With work, school, activities and the like, we all need a break. It’s good to take a moment to ourselves and spend some much-needed quality time with our family or friends. Taking a vacation allows you to get refreshed so that you can be a better you. Don’t burn yourself out when you have available days sitting right there for you to use. They are there for a reason, so use them to their full advantage.
I recently learned that 51% of Americans do NOT use all of their vacation days, according to Project: Time Off. This is a statistic that I cannot relate to. I, for one, take all my vacation days and have most of them planned out before the year even begins. But although I have always used my vacation days, that doesn’t mean I always went away on vacation.
To take a vacation means planning, especially if you’re a frugal soul like myself who now knows that you can vacation without breaking the bank. Planning ahead and finding resources that allow you to save money makes for an easy-going trip where you can enjoy yourself and make memories. Did you know that January 30th is National Plan for Vacation Day? I think we all need to commemorate this special day and I am going to share a few tips to help you plan your next vacation.
Where Are You Going?
First things first, we aren’t going anywhere if we don’t know where we are going. So gather your family or friends (whoever your travel companions may be) and start figuring out where you can go that everyone can agree on. I often travel with a friend of mine. Luckily we like 99% of the same stuff, which is why it works out for us to travel with each other. Often we head to a Chick-Fil-A and brainstorm where we want to go. It usually consists of everywhere on the map and then boils down to where we can go and not break the bank.
Now if that were my boyfriend and I, we would really have to put some thought into this. I, for one, am pretty easy-going when it comes to travel (hence the everywhere on the map statement), but he wouldn’t fully enjoy everything that I like. For instance, one time I did a bus tour of New York calledThe Ride – it was so cool and I had a blast. When I told him about it, he seemed less than enthused, so doing something like that with him wouldn’t really make our trip enjoyable for everyone involved. Stumped on where you and your travel companions should go? Check out Alamo Rent A Car’s Family Vacation Toolkit to help you along the way!
Write it Out
I have a book dedicated to travel possibilities. Well, actually a few books. If you know you’re going to travel for a week in the summer, then start by writing down the dates, the place where you want to go and then start figuring out your itinerary from there. Add restaurants and the like, and make the book your go-to travel guide. I’ve planned a lot of trips and if I don’t write an idea down, then I may forget it. So, I suggest to you to write it down, don’t assume you’ll remember. If you want something structured to help with your planning, then you may want to check out tools that will help to plan for your days off.The Power of Planning: Project Time Off is a great tool to get you going!
My #1 thing I do first is figure out how I am going to get there. If flying, start to look at flights to get a ballpark figure of what the cost will be. The sooner you can get your flight the better. I have found some good last-minute flights before, but if this is a planned trip, then I would suggest the sooner the better. If I see that flights are going to be out of my budget, and driving isn’t resourceful for me then I go to the next place that is on my list to see if that works out better for me. If a flight isn’t needed or maybe not an option, then plan out your alternate means of transportation.
Even when flying somewhere, you may need a car rental to explore your destination and any sights in the surrounding area. If that’s the case, I suggest looking into deals that rental companies may have. Currently, Alamo is offering a10% discount on the base rates for weekly rentals reserved now through February 6 and rented between March 1 and August 31, 2018. This will come in handy especially if you’re flying to an area where a vehicle is needed.
Of course an important part of the trip is eating, but it can also be an expensive one if not planned right. If your funds allow you to go all out, then please don’t let me stop you and please let me know when I can join the vacay! 😉 But seriously, the eating while traveling can bust your wallet wide open. We have done the same thing everywhere we have traveled and it has seemed to work for us. If we can find a hotel that fits the budget and offers free breakfast then we are all about that! Regardless of whether we find a hotel that offers free breakfast we always find a store when we arrive to our destination and grab water, a variety bag of chips, nuts, and other small snacks that fit well in backpacks while we are out and about. So, we eat breakfast (if our hotel doesn’t offer it, we buy things to eat that keep well in the room), snack during the day and then eat dinner at a restaurant. This helps us save money and time as we are not stopping to eat every few hours. It isn’t ideal for everyone, but it works very well for us.
Another way that I have saved on eating out in the past was researching the area and seeing what restaurants are there where kids can eat for free, or possibly have a good deal on Groupon. When I was in Denver, a Groupon discount popped up on my email and I was able to get a meal atthis amazing restaurant! I’d suggest reading reviews of the restaurant though—when I was in Tampa I had a Groupon for a pizza restaurant, and when we finally found it (it took a minute because the lights on the sign were out), we saw that it was empty. I took that for a sign (besides the sign about the sign 😉 ), and we decided to go elsewhere.
Finding a place to crash can be equally as expensive. I have yet to use resources likeAirbnb, so I personally can’t give you any insight on those. As far as hotels go, I have found that my best bet is to useHotwire Hot Deals. This can be done in advance if you want to make sure you have your room booked. On a whim in San Diego, my friend and I took a chance and used it. I’d highly suggest not going below a 3.5 star, but preferably a 4 or higher. When booking a room this way, you don’t know which hotel you are getting, but you will know that area, theTripadvisor rating and what the percentage others who have booked previously rated the hotel. I suggest looking for good rating on TripAdvisor and making sure the percentage is 90% or higher. When we were in Las Vegas, we got a HUGE hotel suite for $30. It was great, we were close to the top floor, and felt like we spent a lot of money, but nope. I have only been using it now and had great experiences in Denver and Houston, too.
So, now for some fun stuff. What are you doing while you are on vacation? If you want to sightsee, then plan ahead by researching all the places to see if they are open for a certain period of time, and also plan for getting from one place to another. When I went to Florida a few years ago, my friend and I googled the directions and even printed them out. That way, we knew not only the best route and what order to go to places, but also had the directions in case our GPS or phones went out. I like carrying a hard copy of directions so if you are in a rut, then you’ll be covered. I feel that is especially true when women are traveling alone or with only their children. Better safe than sorry.
If you are looking to explore area attractions, then I always research the place to see if they offer discounts/discount days. You may also want to research terms like ‘Kids Go Free.’ I’ve found a coupon searching that term in the past. I also suggest attraction passes likeCity Pass, as they offer a great discount on area attractions! If you’re planning for a beach trip, hiking or something a little more low-key, then make sure to make a list of things you’ll need to bring. Going to a beach town and purchasing items that you need for the beach can get very expensive.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and explore. I challenge you to take a vacation this year! I hope my tips that I’ve learned through my experiences will help you plan your next vacation. If you want additional travel inspiration, then check out thesegreat tips and guides found on Alamo Rent A Car’s Scenic Route homepage!