A Frugal Spring Break
Spring Break is almost here, but this year's vacation plans might be significantly smaller than in years past. The fluctuating economy and current state of international turmoil has many families wondering how they can stick close to home, yet still have a fun vacation.
The golden rule for saving money on travel is to plan ahead. First, determine how much cash you can realistically spend. Second, create a spending plan. Once that is established, consider one of these family-oriented ideas.
- If the open road is calling your name, consider a local road trip to one of your state's great cities. Keep a travelogue, a photo journal and let the kids take turns being the navigator or DJ. Go somewhere you've always wanted to go.
- History comes alive when you realize it happened in your own backyard. Visit historic sites, such as battlefields, forts and monuments, to uncover often surprising facts about your hometown.
- Explore nearby museums, zoos, gardens and galleries. Many museums and zoos offer free days or evenings; find out what these times are and plan accordingly. Factory tours can be both educational and fun.
- Camping is probably the ultimate bargain, but if you don't have the equipment or the desire to pitch a tent, many parks offer other options such as rental cabins or lodges. State and national parks often offer low- or no-cost amenities including boating, canoeing, horseback riding and hiking. Contact the National Park Service for details and availability.
- For those who really want to get away, search the Internet for last-minute travel bargains. Often package deals are a lower-cost alternative, but be sure you know exactly what is included.
- Lodging can quickly eat into your budget. Look for hotels where kids stay free and rooms that include a kitchenette. If you are traveling with a large family, consider renting a condo or house if your stay will be more than three days.
- Your own home can become a vacation getaway with a little planning and imagination. When vacationing at home you get to sleep in your own bed, there is no packing required and no traffic to contend with. Purchase plenty of easy-to-prepare foods ahead of time; set up a budget for movie rentals; designate "no drive" days, which means Mom and Dad get a break from playing chauffeur; and designate family days when no visitors are allowed.
"This year it is more important than ever to spend some time focusing on the good in your life and your family," says Rudy Cavazos, director of corporate and media relations for Money Management International. "Spring Break is a great time to reconnect while making memories that will be remembered for years to come. However, with any vacation or trip, plan to use cash whenever possible. If credit must be utilized, be sure to pay off all charges within 30 to 60 days after returning from your vacation."