5 Alternatives To Summer Travel That End Up Costing You More

By Linsey Knerl | August 19, 2011 AAA
5 Alternatives To Summer Travel That End Up Costing You More

Whether you stick to a 20-mile radius to your house or just stay completely in your home, the idea of a staycation has appealed to frugal people over the past few years. Many have found that the careful engineering of an official vacation can help enforce a spending discipline that many staycationers lack when throwing together a loose plan for a homebound retreat. Here are the most common areas where spending can quickly spiral out of control. (Are you planning to fly on your next vacation? Break through the clouds to see if these stocks will rocket higher. See Is That Airline Ready For Lift-Off?)

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Home Cooking
When you consider that eating out at restaurants makes up a substantial amount of a vacation budget, it makes sense to want to save some cash by cooking at home during your staycation. Unfortunately, it can often be difficult for some to create vivid flavor experiences in their kitchens and remain within a reasonable price range. Some of the gourmet items that you crave on vacation could be purchased for $15-20 per plate at a restaurant, but may be near impossible to acquire reasonably from a local grocer and prepared in small quantities for just one or two people at home.

Save When Dining
If you find fresh seafood, steaks or ethnic cuisine to be too pricey to prepare at home, you can look for ways to shave significant amounts off the bill at your local restaurant. Visit 8Coupons.com to see what special offers are being sold for dining establishments in your area.

Camping
Even if you rough it with a tent spot for just a few nights, the fees for most modern campgrounds run anywhere between $15 and $30 per night. When you add in the cost of bringing all your own toiletries, dishes, drinking water and toilet paper, you may be looking at amenities that fall below the offerings of a low-rent hotel at just $50-60 a night. Many find that the security of staying within a building with air-conditioning, continental breakfast and hot showers gives even pricier motels the unfair advantage.

Camp Site Deals
It may be possible to make an advanced reservation for a small cabin with appliances and A/C for around the same price as a last-minute tent site. Avoid holidays and weekends to get the best deals, and see if your credit cards or AAA membership can help bring the price down even further.

Cheap Entertainment
In theory, keeping close to home by visiting dollar movie theaters and your local museum is the perfect way to save some cash over extravagant cruises and theme park admission. There are still plenty of opportunities to overspend with a staycation. Take into account things like parking fees, fuel costs, concessions and other last-minute add-ons. If you find that the total cost for that day of free fun is staggering, you may want to skip it entirely.

Staycation Savings Strategy
Overspending occurs without proper information and planning. Be sure to visit the website of the attraction you will be visiting near your home. Is there a discount for early mornings? Are kids free? If so, what ages are considered a child? By getting all of the facts up-front, you can decide if that frugal outing is really something you can afford.

Vacation Co-op
In theory, it's possible for several families to throw together funds towards the cost of a vacation and then split the benefits as the summer goes on. Much like a timeshare, everyone can take turns using just one or two days of a week-long cabin rental. Since many of the best accommodations require a minimum length stay, this can help cash-strapped families get a brief stay at a nice destination without completely blowing the budget.

This method can be more costly if you aren't completely trusting of the other family. Cash deposits can be lost when damage occurs to a property and families who cancel at the last minute can leave the other parties stranded without funds. (With a few simple policy additions you can protect your holiday plans from being ruined. Check out The Advantages Of Vacation Insurance.)

Group Deals
Be wary of how you split the benefits of group vacation purchases. Large families should be expected to pay more than smaller ones, and young children who would stay free shouldn't be counted towards the cost. Be sure to factor in other expenses that may bloat one family's share over another such as pet fees. Discuss all the variables ahead of time and honestly assess how the costs should be split.

Tackling Projects
It is just so tempting to skip the vacation altogether and take time off to get things done around the house. While it may feel good to take off 10 paid days of work to paint the house or finish a looming patio plan, it may leave you feeling less than satisfied. Most people take vacations to experience new things, forget about their daily stressors and enjoy a breather from their regular home life. Some may find that after their project week is done, they still need an official vacation, which causes them to have to take off even more precious days of work to feel refreshed.

Find Balance
No one said it had to be all or nothing. If you must use your vacation to work at home, use just the first part of your time off for projects and take the rest off for true relaxation. You'll feel good knowing you got something done, but you'll also benefit from the more traditional vacation experience without having to take extra time off.

The Bottom Line
Before you dismiss a traditional vacation as too expensive for your current financial situation, look at what you desire in a getaway. Is it the change in scenery? Do you want to sleep in? Do you want to reconnect with family? Chances are good that you can still plan a retreat near your home for less money, just as long as you include those priorities that make a vacation truly enjoyable.

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