Tips for saving on vacations are as varied and abundant as locations. Keeping that in mind, here are a few suggestions for keeping costs down, no matter where you go:
- Visit during the off-season. If you're heading to a "touristy" location, your best chance to save money is to plan on travelling in the off-season. Off-season accommodation rates are often cheaper, and you can also save on other necessities, such as airfare and attractions. Plus, smaller crowds mean a less stressful experience.
Try planning for times just outside the peak season to maximize your value, though. Too far off season and you may find attractions and businesses are closed. For example, we've had luck visiting beach areas the weekend before Memorial Day. Great deals on our stay and not many people, but everything was open, getting ready for the season.
- Rent a cottage or suite. Aside from hotel stays and big-ticket attractions, the biggest vacation expense for many families is food. But we all have to eat, right? So how can you cut back on eating expenses without depriving your family? Have a kitchenette on hand.
Whether it's via a cottage or cabin or simply a hotel suite with a kitchen, having a fridge, microwave, and cabinets can drastically reduce your food expenses. Bring some food with you, such as cereals or sandwich fixings, or make a pit stop at a local grocery store for necessities. You can save by having a quick breakfast before heading out for the day, or by packing a picnic lunch to eat while you're out.
You can also stock up on bottled water and other beverages, saving you the expense of grabbing a drink whenever you go out. As an added bonus, having a cottage or suite gives your family a little extra room, which can cut down on stress and frustration that can pop up in close quarters.
- Look for reciprocal attraction passes. One of my family's newly-discovered ways to save money is through a reciprocal museum pass. By purchasing a reciprocal membership at a local children's museum, we get not only free admission to that museum for the rest of the year, but also free or half-price admission to select museums around the state, country -- even world! -- that belong to one of the two affiliated organizations.
Check out the Association of Children's Museums (ACM) and the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) for more info. Search for museums where you're headed, or browse museums and choose a location based on the best ones!
- Keep it simple. It's no secret that high-profile attractions mean big bucks when it comes to admission prices. While I love amusement parks and touristy areas as much as the next gal, the truth is that a vacation can be just as enjoyable -- and more relaxing -- without the costly tickets. Try searching for more natural entertainment, such as beaches, hiking trails, camping, parks, and playgrounds. Check out the websites of the town you're heading to as well as neighboring towns to find free or low-cost events taking place. Just a quick glance at Connecticut's free events (as shown on this website) proves that an abundance of entertainment can be found just by looking for it.
Fairs, festivals, concerts, and more can be found just about anywhere. And don't forget the library. Public libraries are open to visitors, not just residents. Check to see if there are any events or programs going on.