Hello fellow travelers and wander-lusters! I have wanted to write a post on affordable travel for quite sometime, but wasn’t sure how to approach it. Let’s face it, talking about money and how to spend it can be a bit awkward, well, it is for me anyway. I’m going to be completely honest and as transparent as possible. You may or may not be able to use my “travel affording tips” as we all are different and have different life circumstances. I learn the most by example and with the use of imagery. So that being said, let me break down my last travel plans and budget for you.
I was planning a trip for my daughter’s birthday and already knew Disney was an option because we didn’t have the expense of tickets (I’ll link the post to explain why, later in this post). I knew a big part of what we were going to do was taken care of. Next, I just needed to figure out how to afford accommodations. When I booked my last hotel stay with Hilton (which was free, I’ll get to that a little later), they offered me a 4 day, 3 night stay in either Orlando or Las Vegas for $111.38. The catch was my husband and I had to sit through a two-hour long vacation package offer (aka “time share”). I understand some of you wouldn’t want to be bothered with any such thing, but it was well worth our time. I actually had to upgrade to their Parc Soleil Hilton Grand Vacation location because it was President’s Day and Valentine’s Day weekend and all of the basic accommodations were booked up. So, we were charged an upgrade fee. We stayed in a one bedroom suite complete with full kitchen and my favorite, a soaker tub, at an amazing resort that would have normally cost us around $1,200, but we only spent a total of $222.76. Did I mention the four story slide? It was the highlight for my ten year old…apparently, at that age, it’s all about the slide;-)
Travel Tip 1: Consider joining a hotel club like Hilton Honors or others. I have saved hundreds, if not thousands of dollars by accruing points and taking advantage of offers from programs like this one.
Travel Tip 2: For last minute accommodations, try sites like Priceline.com or Hotels.com to see if you can snag a nice hotel for a fraction of the price. I also like to check out Airbnb to find better accommodation rates and get a more local experience. Click on the following link to get a $20 credit and to give me one as well…Airbnb credit!
Next, I knew even though we had free Disney tickets, I had to budget for expenses inside the park…food and parking (really, Disney, you charge for parking? *eyes widen with a disapproving glare*). Food for the rest of the trip and gas money also had to be factored into our budget.
Travel Tip 3: Book accommodations that have kitchen facilities. Even just a mini fridge and microwave can save you money by doing a little grocery shopping or bringing those restaurant leftovers back with you.
Travel Tip 4: Buy water and healthy snacks to bring with you on road trips. It not only saves you money, it also helps you make better choices;-) I like to bring lots of fruit!
Lastly, for this particular trip, I knew we wanted to take our kids to Miami to see where they were going to call home soon! If you missed it and want to learn why we are moving to Miami, read about it in this post…my move to Miami! That meant, I not only had to budget for Orlando, I had to budget for Miami as well. So, I booked another hotel with Hilton using their cash and points offer, which cost us another $56 and 20,000 points. More food and gas money…okay, let’s break it down shall we?
4 Nights Accommodations $278.76
(3 nights at Parc Soleil Orlando $222.76, 1 night at Embassy Suites Miami $56)
Total Food Cost $374
(This includes our splurge at the “Be Our Guest” restaurant at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, which happened to also be our Valentine’s gifts and the birthday girl’s highlight and dream come true.)
Disney Tickets Free
(read about it here…free Disney tickets, it’s probably not what you think.)
Total Gas about $75
(We filled up about 5 times at around $15 per time, gas is cheap right now and we have a Toyota Corolla)
Souvenirs for the kids $30
(We paid for half of their souvenirs. Having them buy some or all of their purchases, helps them to learn how to save and to gain a better understanding of the value of a dollar. It also lets us, as parents, see how much they actually want the item;-)
Grand Total $757.76 for a 5 day, 4 night Disney/Orlando/Miami vacation
Okay, this is where it gets exciting for me! While we were on our trip, we listed our home on Airbnb and received almost $400 for hosting!! Read about how I started hosting on Airbnb here… My experience with Airbnb hosting part 1, part 2
So, if you subtract that amount from our grand total, it brings our total cost down to $357.76. I also would like to add that I usually budget $100 for my kid’s birthdays and we have a weekly grocery budget. If I also subtract $100 for groceries (since it wasn’t a full week) and $100 for the birthday girl, that brings the cost to $157.76 after what we normally budget. Not bad, right?! Even if you take out the Disney trip because you don’t have access to free tickets, you could still have a pretty nice Florida vacation (or somewhere drivable) by getting creative and having a little imagination. Don’t let the cost of travel be an excuse to not travel! Now this example is one of my finer “travel hack” moments. But I have plenty more stories explaining how I planned well and was able to afford travel when my bank account screamed, “stay home” but I said, “Oh, you just watch me”.*insert sassy voice here* My other travel advice would be to stay with friends and family if you can, avoid high seasons to save, look for cheep airline tickets way in advance or even better have a family member work at an airline, like I do (thank you, dad). You have heard of others, I’m sure…stop eating out, less Starbucks, watch movies at home, etc. If you want to travel, stop making excuses and TRAVEL!
Happy dreaming traveling, friends! Please leave a comment below if you have any affordable travel tips to share:-)