Last weekend, my wife and I took a weekend getaway for our 11th year anniversary. We left our 2 girls behind with the grandparents and finally took a few days off from life. It’s been quite some time since we have escaped away over night together without any kids and with no plans whatsoever – yes, it was fantastic!
As I was driving back from our weekend getaway I was thinking about how inexpensive the trip was for us. This isn’t always normal for me, because I try to live a frugal lifestyle and then splurge a bit when I travel. I call this “millionaire travel syndrome”, where one lives like a millionaire when they vacation – I’m certainly infected…
But this trip was different. Even though we were gone for a few days, the only money we spent was for food and gas, which brought the final total for the trip only at roughly $250. Not bad for a few days away on vacation.
Below is how we did it. This won’t work for everyone, because it depends on the nature of the trip and the planned activities – but if you’re looking for a inexpensive getaway and don’t want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars, I think these ideas can help…
1. Drive instead of Fly
For many of us, there’s usually a place we enjoy that is only a few hours drive away. This may not be true for everyone, but most of us can think of a place we love to visit, and still get there in a half day’s drive. For my wife and I, this place was Door County, WI. It is only a few hours drive for us, and a couple hours drive from cities like Chicago, IL and Minneapolis, MN. Albeit, we didn’t choose Door County because we could drive there – but because we just love visiting this beautiful location!
But the point I’m hoping to make, is that to save money on a weekend vacation – look to drive instead of flying. It will save you hundreds of dollars and will provide you with some great times to connect as a couple or family – as there is usually nothing more to do while driving then to talk, play a goofy game like pa-diddle, and talk some more…
If you can’t drive, don’t despair. Look to fly a discount airline or use a ‘last minute deal’ from vacation companies like expedia and travelocity. Many times you can get outstanding deals on flights and lodging by purchasing this way, and still get in a cheap getaway.
2. Bring your bikes & play outside
A second item that really saved us some money is that we spent our weekend enjoying the great outdoors. How did we do this exactly? We brought our bikes, swimsuits, and towels and planned a day at Wisconsin’s Peninsula State Park. Peninsula is a beautiful state park with an outstanding bike trail that loops from the entrance of the park to a white sand beach, and then back to the entrance.
We paid the $7 to enter the park and used our bikes, swimsuits, and towels to have an outstanding day in the outdoors. The bike trail runs along the beautiful coast of Lake Michigan for 5 miles and is truly an outstanding experience. After 5 miles, you come to a great beach where many other vacationers are relaxing, playing, and enjoying the sun.
After doing the same, we headed back on the bike trail, stopping by a 150 year old lighthouse to check out the view. After relaxing a bit, we biked back to the car via the trail, enjoying the cool breeze of lake Michigan.
Total cost for the day? Only $7 to enter the park, and $5 for ice cream while at the beach. Pretty cheap for an outstanding day on vacation.
3. Eat 2 meals a day or only 1 meal out
Normally, I enjoy eating. In fact I usually never eat only 2 meals a day, because I’m usually up at 5am every morning and if I only ate 2 meals a day, I would pass out from starvation by the end of the day.
But on vacation, it’s different. I sleep in and eat my breakfast late. Funny thing about this “plan”, is that it was not planned at all. While my wife and I were on vacation, we just naturally slept in as our kids were 200 miles away. (Yes, it was awesome).
What happened is that we ate breakfast late and lunch/dinner at 3 – 4pm. Because both meals were out to eat, we ate well (very well) and were frankly full all night after a late afternoon dinner. I calculated that this saved us a boatload of cash, and we still had outstanding meals eating out.
If you’re not like me and still get up early on vacation, then do the old fashioned thing to save money by ‘brown bagging’ it for lunch. This doesn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy eating out on vacation (which is a big deal for me), you still get this luxury – but you save the money on your earlier meals to spend on eating out.
4. Make use of gift cards, travel rewards, and inexpensive lodging
We were fortunate to enjoy the lodging for our weekend on a gift card given to us a year ago. Yes, this is an easy way to save money on a trip, but hey – I’ll take it.
You may not have a gift card to your favourite place to stay, but you may have travel rewards from your rewards credit card. If you don’t have one – consider getting one. Use it for nothing more than gas and groceries, which you have to buy anyhow, and take the rewards for a vacation getaway.
This is exactly what I do, and because of this I don’t blow my budget – but do get a discounted vacation every year through airline miles or lodging. Yes, using credit cards is risky – but if done prudently can be of great value to you every year in cash back rewards.
Don’t like rewards cards – no problem. Look for inexpensive lodging like camping. Not everyone enjoys camping, but it can be an awesome time together as a family or couple. It’s always inexpensive, and always a great way to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.
5. Budget for it and take cash
By far the best way to save money on a weekend getaway is to budget for it. Plan out your entertainment, meals, travel costs, and lodging. Then save for it. I purposely have a travel savings account that I use for this one objective. I deposit a small amount in there every month, and then I have cash when needed to take a great trip.
The second thing I do is bring that cash for entertainment, meals, etc. In many ways I put myself on “the cash system” when travelling. So when the cash runs out for the day, I know I am going over budget or using money from other days in the vacation. It is a very effective way to budget while travelling and in your normal everyday life – so I highly recommend it.