What could be better than spending a fun, fall vacation time with my family? Being able to do our fall anniversary travel on a budget, of course!
My family travels to Disney once a year during the fall. My favorite question in the world is “Disney? Again?” Internally, I scream, “Yes, and don’t judge me!” But, externally, I smile politely and give a little nod. While yes, I am personally super obsessed with Disney (I applied for the 2018 Disney Parks Moms Panel this September), vacationing with my family is much more important. And being able to travel on a budget is a fabulously awesome bonus!
The truth is, our annual vacation is the one time that I feel like my nuclear family is whole.
My love language is Quality Time, followed closely by Physical Touch, whereas my husband’s, is Acts of Service, 100%. Thus, my husband works a lot. A LOT A LOT. As a stay-at-home-mom, with a waaaay full-time working husband, we don’t always get the quality family time that I oh-so-badly crave.
Our fall vacation is the one time that my kids and I don’t have to share him with the dogs or extended family or the lawn or his phone or work— it’s just us. That kind of uninterrupted quality time fills my heart and soul. Of course, like all things in life there is a financial aspect to traveling. Whether it’s an SPI stay-cation at La Quinta or Schlitterbahn, a week at Disney, or a fancy cruise in the Mediterranean, there is always a cost. Several people have asked me how we travel on a budget.
These are my top-secret, budget, travel tips. (Shhh… don’t tell anyone.)
TOP-SECRET BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS
Yes, free flights can be done without a credit card. Free is technically a misnomer because even when using points, you still have to pay about $5.60 per flight for government fees and taxes.
Many years ago, I signed up for Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Shopping program. It’s basically an online shopping portal in which you search for an item, click on Southwest’s link, purchase the item for shipping, and earn points. The great thing is that the purchase can be made with any form of payment, it doesn’t have to be credit. When we were doing some kitchen remodeling we bought a new stove and some other items while Home Depot was offering six points per dollar. We instantly earned three “free” ($16.80) flights out of Austin. I know other airlines do programs like this as well, though I have never used them (American Airlines, United Airlines). Of course, signing up for their affiliated cards can get you crazy points, but flights are perfectly attainable without the credit cards.
Most recently, during our move to Los Fresnos, we selected a promotional electricity provider for our new house to receive 27k points; that many points equals about three “free” ($16.80) one-way flights out of Harlingen (or about three round-trip flights out of a bigger airport like Austin, or San Antonio).
Travel on a budget with gift cards! Sam’s Club is your best friend. I buy gift cards from Sam’s (Southwest, Disney, etc…) at a discount. On the surface, a couple dollars seems negligible, but for a much larger sum, that discount could equal extra vacation meals. I typically budget for one small gift card a week, wrapped up into my grocery budget. This way, I can save year-round.
DISCOUNT CODES & COUPONS:
I like to online “window shop”. I price out packages, leave them in my cart, and check back often. Occasionally, the companies will email or snail mail me discount codes; these are the times I strike. Why pay full-price when I can get the exact same product/experience at a discount? Additionally, know your destination: know the difference between off-season and peak-season. You typically get a greater discount during off-seasons.
VIGILANCE & BUDGETING:
This is stating the obvious, but a lot of times people only see an external façade via social media, and they don’t realize that sacrifices are made for attaining the things you want. For several years, my husband and I chose to forfeit cable and internet to put that money elsewhere. We learned how to say no to certain material items and events. The money for fun things does not poof out of nowhere; on the contrary, it’s hard-earned and meticulously budgeted.
For you and your family, vigilance and budgeting may mean giving up a year of cokes, or stashing your change in coffee cans all year. It could mean, eating out less, and depositing the money you would have spent in a savings account. Whatever the means, I just know it will be the right choice for your family.
Regardless of how you budget (or vacation or stay-cation or mom-cation!) I simply want to be your e-cheerleader for that beautiful nuclear family time! GO FAMILY TIME! If you can do it more affordably… then BONUS! GO DISCOUNTS!
I truly hope these travel tips help your family prepare for your next family vacation! Who knows… maybe we’ll see some of our RGV neighbors at the castle next fall!