Friday, September 2, 2011

Life & Style: Frugal and Fun Vacation Ideas

Our cabin for our honeymoon - booked through,
located in Cheboygan, MI, and paid for with cash!
We also cooked several meals here.
Most people take vacations in the summer, and unless you're traveling to, let's say, Texas or Trinidad, you're very much wasting your money.

And it's your money, so if you want to waste it, go right ahead. But since Jason and I strive to be frugal (and fun!) in all areas of life, we tend to travel in other months. September, in particular, can be a fantastic time to travel - all the kids are back in school, and many lodging facilities lower their rates due to cooler temps.

Travel Tip #1: Pick a destination and research the cheapest time to travel there.

September works out perfectly for both of us, plus we adore fall so it's the perfect time for us to travel. We're traveling to Petoskey in about a week. Traveling with Preston by car is simple. Finding a place that allows animals, let allow cats, is not. But we found an amazing hotel in Petoskey that allows cats! Days Inn - which, by itself is not amazing, but - Days Inn has an in-hotel cafe that has food set out for breakfast... and lunch and dinner! I've never heard of this before. I was gobsmacked.

Travel Tip #2: If you're staying at a hotel, be sure they at least have a continental breakfast. Then, bring bread, jam and peanut butter to make sandwiches for lunch. Pack plenty of snacks (veggies, trail mix, popcorn, fruit are all great options) to accompany lunches and for other times of the day when you're hungry and might be tempted to buy food. If you can, book a cabin (we prefer, then you can cook some dinners too.

I lived in Ypsi for 5+ years and at the time of our move to Fenton, I still had not visited: Ypsi Historical Museum, the Firehouse Museum and several other attractions in and around Ypsi. Staycationing can be super fun if, and only if, you truly act as though you are away from home. Don't sink in normal routines of turning on the telly, doing housework, or other non-fun activities. Be a true tourist in your own town.

Travel Tip #3: Staycation at home! Pitch a tent in your backyard for a night. Visit all the local restaurants to sample wine, desserts, or appetizers. Make a list of all the museums in the area and visit them. Take a walk downtown and pose for silly pics. Make a campfire and look at your silly pics.

Jason and I have been blessed with the good sense to not have any debt (minus my student loans - grr!). One of our key ways of getting and staying this way was to use cash - cold hard cash - for certain times of our lives (during the year or so we paid cash for wedding expenses), or certain regular occurrences (grocery shopping). On our honeymoon, we paid cash for our cabin rental and our parents, as a gracious wedding gift, gifted us with cash specifically for use on our honeymoon. We had a wonderful honeymoon and kept relatively track of our expenses. This time around, we're going even more hard core because God has really lit a fire in us to save for a new car (so we can then save for other things). We've set out a hard budget. We've picked where we're going, what we're doing, where we're eating - then I've researched how much these things cost or how muchish I can expect to spend. I allow a little bit more, then come up with a hard number for our budget.

Travel Tip #4: Pay in cash for your vacation. Research well ahead of time what you want to do/see in the area and remember to plan for meals and gas for the car (or flight tickets/car rental/etc - see travel tip #5 for my advice on these). Once you have your expenses, add them up and vow to only spend that much money. It becomes a fun challenge and it's an incredibly feeling to come home from a vacation, knowing when you head back to work, you're not still working to pay off that vaca.

Speaking of needing flight tickets, did you not read Travel Tip #3? Look, staycationing isn't for everyone. But you know what I can guarantee? That you have not yet visited all the great cities your state has to offer. I know Jason and I have not. We still want to visit Saugatuck (I have been, Jason has not) and Traverse City (we both have been but not together and not since our childhoods). And we have loads of places we want to visit for day trips. Pick a distance you're comfortable driving in the car. Since we have to consider Preston, we're testing this theory next fall when we travel to TN and see if, with breaks, he can handle 14 hours, but if he can't handle that long, we're still going to force him to handle 8 hours with breaks (for those who don't know, Preston adores car rides. He just sleeps - although he has not, at the time of this writing, taken longer than a 4-hour car ride with breaks). If you have children, consider what their driving time threshold may be at, but remember that your kids will do what they're used to. I traveled to Florida and Mississippi by car and didn't think anything of it, and Jason has also done a lot of traveling by car.

Share with us: Where did your family vacation this year or where are you going to vacation? What fun and frugal ideas did you use?

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