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Friday, May 28, 2010

Thrifty Summer Travel Tips

from: Jen at www.thriftynorthwestmom.com
Facebook Fan Page: Facebook.com/ThriftyNWMom
Twitter: Twitter.com/ThriftyNW Mom

Here are some "thrifty" summer travel tips - whether you're taking a week-long vacation this summer, doing a "staycation" around your area, or just going on several day excursions throughout the summer.

Do Your Research - Start planning as soon as you can, whether it be for a short weekend trip or a week-long trip. The sooner you start planning, the more opportunities you'll find for discounts.

1. Resources to use when researching the city or area you'll be visiting

  • Chamber of Commerce - Visit their website or call the Chamber of Commerce directly
  • Convention & Visitor Bureau's website (just google "Dallas Convention & Visitor's Bureau" for example). Great resource for general information, kid-friendly activities, coupons/deals & more
  • Facebook Pages - Try the "Discover" pages. Ex: Discover Atlanta, Discover New York; or "365 Things to do in Seattle" (or you name the town). You'll find not only the popular sights to see, but also readers will provide their favorite off-the-beaten path places to visit.

2. Make list of top places to visit

  • Wish List - Once you've done your research, then come up with your wish list of sights to see, sporting events, restaurants, parks, beaches, etc
  • Make this a family affair - get your kids involved in the planning & deciding what they'd like to do on vacation.

3. Look for Discounts

  • Buy an Entertainment Book - Currently $15 with FREE shipping. You'll find discounts for hotel, car rental, airlines, Buy 1 Get 1 Free coupons for restaurants, sporting events, museums/children's museums, zoos, aquariums, science centers
  • CityPass.com - They offer 5-6 top sightseeing sights in a package deal which is up to 50% off admission prices. Valid for 9 days (14 days in Southern CA). Decide whether this would be a good deal for your family or not - how many of the places were you wanting to go to? Or is it a better deal to look for individual discounts?
  • Websites - Check out the specific websites for the attractions, sporting events, museums, hotels, & more. May have web-only specialsorspecial discount/free days (ex: Museums often offer a FREE day 1 day or night/month. Also, sign up for E-Newsletters to be notified of special promotions, discounts & more.
  • Follow the businesses/attractions on Facebook & Twitter - often post one-day deals or specials for their fans
  • Sign up for the daily emails for group-buying sites . These sites offer 1 Day deals with 50-90% off discounts for restaurants, sightseeing tours, memberships to zoos, aquariums, hotel discounts & more
  • Here are a few of the top group buying sites:
  • Tippr
  • Groupon
  • Living Social
  • Reciprocal Membership Programs at museums, zoos, science centers - If you have an annual membership to your local museum, zoo,science center - check to see if they are part of a Reciprocal Membership program where you can get FREE admission to zoos, aquariums & more around the country. Go on the website or call them to find out.
  • Military Discounts - Blue Star Museum Program - Free admission for active-duty military & their families to over 600 museums nationwide this summer (Memorial Day-Labor Day 2010); Also, make sure to ask about military discounts anywhere you go.
  • National Park Pass - America the Beautiful annual pass - $80 for up to 4 adults & kids 16 & under are free. Good deal if you'll be going to a number of parks throughout this year.

Free / Inexpensive Places to go with your Kids on Vacation:

  • Find out about local festivals & fairs - free entertainment, lots of food options, games/activities for kids
  • City, County or State Parks - Find ones near rivers, lakes, ocean beaches. Check for free events going on while you're there - nature walks, guided hikes, etc
  • Family-friendly hikes - Check with your Chamber of Commerce or the National Park or National Forest offices
  • Go to the waterfront, beach, walking the boardwalk

Ways to Save Money on Food:

Save $$ on food to save up for a few special meals or put the money you save towards more fun attractions & events!

  1. Cooler in the car - Bring a big cooler if traveling by car. Pack a portable backpack cooler or get a styrofoam cooler if traveling by air to your destination. Bring lunch meat, peanut butter & jelly, bread, cheese sticks, fruit, juice boxes. Don't forget wipes & napkins!
  2. Water - Bring packs of water for road trips (cheaper than stopping at convenience stores). Or bring reusable water bottles by car or air & fill up throughout the day
  3. Stop at rest stops versus convenience stores - means less impulse-buying!
  4. Choose hotels with free breakfast or eat breakfast in your room. Bring cereal & buy milk at the store-use with paper cups. Or bring instant oatmeal & use the coffee pot for water.
  5. Switch & have sandwiches for a picnic dinner at the park - then make lunch your bigger meal out (less expensive than dinner)

Ways to Save Money on Lodging:

  1. Use travel sites such as Travelocity, Hotwire, Kayak, & Priceline
  2. Hotel Website - Go to the specific hotel's website & look for web-only special & sign up for their newsletter. Also, follow on Facebook & Twitter
  3. Ebates & Shop At Home - Book your hotel (& airfare) thru Ebates or Shop At Home to get cash-back on your purchases
  4. Camp to save the most money on lodging & food
  • KOA campgrounds - tent & RV camping, cabins, lodges. Often offer pools, playgrounds, planned activities for kids. Check out the the KOA website under the "Hot Deals" section. And consider the Rewards card for $24/yr - earn points towards free stays.
  • County, State or National Park campgrounds

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