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Planning a Trip on a Budget: It “Always” Happens

Planning a Trip on a Budget: It “Always” Happens
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Planning a Trip on a Budget is so "Easy"

Is there a perfect way to plan a family vacation? Yes? Well, crap. I’ve been doing it all wrong then, learning as I go and feeling like a complete failure. Please feel free to interchange “failure” with any expletive that I would’ve expressed had I not had any sensibilities about using that kind of language on here. I know – I’m a prude, sometimes. Let’s say our time as parents has allowed a learning curve to take place when the thought of vacations happen. The simplest of things will amplify our desires to take a trip on a budget.

So, where was I? Oh, right, feeling like an idiot when it comes to putting together a vacation. Don’t worry – I’m sure I’m not the only one. [*sounds of crickets*] Really? Anyway, it’s safe to say that planning a vacation isn’t easy. It’s fun and I love researching places all over the place. But, we do learn things as we go. It all started a couple of summers ago when we visited Colonial Williamsburg. We had such high hopes for bringing food or grocery shopping for our hotel kitchen. We did grocery shop and we did buy some essentials, but our plans shortly went out the window. The small jar of peanut butter, bag of bagels, and whatever other items we bought became an afterthought. We didn’t plan as well as we could have.

When the Light Bulb Clicks On

Then, last summer it all changed. We planned a surprise beach trip for our kids to Ocean City, Maryland. Our food game was on point. We brought all of our breakfast and lunches for our three-day trip. Plus, we stayed at a hotel that provided a food voucher. This means our only time out was to find dinner after a massive rain that caused flooding. Yes, we literally carried our kids through partially flooded parking lots after the rain stopped. We were in a souvenir shop, literally across the street from our hotel. It was raining forever, and we were stuck in this shop for at least an hour and a half. The street, our avenue back to our hotel, was blocked by flooding. It was scary to a degree. Rain was leaking through the shop’s roof, while water was coming in underneath the door’s entrance.

Once the rain stopped, it was like a break in the cloud and the sun shined (semi)brightly. It was close to dinner time, so we had to make a choice. Do we try to cross the street that’s still clearly flooded? Or do we walk up through the parking lots to feed our kids? We did opt to get our shoes wet and head to a restaurant we’d picked out already. Needless to say, we would not have made this walk if it was still raining and it was in any way a danger to our kids. We felt like getting our shoes soaked, and clear skies on the radar, was a good indicator that our short walk would be okay.

Food Prep is Essential for Your Budget

At the end of our trip to Ocean City, we realized how little we spent on food. We prepped Pop Tarts, granola, and yogurt for breakfasts. Plus, we had salads for lunches, while the kids scarfed down sandwiches we’d prepped beforehand. Meghan and I felt much more satisfied after this trip, compared to the Williamsburg trip, because we had a precise food plan. We brought an ice-filled cooler, filled with food, and we knew exactly what we were eating for breakfast and lunch. This is such a huge component to planning a trip on a budget. So, when we’re thinking about future trips, as we are now, it’s something we definitely take seriously.

Meghan and I have many different ideas for potential trips this year. We’re thinking about New Orleans, Outer Banks, Portland (Maine), and quite a few theme parks. One of the biggest obstacles with planning any trip on a budget is the cost of travel. Of course, flying is an enormous cost! For example, flying to Maine from Baltimore in April (for example) is a minimum of $213 roundtrip, per person. For anyone that’s on an extreme budget, an over $800 travel expenditure is not realistic for us. And that’s not even counting all of the fees for bags. Seriously, you’re going to charge how much for a carry-on or to check a bag?

Let’s be clear, driving is probably the only avenue we can entertain in the near future. We’d love to travel by plane, but that’s most likely not feasible until the Winey Parent takes off. [*cough* – check out our banners and links – *cough*] So, until we hit the lottery, travelling by car is a logical choice. It will take longer, and honestly, I’m trying to understand how we’ll survive a thirteen to fourteen-hour drive. That’s how long it will take to get to Disney World, and honestly, isn’t that the gold standard? Doesn’t any parent want to give their kids the thrill of seeing Disney World? We would love to make that happen, but it’s safe to say that travel time is only part of the problem.

Find What Works Best for Your Family

So, in the end, we can only do what we can to cut costs when planning a trip on a budget. Planning your meals and bringing that food with you is a monumental step. It might seem like a pain to lug around a cooler to hold all that food, but it’s worth it. We even had a bag for snack foods, so the kids could have stuff with their sandwiches. Trust me, it’s definitely worth the effort. When you are planning a trip on a budget, this one step will mean the world to you. Not only will it make meal decisions much simpler, once the trip is done, you’ll see how easy it was.

But, we’re not perfect by any means. What other tips would you give when planning a trip on a budget? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. Don’t forget to share your thoughts with us over on Facebook and Twitter, where you can also give us a big ole’ follow. While you’re at it, tell us about your favorite family trip, because you planned it so well. We look forward to hearing from you!

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