Saturday, March 12, 2016

Thifty Travel Tips


Spring break. Growing up we NEVER went anywhere. Which was hard because all our friends did. My birthday was over spring break and on years that I was suppose to get a have a birthday party I never had any friends in town who could come. I would have loved to have done something fantastically fun this year, but was was not in the budget. However, we did manage to drive to Phoenix for an overnight to see my parents, siblings, and get more bread (see previous posts to learn about my awesome bread I get). All that has prompted this post.
On the road tips for doing it thrify (especially with kids)
1- Rest stop breaks: We all need to get out and stretch every so long. If you are traveling by car it has to happen at some point and if you are trying to so a trip on the thrift chances are you are traveling by car. Since 99% of us have smart phones (that is not a real statistic but since you are bothering to read a blog I can only assume you're tech savey enough to have a smart phone) to a search on upcoming towns for parks. If you are a planner or don't use roaming data you can pre-plan and do the research before you get on road. We also search for fast food places with play areas. If we are doing a long trip we normally will eat one packed meal and then one from somewhere on the road. Other places to look for taking a wiggle break: public libraries (finding story time hours was a great idea I saw on another blog), historically sites, public schools playgrounds (when school is not in session), actual rest stops (once driving through Texas we learned that there are stops with build in play grounds and bathrooms).

We avoid fast food play areas or gas stations when we are not already planning on getting food or gas to prevent expensive or extra purchases.
2- planning ahead: calculate your miles, drive times, when you will reach place x,y,&z. Know about when you'll need gas, will want to eat, will need a break. You can save yourself a ton of money by know when and what is ahead.
3- Costco is awesome. They are often located not far off of freeways and interstates It not only privides space to walk around, but it has clean bathrooms, normally the cheapest gas prices you'll get in that area, and when it is time for a meal you can do pizza or hot dogs for cheap. Not to forget the $1.50 for hot dog and drink (with refills- even a refill for the road) is going to be the same price at EVERY Costco. Knowing the exact cost before hand is super. Also if you're a family that craves the sweet treats you can get the softserve for cheaper than most fav travel stops. Plus there are tables to eat at. One last point is if you need on the road snack foods Costco has great bulk prices and quality (cheapest organic snacks out there if that is what you're looking for). Knowing where the Costcos are before hand or using your phone can be a smart move- if you already have a card it is just one more way to get your money worth out of your membership. Warning- not saving money if you fall victim to buying extra stuff. If you can't be trusted either don't let yourself leave the food court or don't go to Costco.
4- Gas. The price per gallon can vary wildly from town to town and even exit to exit. There are websites out there that use big data to show you the trends of what areas have the cheapest and most expensive gas along your routes. There are also phone aps out there, they can work fine, but are limited by their user numbers and may not have much data on your location. If you know where the trends are before hand you can make smart choices that save you (ie filling up at this stop instead of getting stuck paying the most expensive gas in that state because it is your only option).
5- Bring snacks and premade meals. This takes an "expert level" planner. Mostly because, depending on the meals, cannot be prepared too early from departure and I often run out of time before the leaving deadline to make something. As a last resort I have been know to pack a loaf of bread, peanut better jar, knife, and honey bear. If you can manage to prepare it is the thrifty way.
6- Food. So you're not on "expert level" there are still ways to do food thrifty. Besides Costco, there are lots of other places with good priced food. Get in the habit of looking for grocery stores. Most have premade lunches that are healthier than fast food and are often cheaper options. Add that to the opportunity to buy a whole gallon/liter of juice, water, or soda for the price of one person's personal drink. Another consideration is picking up treats. My dad use to promise us Popsicles at the next gas break if we were quiet in the car. Before getting our finances under control we use to bribe our kids with DQ. Now we'll stop at a grocery store and buy a box of Popsicles (or whatever is on sale).  Some place else to consider is ordering pizza. If you have a large group pizza can be quick and cheap. That doesn't mean you are limited to quickest and cheapest pizza. With the invention of cell phones we can call ahead put in our order to be ready just in time to pick it up and be on your way.
6- RedBox: Yes the really thrifty thing to do is to bring movies with you or have them preloaded on the phone or tablet. But on long trips something new is what is needed. Subscribe to their email list. They will send you coupons all the time. Before a trip I make sure to check my inbox or ap to see if I have any coupons. Trips is about the only time we use their service, but I am so grateful. Since you can return it to any location you can rent it in one state and return it the next day two states away.
There are two ways of looking at it. You can either be my parents who bring the tent along as back-up, and then try to see if they can get a last minute deal while standing in a hotel lobby (my dad was of the opinion that having a warm paying body standing in the lobby was more incentive to give his best deal over the phone or the internet) or option two plan ahead, book ahead.
Not going to make a huge list of places to try looking for good deals. But I wanted to mention AirBnB. Depending on what you're looking for you might find your best deal booking this option might be what you're looking for. Best advice is to not get stuck into any one way of searching or booking. Be open to new options. Yes loyalty is comfortable, but if you're looking to be your thriftiness, you may find that in one area it is not the best deal when that way is the best somewhere else. Also if you can be flexible consider it. Example, there may be a convention one weekend that is driving up all the prices while if you can put it off a week you can find a much better deal.
Also we often drive all night to avoid the extra hotel night. We get there faster, kids get less driving fatigue since they were asleep, less traffic to get frusterated at, all with the added benefit that you saved the money on the hotel. Just stay safe. Trade drivers often or pull over and take a power nap.
Sometimes you can't avoid the need to fly. There are lots of reasons. When trying to do it thrifty many of the same ideas can apply- bring your meals and snacks. We bring empty water bottles and once through security we fill them up. Be prepared. Think through sceneries, and decide before hand what you can live without if it won't fit in your bag or forget. Buying replacement phone chargers and the like is where you're going to waste the most money. Also by searching online you can learn what food options are in each airport and you can know where you want to get your food while on that layover.

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