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Jeani's Top 5 ~ Way to Travel Economically

Updated on July 26, 2012

Traveling has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a child both of my parents worked in education which meant that we had extended time to vacation in the summer. Many times we would take several weeks to travel to various locations around the United States. By the time I graduated high school I had visited 40 of the 50 states.

When I became a parent this was a tradition I wanted to continue for my daughter. At 4 months she took her first plane ride to Rochester, NY to visit my father's family for the first time. By the time she celebrated her first birthday she had visited twice. Now getting ready to enter 5th grade she has visited 32 of the 50 states, including her favorites of New York, Washington state and Hawaii.

Understanding the amazing experiences traveling can offer an individual, it continues to be a priority in my life. As a teacher myself, and currently an unemployed one, I need to be smart and thrifty when traveling in order to continue to be able to provide this opportunity to my daughter. I have devised many clever ways to save for vacation, which will be discussed in a later hub. But for now, here are my top 5 ways to travel economically.

1. Specific vs. General Location

Think about what you want to do and see when you travel. Do you want to see the ocean, do you want to climb mountains, do you want to see a specific landmark. Sometimes the most popular location to do an activity is also the most expensive. Decide if you need to go to a specific location to do the activities you desire, or if you could still enjoy those activities in a less touristy spot.

On our recent vacation we knew we wanted to head out East and end up eventually in Rochester, NY to visit family. We talked about doing Washington DC, but after several unsuccessful weeks of looking for available timeshares near there had a decision to make. Were we set on DC, in which case we would have to reserve hotel rooms and eat out for most of our meals, or were we open to looking at other places that had timeshare units available. Fredericksburg, VA found us, simply by having a unit we could rent. While it was not our first choice, we ended up having a fabulous time and finding lots to do as I share in my hub Top 5 “Other” Things to do in Fredericksburg.

We were able to do so much more on our vacation simply by being flexible in location and knowing that Washington DC will be there for next year.

2. Know What You Want Out of Lodging

When deciding on where to stay for your vacation, think about what you will be using it for. Do you have action packed days planned and simply need a place to come back to and sleep, do you enjoy sight-seeing for awhile and coming back for a cocktail and swim at night, or are you looking for an all-inclusive getaway that will not require you to leave? Answering these questions will help you determine the most economical type of lodging for your vacation.

My family has owned timeshare for over 20 years. The benefits of which will be covered in yet another future hub. Owning timeshare has allowed us to stay at some fabulous resorts. Generally we stay in a 2-3 bedroom, 1-3 bathroom condo with a full kitchen that sleeps 6-12 people. Depending on the condo you can also have in unit and/or on site laundry, decks and/or patios, whirlpool and/or jacuzzi. The resort itself will also usually offer such things as restaurants, and recreational activities such as golf, skiing, tennis and swimming.

Recognizing the type of lodging you need will help make sure you are not paying for things you won't use, be missing out on a money-saving package rather than buying individually, or being unhappy with your choice due to lack of options.

3. Food On-The-Go

A huge expense when traveling is food. If you don't have a kitchen or cooling mechanisms available, you are forced to eat out. Many hotels include breakfast with your stay, some even provide dinner. Research the type of meals provided to decide if they meet your needs. Paying a little extra for lodging that includes either a full kitchen, or at least a min fridge can also save you a great deal in food costs.

Having these amenities available to you means you can possibly bring some food items from home if you are driving, or find the nearest grocery store once you arrive at your location to purchase some essentials. When in season, located local farmer markets for fresh fruit and veggies. While on the go, invest in a cooler that is designed to keep ice cold for 3 to 5 days, this will surely keep your sandwiches, drinks and snacks cool for your day trips.

For our recent trip we stayed in a condo with a full kitchen. This allowed us to plan our meals before leaving on vacation, bring some dry goods from home, and purchase the remaining perishable items once we arrived. While our lunches were not highly unique, sandwiches were a staple, we did manage to have some fabulous suppers. We made sure that we had snacks for everyone available in the cooler, eliminating the need to pick up more expensive choices during stops.

By doing the majority of our meals and snacks this way we were able to enjoy some local treats without breaking the bank.

4. City Pass, Coupons and Deals

City Passes is a fabulous way to see multiple attractions for one low price. Currently 11 cities/areas around the United States offer these passes, often time allowing you access to shorter lines and discounted admission. I have personally used these in Chicago, New York and Seattle, my parents have used them in San Francisco.

Again, many local cities provide a scaled down version of this program. While in Fredericksburg we were able to purchase a nine attraction pass for $32, receiving a child's pass for free. This provided enough entertainment for our group to last the entire week we were there.

Many local businesses also have half price, free, or discounted tickets for local attractions available to their customers. Many amusement parks, aquariums, museums and circuses utilize local businesses for advertisement.

There are many, many places you have already paid admission for, or a significant portion of thru your taxes. National Parks are a great example of this. Two-thirds of our National Parks do not charge any type of entrance fee and there are five times throughout the year that all parks offer free admission. Annual Passes, Senior Discounts and free Military Passes are also available. Locally many attractions offer discounts or free admission to local residents or members of certain organizations.

5. Creative Souvenirs

Souvenirs can be a huge expense while traveling. On our recent trip my daughter came with a list of friends she wanted to bring a souvenir home for, as well as a couple for herself. With most items, even small trinkets costing more than $5 each this can add up quickly.

Take time to think of unique ways to memorialize your trip. On my last trip my daughter and I were constantly taking pictures and posting them with brief comments to my Facebook account. I was pleased with the responses I was getting as I was doing it and upon returning home I was amazed at how many friends and acquaintances made a point to come and tell me how much they enjoyed my traveling journal of my trip. This got me thinking how easy it would be to take these pictures, and descriptions that were already done and transfer them to an online book format. For around $25 I will have a personalized coffee table book souvenir of my entire trip.

Souvenirs such as shells and/or beach glass from the coast, pictures of local landmarks, colorful leaves and/or flowers you could press, and pretty rocks are just a few ideas that can make nice keepsakes on their own or to use as starter pieces for items such as jewelry, framed photos, and wall art that you can keep or share with others. Getting creative in souvenirs to bring home not only can save money, but can also bring added fun to you trip

Traveling is so much more than a hobby, it truly is the best education you can have and offer to your children. Very few of us have unlimited budgets though and making sure you get the most out of the money you have will not only make your current trip more pleasurable, but allow you to take many, many more!

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    • Jeani Nugent profile image
      Author

      Jeani Nugent 5 years ago from Cumberland, Wisconsin

      Traveling is definitely something I enjoy way to much to give up simply for financial reasons. I am thankful I have ways to do so without spending a ton of money.

      The food on the go is my favorite too both for the financial aspect and also the fact it is (or can be) so much healthier :)

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      These are great travel tips! I especially enjoyed the Food-On-The-Go section, a topic near and dear to my heart. I've linked to your hub from mine about packing your own satisfying, healthy road trip food. Up, useful, interesting!

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Jeani,

      This is an awesome hub! You have so much advice here. I love to travel and will definitely be using these tips! You are doing excellent here on HubPages. I have browsed your profile and read a few of your hubs. You are an excellent writer and you will make it far here!