Vacation

3 Savvy Ways to Get More Bang for Your Buck on Vacation

I love vacation.  I live for vacation.  One of the reasons I don’t mind pinching pennies in other areas of my life is because I know the money that we’re saving can be used for something way more fulfilling than a daily cup of Starbucks or impulse buys at the grocery store.

Enter…vacation!  My hubby and I try to make it a priority to get away at least once a year, reconnect, and make some new memories…even if its just for a few days.  When asking about our vacation, I was surprised by how many people asked if we were taking our son Lincoln with us.  Honestly, the thought never entered my mind….and when I tried to imagine how dragging my 20 month old around half of the southern U.S. would go, I was filled with every emotion except excitement and anticipation.  I am all about family vacations, and I seriously can’t wait until our kid(s) are a few years older and can experience new things with us.  But not right now.  0% fun.  Luckily both of our parents are willing to fight over who gets to keep Lincoln, so we have that to our advantage!

This was our first vacation on a single income, so of course I was trying to find ways we could get more bang for our buck.  We made a few adjustments that affected our level of fun in no way whatsoever, and were able to get away for a full work week!  If you feel like taking a vacation just isn’t in your budget, hopefully I can change your mind!  I want to share 3 ways you can save (and still have a blast) on your vacation.

 

1. Drive Instead of Fly

This was a first for me.  I’ve always flown to every vacation destination I’ve ever been to.  Not that I’m a huge fan of flying….I’m just not a fan of driving/riding.  After about 2 hours in a car I get super stir crazy, moody, and mildly psychotic.  The idea of a road trip never sounded appealing to me, but it sure was sounding a lot better when we calculated the money we would save rather than flying.

Once we decided to drive, we started talking about vacation spots within a reasonable driving distance (nothing cross country please).  We decided to go to Destin while stopping in New Orleans for a couple of days to break up the drive.  If driving to your vacation destination sounds like a nightmare to you, I suggest staying the night in at least one other city on the way.  It makes the drive more bearable, and it’s a bonus getting to experience 2 places in one vacation.

We drove 6 hours to New Orleans, and then another 5 to Destin a few days later.  We did drive the full 10 hours straight back from Destin to Texas, but it wasn’t too bad.  One thing we did to pass the time while driving?  We listened to a podcast!  Yes!  I finally got Chase on board with my podcast obsession!  We started listening to Undisclosed (Season 2) about a teenage boy who they suspect was wrongly convicted of murder in 2000.  17 years later, he’s still in prison and the Undisclosed team breaks down the whole crazy story about how he basically got a life sentence based on 0 evidence!  It’s crazy!  There are 20 episodes, and we only got through about 10.  Chase is totally hooked, and I love it!  Since we got back from our vacay, he’s been asking me “When are we going to finish our podcast?!”  Bwahaha!  I feel like a mad scientist, slowly bringing people over to the podcast world one person at a time.

Plus, we had a lot of laughs while being in the car for 20+ hours.  Like when we ordered at the drive-through at McDonald’s and Chase started every word with “Mc”…..

Chase: “I’ll have the McChicken with some McFries and a McCoke.”

Waitress: “Would you like any condiments sir?”

Chase: “Some McKetchup and McSalt please.”

Waitress: “Here’s your order sir.”

Chase: “McThankYou”

Y’all, I was dying!!!  How he kept a straight face the whole time, I don’t know.  We also got a kick out of the fact that there are an ABNORMAL amount of Waffle Houses along the Mississippi coast to Florida.  Has anyone else ever noticed this??  It’s weird!  In Mississippi, we counted 5 Waffle Houses on the same road within 3 miles.  Cross my heart.

Oh, I almost forgot….how much money did we save by driving?  Well, I was in vacation mode and didn’t save any of our gas recipets….so I can’t give you an exact number.  But it was under $200 there and back (possibly under $150).  That’s about half of the price of 1 plane ticket (depending on where you’re going).  Woo hoo!

 

2. Airbnb

If you’re unfamiliar with Airbnb (like “air bed and breakfast”), it’s an online service that allows people to rent or lease short-term lodging.  Basically instead of staying in a hotel room on your vacation for $200 a night, you can rent a whole apartment for the same value.  Airbnb is very popular in touristy type places…people who live in that area will actually rent an extra apartment so they can put it up on Airbnb to lease out as a vacation rental.  If it sounds sketchy to you, not to worry.  Airbnb is worldwide and very trusted.

Let’s break it down.

You can download the Airbnb app, or visit their website.  Type in your destination and preferred dates, and you’ll be shown a list of rentals that meet your requirements.  Every listing has pictures of the rental, rules of the house (like no smoking, pets, etc.), as well as information on the person leasing it.  The best part is, Airbnb is very review driven.  Each property you look at will show reviews of previous people who stayed there.  Use it the same way you would use Amazon: you wouldn’t buy something from Amazon that had crummy reviews, right?  So you have the freedom to look through different properties, read the reviews of previous renters to make sure the place (but more importantly the owner) is legit.

Pros

1.Airbnb is such a better value than hotels.  When looking to stay in New Orleans, every hotel I found that was in New Orleans (not across the bridge) was at least $100….which isn’t alot, but I’m talking disgusting hotel rooms.  Through Airbnb we rented a whole duplex with 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchenette for $130 a night.  Slightly more than a dirtbag hotel, but a way better value.  Plus, we were in New Orleans (only about half a mile from the French Quarter), and the owner even had bikes available to use!

