Frugal ’13: Vacation on a dime

Vacationing can be a time when debt is amassed and we find ourselves wanting to have things ‘just so’ no matter what the cost. I found that to be true for me as well. Thankfully, I had examples in my life that taught me that having fun on vacation does not have to break the bank or max out a credit card. If the dream vacation was your budgeting/saving success, then please be sure to enjoy your hard work!
One of the ‘vacation on a dime’ examples from my life is Rachel. I met Rachel in seminary and even on that tight budget life, she was able to get her family to vacation well and regularly. This is very impressive when living on rice and beans 😉 All the italics are my 2 cents.
 photo IMG_1684.jpgI was asked by Kay to write a guest post on vacationing on a budget. We are a larger family (4 children) where I am a stay at home homeschooling mom while hubby is the bread winner. Needless to say, saving for a big vacation is a little tricky. With that said, we LOVE and I mean LOVE to travel. I am the most happy when I am planning the next trip. Seriously I really enjoy planning a vacation, long weekend, etc. I research, plan, and make lists.


Trust me when I say that I prefer to be spontaneous and just drive off for a weekend. However, vacationing with a budget requires pre-planning and saving.
To begin with, one of the ways we save up money for our big vacation of the year is to ask for money or gift cards for Christmas.

    • Our children have more than enough toys, and we would all enjoy a vacation instead of “more stuff.” For the last few years we have begged and pleaded with our parents to please not buy so much junk for me to try and find a spot for. Our home is already packed to the max. 


  • This is the second year that all of our hotel expense at Disney will be paid for by Christmas money. It truly does enable us to be able to have a nice family vacation. This year even an aunt/uncle sent gift cards to us all instead of gift buying. I feel it is totally acceptable to send an email request out a couple of months prior to Christmas to let family know your request and why. My sister in law and her family did the same thing this past Christmas and instead of toys we sent Disney gift cards for her children to use for spending money. 



  • I also have an Amazon credit card so that I can accumulate points. I put larger purchases on this and then pay it off to avoid paying interest (make the necessities work for you). 



  • This Christmas I had saved all my points and redeemed them towards my Christmas gift purchase for our children. The year prior I saved my points up and then requested the money on a gift card and we used it on our vacation. Same concept as one of my budgeting tips from last week.



  • We also bring lots of food when we are traveling. We enjoy having some meals in, especially if we are at the beach! It saves money and it’s much easier than dragging all the kiddos out multiple times a day. We usually have breakfast and lunch in, and have dinner out. 



    • Another tip for traveling (especially with several children) is packing some sleeping bags for the floor if there aren’t enough beds to go around in the hotel.


  • Our youngest 2 don’t mind it at all. It sure saves you money, especially if you are only stopping for the night. We just park at the opposite end of the reception desk and haul our crew in. 



  • We also try to take advantage of the lowest possible rate. Sometimes this means the rate is non refundable. If we are 100% sure of dates then we go for it. We just got home from a trip to Colorado and we got a nice room for $60 with breakfast. It was a non refundable rate. If the hotel doesn’t offer a breakfast, I pack us some quick breakfast foods for our room. (breakfast bars, juice boxes, muffins, fruit)



  • We joined Choicehotels and with that membership we have earned points with one vacation to pay for free lodging the next! Pay attention to their deals, they often offer double points for booking your reservations during deal time.



  • A great place to look for vacation rental deals is VRBO. Here, vacation rental property owners will also offer deals. These homes may seem higher at first, till you factor in a fully stocked kitchen where you can make travel friendly meals for your family at a fraction of the cost of eating out.


Visiting Florida

If anyone is interested and loves the Florida panhandle, our favorite rental company is Sea Oats Rentals. We try to make it there a couple of times a year. The trick to being able to do this is to travel off season. We spent Thanksgiving there this past year and had absolutely beautiful weather. The children roll up their jeans and spend hours in the sand, if it is a little chilly for shorts. This company has a hotel (not fancy but clean and safe) and also some rental properties next door. We love their duplexes. (think RIGHT on the sand!!)

Visiting Disney

Another place our family enjoys is DisneyWorld. Who doesn’t, right? But, no really…our 16 year old is obsessed.

    • We take advantage of the deals they offer to military families. Shades of Green is a military resort right on the Disney property and they offer a 4 day ticket with park hopper. We have done this 4 years in a row now. It is a great deal and saves you over half for every person. We stayed there for the first time last year and we were really impressed. The rooms are huge with 2 beds and also a single convertible bed. 


  • If you aren’t military, we enjoy the value resorts also. I’m far too cheap to pay more for the more expensive resorts when we are only in our room to sleep. If you are wanting to take advantage of the dining plan, you can not have more than 4 people in a room at a value resort. If not, bring the sleeping bag!! You must do your homework to see what is the most economical option for your needs and family



  • They offer “room only” discounts for military at Disney owned properties. We enjoyed Pop Century the best out of the value resorts. However, there is a new one called “Art of Animation” that we might try next. 



  • For our larger family we can not cram in a value resort room and also take advantage of the dining plan. But, if you are traveling with maybe other family members that are under their 4 per room, you can add your extra children onto their plan. My parents might be traveling with us to Disney in December and this is what we might do. We might stay at a value resort and have 2 of our children on their dining plan and then I will just pay them the difference. 



  • We went round and round trying to decide about the dining plan…to do it or not to do it, that is the question. After trying both ways…dining plan verses not being on the dining plan, we have decided we really enjoy the dining plan. It includes 1 sit down meal (character meal or nicer restaurant), 1 counter service (quick dining), and 1 snack every day. As you can see, it only includes 2 meals and not 3. We find that it saves us time in the morning to eat in our room anyway. This way when we reach the park we aren’t searching for breakfast food, we are ready to start riding! 



  • I bring breakfast bars, fruit, and juice pouches. I have also discovered a grocery here that carries the high pasteurized milk on the shelf (I believe it’s Borden’s). I’ve been bringing these so the kiddos can have milk also. Disney also allows you to bring food into the park. If you aren’t taking advantage of the dining plan, you can pack some sandwiches for lunch and use a table at one of the counter service areas. You could also bring those frozen “Uncrustables” that are ready to go and perfect for the younger children. 


When starting out your Disney planning hop over to Mouse Savers and join their email list. They send out emails with local hotel specials, stroller rental recommendation, and all sorts of great tips. If staying on the property is not important to your family, then this is the site for you! They are always offering codes for great rates at near by hotels. Happy Disney planning!!

You can read more from Rachel on her blog: Nasha Pryhoda

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