Recently we returned home from vacationing in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Although I love our little town, part of me wishes I could stay near the Smoky Mountains forever. Who wants to move with me? I can already picture our new life. I would own a cute little cabin overlooking the mountains for starters. During the daytime I would take long adventures like hiking, picnics with the kids, and maybe a bit of swimming. However, at night you would probably find me relaxing in the Jacuzzi conveniently located on my back porch. Soon enough we will be planning our next visit but for now a girl can dream, right?
As much as I wish we could take vacations every few months, unfortunately for us and many others it does not fit the budget. The gas it takes for driving is enough to put a damper on cost, but also factor in food, hotel/cabin rentals, shopping, and attractions. It adds up even if you don’t think it will. What I have figured out over the years though is that you don’t need to break the bank to take a vacation. They are meant to be fun, relaxing, and also stress free! Its not either of those things if you are constantly worried about money. As much as I love getting out with the family I had to find a way to do so without putting us into major debt. I decided to put together a list of my top 5 tips for taking a budget friendly vacation.
Tip #1 Do not overspend
This one should be self explanatory. Don’t plan a $2000 vacation if you only have $200 to spend. You may have a bit of fun swiping that credit card countless times but it come back to bite. Instead, plan around what you DO have to spend or if you really have your heart set on that trip to Hawaii save your money!
tip #2 skip the shopping centers
I love to go shopping as much as the next typical female but while on vacation I like to stay as far away from malls, vendors, and anything else of the sort. You will go in to “just look” and come out with 10 Gatlinburg t-shirts. (yes, Mom I’m talking to you!)
tip #3 things to do for free
Most popular vacation areas are full of tourist attractions. They are fun but can be very pricey! It is not usually too difficult though to find low cost and even free things to do. Look around the area for playgrounds and nature trails. Have a nice picnic and enjoy the beauty of nature. My kids had such a good time at Mt Ton of Fun playground in Sevierville and it was 100% free! You can often find coupons for things to do online and booklets around the area you area you are staying. As much as I hate these, if you really want to save money on attractions attending time shares are a good way to get the price knocked off. Just be sure not to give in to the time shares or your budget friendly vacation just went out the door!
tip #4 choose wisely where you stay
Whether it is a hotel, cabin, condo, or campsite they all come with costs. For many people this is the most expensive part of vacation. It can be done on a budget though. Search the web on places you are interested and compare prices, must have amenities, and of course great reviews too! If you are traveling with a group of people it may be a good idea to split the cost of a cabin. On the other end if its just a small family a low cost hotel may be a better option. If you plan on relaxing in bed and not getting out much you may be more interested in a place with more amenities such as a nice view, small kitchen, pool etc. However, if you are more like me and prefer adventures save your money for gas and skip the fancy stay. There are SO many options.
tip #5 Forget the fine dining
I’ll be the first to say that food is one of my favorite things but it can be hard on the wallet. Who wants to eat McDonalds not stop during vacation though? Definitly not us! I’m not saying you can’t eat at a nice restaurant or two but be diligent on what you purchase. Just because you go to a 5 course restaurant does not mean you have to order all 5 course meals. What I like to do is pick 1-2 popular restaurants in the area to eat if we are only staying a couple of nights. I am not a big breakfast type of girl so I’ll typically eat oatmeal in the mornings. For lunch packing a few sandwiches and chips is a great idea and having a little picnic. If picnics aren’t your thing stop by a fast food restaurant you have never tried before. Save the nicer restaurants for dinner time.