Just to give you a little bit better idea….we went to Destin during peak tour season.  Even the Motel 6 was $300 a night!  We rented a guest house about 10 miles down the road in Mary Esther, and paid $150 a night to have an entire place to ourselves.

2. Also, when you rent from Airbnb you really feel the hospitality.  Remember, Airbnb is driven by renter reviews…so the owners WANT you to leave them a good review so more people will rent from them…meaning more money for them!  Therefore, the owners are super willing to go above and beyond, help answer any questions you have, give you suggestions about the city, etc.  It’s kind of like having your own little concierge service.  Our place in Destin even had sunscreen and tanning oil in the room for us!

3. If you want to save money on food while on vacation, having a kitchen or kitchenette in the place you rent can be a real money saver.  A kitchenette pretty much comes standard in even the smallest places, and even though we had one we did not use that feature.  Everyone goes on vacation for different reasons…and one of my reasons happens to be to eat.  I love experiencing local restaurants and cuisine, and you really sacrifice that if you do all your cooking at “home”.

 

Cons

1. As with any unfamiliar area, it’s hard to know what specific areas of the city are going to be like just by looking at a map.  When we booked our duplex in New Orleans, I based it off of reviews and proximity to the center of New Orleans.  Yes, the location and address was pinpointed on a map…but that doesn’t really help give you a feel of the type of area.  Have you ever been house hunting online, and you find an amazing house that looks like it might be just perfect for your family?  The pictures are great, the price is even better!  Then you drive over to look at the house…and you see what kind of neighborhood it’s in.  Yeah….then it all makes sense why the price is so low and it’s been on the market so long.

I’ll say this…when we were driving to our rental in New Orleans, we looked like we were headed into the straight hood.  I’m not gonna lie…I was getting kind of nervous.  But I kept thinking, “This rental had over 100 five star reviews….so it must be in a better part of town.”  Long story short…it wasn’t.  The rental was literally half a block from a gentleman’s club…and there were all sorts of characters roaming the streets.  Not to knock The Big Easy…but I pretty much gathered that’s just New Orleans for ya.  Although the area seemed sketchy, we had 0 issues and I’m assuming the other 100 people that stayed in that rental didn’t either (based on their reviews).

The take away: If you feel uneasy not knowing what the neighborhood is like, do a little research.  Google Maps has a cool 360 feature that lets you look at actual still photos of an area.

2. This is not even a con, but it’s worth a mention.  When renting through Airbnb, you have two options: rent an entire property (house, duplex, apartment, villa, etc.) or rent a private room out of someone’s house.  Renting a private room means you’ll most likely be staying in somebody’s guest bedroom.  It’s definitely a cheaper alternative (vs. renting a whole property), but you won’t really get the privacy you’re looking for.  Again, this isn’t really a con because Airbnb clearly labels each listing as a “private room” or “entire house/apartment/etc”…just make sure you know what you’re looking for before you book.

Overall our Airbnb experience was awesome, and it will definity be my first option when looking to stay the night somewhere.

 

3. Uber

Many of you are already familiar with Uber as an alternative to taxis, but this was my first time using Uber!  In fact, our driver called us “Uber virgins”…which we though was hilarious.

For those of you who don’t know what Uber is, it’s a service that allow you to get a private driver quickly based on your location.  It’s pretty much the same thing as a taxi…except it’s regular people like you and me picking you up and driving you to your location.  Again, sound sketchy?  Let’s see…

Pros

1.The Uber app uses your location from your phone.  So you just type in the address you want to be driven to, what time you want to be picked up, and an alert will go out to Uber drivers in close proximity to you.  The major pro to this?  An Uber driver shows up almost instantly to pick you up…like within 2 or 3 minutes.  It’s much faster than waiting on a taxi.

2. I’m only briefly going to talk about price, since it really depends on what city you are in and what time of year it is.  I felt like using Uber was way cheaper than using a taxi, but I’ve done a little bit of research online and that issue is still up for debate.  Apparently Uber has been known to price gouge around certain times of year that people are most likely to use their services….like New Year’s Eve.  Either way, we paid less than $10 round trip to get to the center of New Orleans from our rental, so that was a win in my book.

 

Cons

1.The obvious con is the driver who’s picking you up.  Are they a crazy driver, road rager, or possibly a serial killer?  Every Uber driver has to complete a background check, and other riders also are able to leave reviews on their profile so you can kind of gather a little bit of information there.  Some things you may not be able to find out though…like the fact that our Uber driver was a heavy smoker, and her car reeked of smoke.  Luckily we were only going a couple of miles…but that’s the kind of thing you may not know until you get into the car.

I will say this: I wouldn’t Uber alone.  My husband was with me, so I felt safe.  It could also be due to the fact that we are both CHL carriers, and we were packing.  But you know…details.  Still, I’ve watched way too many true crime shows that keep me from getting in a car alone with a stranger…background check or not.

 

As a whole, we had a great trip!  We did only get to spend half a day on the beach in Destin, since the rest of our time there we were under terential rainfall warnings!  I really don’t feel like we sacrified anything by taking these 3 short cuts, and if anything it added more hilarity, memories, and “firsts” to our trip.

What are your favorite vacation tips?

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