Thrifty travel ideas to help you getaway without getting in debt!

Planning a Vacation? Don't Sweat it!

VacationsEvery year I know it’s coming. I anticipate the things I appreciate about summer: the ice cream truck, running through the sprinkler, lazing on the deck, seeking out shady spots at the park and making the pool a priority. It’s dreamy, really. Until I realize there’s one piece – an important-to-my-family piece – that’s missing. And that’s when I find myself sweating planning, and planning to pay for, our summer vacation.

This summer, just like I vowed to do the 30-day squat challenge before swimsuit season, I pledged to find the thriftiest of travel ideas for my family. I scoured the internet, chatted up friends, read my favorite magazines and even closed my eyes and let my mind drift to come up with getaway goals. Here’s where I’m going with this [pun fully intended]:

Places to go, people to see

Road trip! When was the last time you saw friends or family members in 3D? Calling, texting, FaceTime and Skype keep you close – but there’s something to be said about sharing meals, games of tag and simply each other’s company. Get a weekend away on the calendar between ballgames and holidays so you can catch each other, and catch up. No matter who plays host, if you’re a car ride away from family members you miss today, or from new friends who are like a second family, a little gas money will take you a long way when it comes to this vaca.

Park it for the weekend! National Parks and state parks within driving distance offer the perfect opportunity to unplug. Trading wi-fi for fresh air might make your family a little crazy – crazy for fishing, hiking, swimming, kite-flying, laughing…you see where I’m going with this. Factor in s’more comfort food of the great outdoors you can fire up on a stick or in cast iron, and you’ll make memories that rival any theme park for pennies on the dollar, maybe even free with a military ID!


Catch a train! Getting somewhere can be half the fun – and it’s economical and efficient, too. With plenty of wiggle room, you’ll likely hear, “We’re here already?” instead of, “Are we there yet?” from your crew. Pick a destination that’s budget-friendly, too, [see the family and friends idea above] and this trip gives you a lot of bang for your buck. One of the greatest rewards? Not having to pass back juice boxes and make restroom breaks on short notice.

Hit a hot spot off-season! When the weather warms, many head to a cooler destination. By picking a climate that is suitable to the season, you can find yourself paying less money for more fun in the sun. Savings in Scottsdale can climb to close to 70% in the heat of the summer, for example. So do rates just outside of the country. Plans to head south often offer savings that will lower your vacation costs as temperatures rise.

Saving here, there – everywhere

No matter where you walk, ride or fly you can keep more money in your pocket if you keep these points in mind:

  • Use your discounts! Don’t leave home without your Military ID, AAA card, Military Ally membership – anything that will score you savings!
  • Choose mass transit or walking over a taxi – your surroundings are sure to spark a conversation.
  • Check sites like Traveler’s Free Cities Index to find freebies where you’ll be exploring, or download apps like Foursquare to help you find discounts ASAP.
  • Bring your own lunch/snacks/drinks to nosh on when you’re out and about; grab groceries for quick breakfasts before you hit the ground running every morning, too.
  • If your plans include a hotel, make reservations at a family-friendly spot where kids stay and/or eat free. And leave your toiletries at home – shampoo, soap, even toothbrushes can be provided to you.
  • If you can’t leave without a souvenir, choose something you’ll have your hands on at home – decks of cards, fridge magnets even potholders will remind you of your trip every time you USE them!

Remember, wherever you and yours go, when you’re having fun the scenery is all smiles—and the memories? Are priceless…so don’t sweat it.


About the author: Heidi Alger

Heidi Alger is the mother of two low-maintenance, high-energy kids under the age of 10. She offers financial guidance, budget tips and lifestyle advice keeping the challenges of modern military families in line, writing alongside an award-winning team at Pioneer Services. Her grandfather, a CW04, served in the Army Security and National Security Agencies during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Follow Heidi on Google+.

Contact: Heidi Alger


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