The kids and I were blessed to take an across-country trip field trip last week. We saw so much! We visited Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestowne, Jamestown Settlement, Yorktown, and took a tour of Washington D.C. It was exhausting, but amazing. We even took our neighbor lady/friend along with us. Here are a few ways we saved money on the trip.
- We purchased tickets for Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown during their Homeschooler Experience Days. Upcoming dates are Feb. 11-26 and Sept. 8-23, 2012. Plan ahead! Not only are tickets a fraction of the usual price, but they offer special tours and hands-on activities as well. It doesn’t look like their info flyers are ready yet, but keep checking back. Adult tickets that are normally $45.95 were only $10.50 during Homeschooler Experience Days. Talk about a bargain!
- Airline tickets were purchased well in advance, through Priceline.com. I did a LOT of playing around to get the best price. It made a huge amount of difference what days we left and returned on. In our case we flew out on a Sunday and returned home on a Friday. However, I believe Tues and Wed are typically known to be the lowest price days.
- We all took only carry-on luggage. Checking bags now costs $25-$35 each way and really adds up, especially when you’re talking about a group of five! Since our condo (more on that in a minute) had a washer and dryer, we needed to take only a few changes of clothing. Since you can only take one baggie of sample-size items, I filled a baggie for each of us (my boys didn’t really need a baggie, but they got our overflow) with my accumulation of hotel shampoos, conditioners and lotions.
- If you’ll be traveling by plane, take your own headphones. Why pay $2/each to use theirs? Also, you aren’t able to take water bottles through security, but you can take your own (empty) bottle through and fill in a fountain once you’re past the security checkpoints. You CAN take your own snacks.
- The next thing we did is to rent a time share. I was fortunate enough to be contacted by someone with a timeshare to offer. We stayed at Diamond Resort Powhatan Resort which was absolutely lovely! We rented a two-bedroom condo for only $70/night. Since we were splitting the trip with a friend, this cost us only $35/night. We even managed to make use of the indoor pool and hot tub two nights. (We were so busy we didn’t make it most nights.) I was afraid we’d be hounded to watch a time share presentation, but we weren’t even asked. If you were interested in doing the same type thing, I would suggest scouring Craigslist vacation rentals in the area.
- Since we had a kitchen, we made a grocery stop and spent $100 on groceries. We had more than enough food to cover us for breakfast, lunch and snacks for the five days we were there. We ate breakfast in the condo and then packed a lunch. This had the side benefit of saving us time while touring. We didn’t have to leave a site to find something to eat. We even packed a cooler for our D.C. bus tour, which we ate on the bus. We planned ahead and brought two small, soft-sided coolers along in our luggage. We then splurged and had a nice dinner out, each night.
- We filled travel coffee mugs with coffee or pop before we headed out for the day. (We purchased a nice bag of ground coffee for $5.99 on our grocery trip.)
- Take advantage of discounts! My traveling partner was a senior and had a National Annual Parks Pass, saving us from paying admission to Historic Jamestowne and the Yorktown Battlefield. A pass like this is only $10 for seniors. (If you’ll be traveling with a senior, you might have them get a pass before you leave.) We also used our AAA discounts when we could.
- Don’t forget coupon books! There were lots and lots of coupons in the tourist guides, for everything from meals to souvenirs.Take advantage!
I hope this post gives you some ideas for saving on your next vacation. What are your favorite money-saving travel tips?