Vacationing on the Cheap

Summer vacation is coming. Are you starting to wonder how you can afford to get away for a vacation on a single income? With high gas prices and exorbitant prices on airfare, it can be daunting for a single income family to think about getting away. It can be daunting even for a two-income family!

A vacation does not have to take you far, far away. Consider a vacation near your home. This could be cheaper than buying gas on a long road trip or purchasing airline tickets. Does the next town over have some interesting sights you’ve never checked out? If you want to do a shorter road trip, think of the road trip itself as a vacation. Google Maps now has an ‘avoid highways’ box that you can check when asking for directions. This might add some time to your trip, but allow you to see some sights that you would miss from the freeway. Seeing a cow or two would make the extra time worth it for the kids.

With the price of hotels, consider staying home all together and doing day trips. If your kids are school age, this might be a good time to learn about some local history together. You could try out a new park, pond, lake or beach nearby if your kids are younger.

Camping is another option if you don’t want to pay the steep price of hotels. Most campgrounds do have nightly fees though. These fees are usually much less expensive than a night in a hotel. If you have never camped before, check out REI,,,, or for tips on camping gear, where to go, what to do and what to pack when camping with kids. You might want to start with a camp out in your own back yard.

But maybe you’re not ready for spending the night without a bed and running water. In that case, local motels are often cheaper than big chains. Go on the internet or call ahead to the city hall or chamber of commerce of your vacation destination to ask about local hotels, prices and booking. On the other side of the hotel coin, some larger chains do run ‘kids stay free’ or ‘breakfast included’ specials. If you are a member of AAA, take advantage of those special rates and discounts as well. College alumni associations also runs discounts and coupons for hotels and amusement parks. Maybe you already belong to a group that provides travel discounts too!

For another option, consider a house swap. If you don’t want to have a stranger in your home, you could exchange with a relative or out-of-town friend. Or maybe it is time to pick up the phone and call Aunt Edna in Vermont and see if she’d like to have your family there for a week-long visit. If visiting relative seems more like a chore to you than a vacation, don’t make that call!

If your vacation takes you on the road to a campground or hotel, pack as much of your own food as you can. Eating at restaurants can be very expensive and not terribly healthy. Pack your ice chest and try to eat out only once a day. Stop at local grocery stores to restock your ice chest. Let your kids pick out one ‘treat’ per day.

When all else fails and it is just not in the budget to travel for your vacation this year, brainstorm with your spouse or kids for a ‘pretend vacation.’ You could ‘go to China.’ Check books on China and Chinese culture out of the library. Eat your meals with chopsticks. Research how long it would take to fly there and pack a ‘travel bag.’ Then sit on the couch for 12 hours – wait, you might want to try this with a closer destination. Your ‘pretend vacation’ could be no more than unplugging the phone, tv and computer for a couple of days. Take some time to play together as a family. Read books, watch for shooting stars, play a game, let the laundry and housework go. Enjoy your vacation time!

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