I hate saying no—especially on vacation. No, you can’t have that $50 sweatshirt. No, you can’t order that $30 steak. Vacation is a time to indulge, after all. But budgets are tight and none of us want to pull out that credit card on vacation and worry about the bill later. The good news: You can have plenty of fun in the in the sun and not bust the budget. Here’s how to get the most bang from your vacation buck this summer:
STAY PUT With the cost of gas, opt for a place where you want to stay several days and explore from there—on foot or by public transportation. Hit one national park instead of three! Explore one city—via public transportation.
ALTERNATE PRICEY ATTRACTIONS with activities that won't cost much--a hike in a state park, an afternoon at the beach or the pool, popcorn and movie in your vacation rental. Use the web and local parenting publications where you are visiting to seek out lesser known, inexpensive local attractions.
SCOPE OUT local free attractions—the best playground or skate park in town, a tour of the local potato chip or chocolate factory. Use social media to get local parents’ faves before you visit; Ask any local you meet—the concierge at your hotel, the police officer on the corner for their family’s picks.
JOIN FORCES with another family or your extended family to split costs. You'll save on lodging, food and can even split child care chores. Just make sure you chose friends or relatives with similar vacation styles!
EAT IN for breakfast; picnic for lunch—even at the theme parks. Relax with take-out around the pool in the evening or barbeque. You’ll save money and eat healthier. Besides, it’s no fun to eat out with the kids every meal.
BOOK SMART by choosing places that are off season-- Arizona in summer, for example. Who cares if it’s hot if you have a pool or the beach! Opt for a city hotel on the weekend when business travelers are gone and a resort locale during the week. Check to see if rates change if you shift your dates slightly.
DON'T BE SHY about asking for discounts. Remember, people in the travel industry need your business as much as you need to stretch your vacation dollar. Look for free nights, free room upgrades, resort credits for food, kids’ programs, spas and more.
RESIST TEMPTATION to buy that pricey souvenir. You don't really need it. Start a funny souvenir collection this year--salt and pepper shakers, frogs, holiday ornaments. The more kitschy the better. Limit yourself to $10. Give the kids a souvenir budget and stick to it!
GO HOME A DAY EARLY rather than penny pinch on your entire trip. You will end up spending the same amount but won't be worried about busting your budget.
TRAVEL GREENER by using reusable water bottles. You’ll not only save money but will help the environment. And you get instant souvenirs when the kids slap stickers on theirs!