Great Escape…without breaking the bank

Earlier this month I looked at the calendar and realized summer was just about over for us.  I had been saving links all summer to different locations around the area to explore, and after a quick look at we decided the aquarium was the way to go!  We had a great 24 hours away unplugged (except the car) and did it for barely anything!

Here are my tips for getting away for vacation without breaking the bank.

1) Hotel rewards.  My husband travels….A.LOT.  Our college allows people to collect hotel rewards personally, and so does the company I work for.  I try to stay at Choice Hotels when I travel because they always have some sort of deal going.  Once we had our agenda sort of mapped out, I found a hotel close by.  The other great part of the Choice Hotel chain is that usually some sort of breakfast is included.  I chose one with a “hot breakfast” as our crew likes eggs and sausage in the am. 🙂  Another great thing about the hotel I chose was that it had an outdoor pool.  Since it’s summer, this included a few hours of free family entertainment.

2) Use those gift cards!  Snacks can really add up.  Of course, packing snacks is always an option, but who wants to walk around with apples or granola bars falling out of their purse?  I packed snacks for the road and hotel, but we all enjoyed an afternoon Starbucks while on our way to Dave and Busters.  An added bonus with this choice is that I am a gold card member so using my gift card still earns rewards for the next outing!

3) Time your travel.  We left after breakfast, had lunch in the car, and headed out after breakfast the next day.  This meant that we only needed to purchase one meal for the whole trip.  Another way to go is to eat at places with kids eat free meals.  We are nearing the end of this with our kiddos being 8 and 10, but THIS WEBSITE has a great list of options to consider.

4) Check online deals.  By planning ahead the night before a few activities we saved a lot of $$ and time.  I purchased our tickets for Sea Life online and printed at home.  I also loaded up our cards from Dave and Busters from my app which allowed me to “supercharge” them.  Groupon and Living Social were offering local mini-golf, several restaurants, and health club activities.

5) Don’t pack the schedule.  We planned 3 activities for the entire day.  We went to the aquarium, Dave and Busters, and swam at the hotel.  This left us plenty of time to enjoy each activity without leaving rushed or exhausted.  In between times, we wandered the mall, checked out a few sales, added items to the “wish list” from Bass Pro Shop, and so on.  Not packing the schedule also saved money.  We know we have a fun place to return to and plenty of new things to try.

6) Eat local.  When in North Carolina Cookout is a must in our home 🙂  Not only is it SO YUMMY, but it’s also really cheap!  Eating local is a tip from the best travel guides out there.  Not having to pay chain fees allows for food to be less expensive.

7) Stay local.  Besides our aquarium tickets, gas was the next largest expense.  Every town has local events that are fun to participate in.  Save on gas and stay close to home.

North Carolina Aquarium family vacation

24 hour overnight stay for a family of 4=$200

For more shoestring budget strategies check out Lessons from the Sidelines.

Lessons from the Sidelines front cover final

As the wife of a football coach, Beth Walker encourages women whose families are in the public eye to pursue their own callings even as they support their husbands’ careers and ministries. Through her own personal stories as well as interviews with other women who are also living just outside their husbands’ limelight, Beth shows it’s possible to do both.