places we wanted to go over the summer…all places close by. We placed them in a hat and drew one every two weeks. Many of these places were free to visit! WhooHoo!!! Our favorite place was the raptor center in Pueblo, CO, we went there so many time when we were stationed at Fort Carson. It was free and the volunteers who worked there knew so much about the birds, the kiddos loved it! And, they had free summer classes for kids!
No matter what you choose to do this summer just remember summer family vacations are about fun not money. If you can’t afford the trip to Hawaii this year…that’s ok! Take a day trip to the mountains, go hiking and pack a lunch. It’s honestly about the memories and trust me when I say your kiddos will remember the small things.