Orin and I are so ecstatic that summer is right around the corner. Well, late spring through early fall is really our favorite time of year. The season brings about all of our favorite things in life. Warm weather, shorts, outdoor adventures, ice cream, and playing at the park with the kids are just a few. However, our absolute favorite is vacation. We don’t get away often (four kids!) so we make the most of it when we can!
In honor of the season of family vacations, I’ve written a few of our favorite ways to save cash when we finally get away.
One of the more expensive parts of a vacation is the food. If you can afford to stay in a place that offers a kitchen or kitchenette, purchasing your food and cooking your meals there will save you a significant amount over eating out. If you can’t find a place that offers a kitchen, your next best bet is coupons and gift certificates. The gift certificate route can be an amazing deal when you purchase them at a significant discount online.
Once you have your vacation planned out, visit restaurant.com and put in your destination. All the local restaurants who are offering gift certificates at a discounted rate will display their current offers! For example, if you’re visiting Duck, North Carolina in the Outer Banks, the Greenside Bar and Grille is offering a $25 gift certificate for $10. This also requires you to make a minimum purchase of $50 at the restaurant but, in our case with a family of six, it is very easy to spend the minimum amount. So, technically, you can get a $50 meal for $35 (including the cost of the gift certificate). That can lead to a significant savings over the course of several meals.
In addition, many restaurants allow kids to eat free on certain days of the week. Working ahead and tracking down those restaurants ahead of time can save you a pretty penny!
Travel at non-peak times
Summer officially begins on June 20th and rates for everything jump by this time. If you want to save on your vacation, consider planning a May or September getaway. September is our usual vacation month because of the significant dropoff in crowds, lodging rates, and fuel prices. Early May will usually yield you similar savings as well. If the location you are traveling to is in a warmer climate, you can take your vacation later than September to possibly save you even more.
Pack a cooler for the road
Whether driving or flying, you can save a fair amount of cash by packing your food for the trip rather than stopping at restaurants along the way or purchasing food on the plane or in the airport. In fact, if you’re driving to your destination and plan ahead, you can integrate stops along the way the make the travel feel more like a part of the vacation. Roadside attractions are abundant throughout the US and a little research will go a long way. With a cooler full of packed food and a few short stop-offs at inexpensive attractions, you can make the drive more fun and memorable. Plus, who would complain about getting out and stretching their legs?
Hotel Loyalty Programs
Since the downturn in the economy, many hotels are cutting back on their rewards programs. Choice Hotels, however, has discounted many of their rewards levels of their Choice Privileges program to bring faster value to their customers. Some of the new features include:
Get to a free night faster. Members can redeem points for free nights at discounted point levels at participating hotels, varying by season. There will be up to 2,000 hotels reduced during either the weekdays or weekend at any time.
Weekday travelers can earn a special reward right when they check in. For each qualifying stay that includes at least 1 weekday night (any night Sun. through Thurs.), the member can earn a special reward of their choice. U.S members have 5 options, varying from Fuel Rewards savings at participating Shell locations to Amazon.com credit. International members have 2 options: 500 bonus points or 100 airline miles from participating airline carriers.
Digital Gift Cards
The first hotel company to offer immediate in-app gift card downloads, Choice Privileges members can receive instant gratification with new digital gift cards. Choose from over 80 of your favorite restaurants and retailers and your gift card will be delivered right to your inbox.
Points for Stays
All 5,500 Choice Hotels now earn 10 points per dollar spent – including economy and extended stay hotels, such as MainStay Suites, Suburban, EconoLodge and Rodeway Inn. It is now easier than ever to qualify since members no longer need to stay two consecutive nights at economy brands. Earn 10 points per dollar for up to four rooms per night for qualifying stays.
Keep Your Points
As long as members stay active by completing a qualifying activity at least once every 18 months, they get to keep their points. However, without a qualifying activity, those unused points will be forfeited. If you take annual vacations, the points expiration shouldn’t be an issue for you.
As always, no matter where you go or what you do for your vacation this year, the most important part is the memories you make. Being smart with your extra cash means being able to maximize your fun and relaxation with the people that matter most to you. Have an amazing vacation filled with memories free from money stress!