Beach Baby On A Budget

It’s been a long time, but we’re hitting the road again this summer! One of our favorite things to do is travel, and we’ve always made room for trips, both big and small, in our budget. We’re excited to bring our little lady along to the beach for the first time over Labor Day weekend! We’re not going away as often or to as many more exotic places as we used to, but we want to teach our girl about the world, and what better way to do that than by showing it to her, no matter how close or far away we travel. While our budget has certainly changed a bit with a baby, we were able to find a few destinations that would meet both our financial AND family needs, and we’ve been planning for this over the last several months. I wanted to share a few of my tried and true tips with you for adding a vacation into your budget, and I think they can apply to whatever a “vacation” might mean to you. Happy travels!

1. Start saving. We plan for trips well in advance, preferably about a year or so before we hope to travel. This allows us to figure out how much money we’ll need and when we would need to have it by. I take a little out of my paycheck each month, as does my husband, and we add it to a vacation account, which is specifically for travel expenses. Saving even just a little over time can eventually get you to where you need to be. We also throw in anything extra, should we come across it (i.e. Craigslist profits, side work compensation, etc.).

2. Check for deals or discounts. I know some people can be a bit hesitant to book anything through group deal websites, but you can find amazing bargains on hotels, flights, and local attractions and events through places like Travelzoo, LivingSocial, and Groupon. Sites like this also offer great all-inclusive packages for more expensive trips (i.e. Caribbean or overseas vacations), especially if you’re looking to travel sooner rather than later. Combining your flight, hotel, and food expenses eliminates the guesswork and can often save you more money as opposed to planning everything separately on your own. If you’re worried about the validity or quality of these specials, check for reviews before you book – TripAdvisor has never steered me wrong!

3. Shop around. Compare prices for flights, hotels, or even destinations! Last year we were able to spend a week in the Caribbean, and it cost us less than we usually spend on our traditional six days we spend in Maryland every year. How is that possible? We opted for a cruise, which allowed us to visit 6 different places in 7 days, with a cruise line that offered us the most value for what we were spending. Comparable trips would have cost us thousands of dollars more if we would have priced out our own accommodations. Be open to different options!

4. Travel during the off-season. You can often get better deals when you plan trips when most other people aren’t likely to be traveling (for example, most people like to flock to warmer weather in the middle of winter, so try for the tail end of it or early spring or summer). Do a little research on the destination you’re looking to visit, and see if any hotel or flight deals are offered to attract guests during the slow business season. Rates are also the most expensive during high-travel times; it’s common for folks to take a week-long summer vacation or an extended weekend during the rest of the year. Hotels generally have lower rates for Sunday – Thursday stays.

5. Spend wisely. I try to be sure that I’m only spending money when it’s necessary. If you’re road-tripping to another state, you’ll obviously need to pay for things like fuel, but that doesn’t mean that you need to grab a cup of coffee or a candy bar every time you stop for it. When we know we’ll be staying in a hotel with a refrigerator, we often pack meals and snacks to eat in our room as opposed to eating out at restaurants. (No fridge? Remember to bring non-perishables!) Cutting back on frivolous expenses allows you to spend your money on necessary or worthwhile things, or even better, come home with it in your bank account!

How do you fit fun into your budget? Will you be traveling anywhere this summer?