The following is a guest post written by Jessica Streit, a broke, single mom who plans to use all of these tips herself this summer to keep her two active boys from uttering the phrase “I’m bored.” She is a blogger, a freelance writer and a staff writer for Free From Broke, a personal finance blog for regular folks.
Summer is fast approaching in my side of the world and that means many things to me. Time by the pool, grilling out, days spent in the sun, picnics in the park, exploring the state around us and vacations!
I can’t wait to experience all of these with my boys this summer but day trips and vacations are expensive. My budget doesn’t allow for much of anything major so I’ve been looking for ways to save on some summer fun.
Stick Close to Home
Some of our most enjoyable days are spent in the parks that surround my city. A quick search on Google pulls up dozens that I didn’t even know existed. I recently found a park, not too far from the big city that is actually a working farm. There are park staff who are dressed in period clothing and conduct their business a la Little House on the Prairie. What a great learning experience for my children.
Our local library isn’t the most creative with children’s activities but there is one that isn’t too far away with an amazing Children’s and Family program. We can find something fun to do there at least once a week. Pair it with a picnic in a nearby park and we have a fun day with each other. Better yet, it’s all free!
Search for local blogs that offer deals on area attractions. One place to start is with a website called Examiner.com. There are freelance writers, like myself who write about events and attractions in your area. You may discover something in your area that you didn’t know was there.
Short Road Trips
Saving money on road trips can be tough with gas prices as high as they are but it is possible if you plan well and do a little research before you leave home.
Keep your trip to somewhere you can get to on just one tank of gas (for an even more budget friendly trip, make it a place you can get to and get back from on one tank of gas). Knowing that you are going to be spending $100 on gas means that you will need to save in other places. Search sites like Kayak.com or Priceline.com for the best hotel deal you can find. Choose one that has a refrigerator and microwave. Pack food from home in a cooler to eat while you are gone. If the hotel offers a breakfast, schedule your day around that. Take snacks, a packed lunch and drinks along with you in the car at all times.
Search for smaller attractions in the area. One way to make this fun is to put a theme around your trip. Pick something that you want to learn about and find attractions that will teach you about it. Museums are a cheaper destination than an amusement park. Look at their websites before leaving to find any deals that may be offered. Don’t forget to ask a staff member at the hotel front desk for any local attractions that you may not know about or discounts that only the hotel has access to.
Vacationing on a budget can be difficult if you do not plan ahead but it is certainly possible. Use the tips that you learned during your short road trips and apply them to a longer vacation as well. You may be away from home for a week or so but there is no reason why you can’t make 1 or 2 meals each day to save on costs.
The earlier you plan ahead, the more money you are going to save. Giving yourself a year to plan a vacation allows for you to search out the very best airline ticket prices or find offers that only come up once a year (I saw somewhere online that Disney World just offered up free passes which I haven’t seen before but wouldn’t know it if I hadn’t been researching a future trip to see the big Mouse himself.). Time also allows you to work a tight budget and save as much money as possible. You also have the time to research some great travel rewards cardsand start working towards the perks that are offered.
Having fun during the summer is possible, even with the smallest of budgets. There is no need to go into debt or give up on the good times. Budgeting in the money for activities and planning ahead are sure fire ways to make this summer most enjoyable.
Crystal’s Comments: We splurge alot on our summer vacation most years, but we are going to cut this year’s down by half or more by attending a Curling Tournament instead of hitting Las Vegas. Our plane tickets, sign up fee, hotel for 2 nights, and extra costs should all stay below $800. That’s still a major vacation for us, but it’s $1200 less than our normal summer.
How do you save money in the summer?
FYI: I worked at a dead end cubicle job from 2005-2011 for about $30,000 a year. I went self-employed in July 2011 and make between $80,000-$100,000 through blogging, a rental home, and professional pet sitting. If you’d like to start your own site (link to my free step-by-step guide), I highly suggest checking out Bluehost (my referral link with a nice discount for you). I even have all of my favorite tools on a resource page - I hope they help you too. This all gives me the time to be with my aging family members, the flexibility to stay close with my friends and family, and it should help if we finally get pregnant too! Please contact me any time at budgetingfunstuff*at*gmail*dot*com with questions or just to brainstorm! I’d love to help!