By Marcella Simmons
Traveling is expensive, and when you’re on a budget, you have to find ways to stay within your spending means. It’s not always easy because there are always fun and exciting things in front of you that is enticing and flattering for you as well as your family. It’s especially hard when you have kids along for the ride.
I know. I travel with kids a lot. It’s almost impossible saying no but sometimes, you just have to.
Sometimes we get into a town and find an unexpected theme park or carnival. The kids have a fit and whine and beg. Saying no is the hardest part. But when you have a budget and going over is taboo – especially if there just isn’t enough funds for the expected, you have to say no and stick with it.
When you have traveled as much as I have, you learn to stay away from toy stores, museum gift shops and expensive candy shops and things such as this. When we travel with the kids and they want to buy souvenirs for friends and family members, we go to Dollar Tree when we reach our destination. They can buy several items for five or six dollars and are able to take souvenirs back with them.
Planning is the key. Research your destination. The Internet gives way to thorough research. Find the free and less expensive places to go first and itemize each one so you’ll know how much you have to spend when you get there. If you have enough left over, go to the places that are a little more expensive. Keep in mind that sometimes the freebies are just as fun as the expensive places. Just have to know before you go.
Stop at a visitor center or chamber of commerce – ask for available discounts and coupons on activities going on while you’re in town. You might get surprised with a handful of free tickets from time to time, or better yet, discount coupons for a variety of fun stuff.
When you’re shopping for rooms, be sure to make sure they have a refrigerator, microwave and a coffee pot – unless you carry your own. You can make coffee, tea and hot chocolate for everyone with the coffee pot. Popcorn, microwavable foods and snacks come in handy between meals – I always stock the ‘frig’ with sandwich meat, hot pockets and pizza rolls. Sausage biscuits and pancakes on a stick are the grandkids favorite snack. The freezer isle at the grocery stores usually carry a variety of microwavable food. Eating out gets expensive so why not eat like you would at home? Remember your budget and stick with it.
A reminder: there are hotel coupon books at truck stops and convenient stores in most places – be sure to browse and if you can, save a few dollars using the coupon available. We usually save about $20 or sometimes more, a night while we are traveling to our destination. If you are a senior, sign up for AARP before you leave home and take
advantage of that 10% off rooms. Tip: dollar stores will give you 10% off some items if you have AARP – ask for assistance in this area. Restaurants honor a 10% discount if you have AARP.
When we are traveling, we like to make sure that the motel where we stay for the night has FREE breakfast. When you have two or three kids along, this will save you about $10 or $15 that morning. Take advantage of the breakfast – it might be a bit early but you are traveling just like everybody else. Getting a free meal for the road not only saves you money but time as well.
When we stop for gas, we DO NOT buy soft drinks, candy or chips at convenient stores. I make sure we have plenty of snacks, especially animal crackers and apples, on hand and the cooler is always stocked while we are on the road. Learn to say no before you stop. Tell the family ‘bathroom break only.’
Setting aside a spending budget is not hard – staying within the budget is. If it’s possible, never carry large amounts of cash. Carry in what you are going to spend and don’t go over that.
These suggestions have been tried and tested many times and they work. I usually take three grandchildren with me on road trips and believe me, spending on odds and ends along the way can get expensive. Through trial and error I found a way to curb the spending and so can you. My money is too hard to make to spend on junk food and expensive souvenirs. I ant to spend my money on things that matter most and still have a wonderful time.
One last tip: if you are a coffee drinker like me, carry a thermos. You can refill it for the price of a refill on a cup of coffee and have several cups to share.
Have a safe trip…