Everyone dreams of getting away for a bit, whether it’s a trip to the Wisconsin Dells, a road trip to see family or few days in another city.  The good news is that your vacation doesn’t need to make a big impact on your budget.  

With some creativity and planning, you can enjoy time away with the family for a fraction of what you may think it costs.   Here are some tips to planning your low cost vacation.  

Eating On The Road

Pack a meal for the road!  Ten dollars can buy a fine picnic lunch for a family and you can put together a “goodie bag” of snacks and a quick meal that you can enjoy on the road or at scenic rest area.  If you have room for a small cooler, you have even more options.  Fruits, cold cuts, nuts, yogurt, veggie trays are all great road trip options.    Also, if you’re staying at hotels, stock your room with drinks and munchies upon arrival.

Restaurant Dining 

Avoid going to those roadside attraction restaurants.  Sure you may be able to get a picture with “The World’s Largest Ball of Twine”, but your dinner is going to cost you more.   Area diners and locally owned restaurants in general offer better food for less money.  Mom -and-pop shops you’re more likely to be served by people who care about their reputation and their customers. (The same can be said for lodging when it comes to family owned options)   Go with the “specials” and save even more.  

Travel off-season

If your schedules allow, you can save money on rooms and gas by avoiding peak travel times during the year.   Another bonus; you’ll probably save time waiting in lines at attractions, museums and such.

 Attraction discounts
 Many tourist attractions, museums, zoos and other places of interest have discount days or offer coupons to help you save.   Do a little research and plan your visit in advance.   You may find “free days” at museums and zoos during the week that can save you a significant amount of money.

Hotels/Lodgings

Ask about family discounts and again, search online for the best deals.   Look at cancellation policies too (who knows when you may be sidetracked on your trip.  You don’t want to be penalized for not showing up at the hotel as planned).   If you’re staying during the week rather than a weekend, you will get a better rate in general. If you’re visiting a major metropolitan city on your trip, aim for a weeknight for any overnight stays.  

Public Transit

When you’re visiting a city, hit the streets and park the car.  Walking, taking the bus or subway is the way to see more and save.  Driving from place to place and parking a car in a large metro area is to be avoided when you’re trying to save money.  

Flight Options

In today’s market, it pays to look on line and see what flight/routing options will work with your plans.   Being flexible on flight times can save you money as well.   When considering a flight option, ask about luggage fees and family discounts too.  

By being a frugal packer, you can cut down on your luggage fees.  Often times we over-pack by trying to plan for every occasion while on our trip.  Pack items that can be mixed and matched and are easily laundered in a hotel sink. By doing so, you save space in your luggage.    

Finally, look at packing clothing items that you may not even need to bring back with you.  Everyone has a shirt, skirt or other clothing item that is perhaps past its prime for one reason or another.   That’s perfect for your vacation!  Take it, wear it and leave it! You’ll have a lighter bag on the return trip!

Souvenirs/memories

Forgo the souvenirs and capture memories instead.  You don’t need a T shirt with Navy Pier on it or a bobble head from St, Paul.  Instead of trinkets that will be relegated to the back of a closet soon after your return home, take photos and keep a journal of activities.  With your photos and notes you can create a vacation booklet of personal memories that will be with you for a lifetime.

Travel smart and you can see the country on a small budget!