Disclaimer: I am not paid or endorsed by any of the websites I mention in this post. However, if you use any of the links below to sign up for AND book with them, we do get a credit on our accounts for the next time we travel (and on some of them, so do you! Win-win). All opinions are genuine and my own.
After five whole years of marriage, two kids, and no vacations aside from those with another purpose (weddings, marathons), it was high time David and I took some time solely to relax and recharge.
I insisted we take a full seven days to truly reap the benefits. I also insisted we go some place warm, because: Minnesota, duh. He insisted we don’t break the bank. Fair enough; and challenge accepted.
For no particular rhyme or reason, I threw out $1500 as an amount I thought was fair for a budget friendly seven day vacation. This would include flights, lodging, car if needed depending on location, and all of our meals. He was skeptical but on board.
Together, we began searching for vacations. We looked at deal sites, resorts, cruises, hotels- you name it; and in multiple locations.
At first we thought a cruise would be the most cost effective- but we had trouble finding affordable flights that lined up nicely with cruise dates and times.
In the end- we came pretty close to our goal! Our grand total came to:
We went over our hoped for budget for three reasons (and if you’re planning a budget conscious vacation, hopefully these will help you prepare!):
- Parking. We didn’t prepare at all for the fact that going to a touristy beach city would mean a lack of free parking. We started out paying $3/hr for parking. Ouch! After about three days we were able to find a lot that charged $7 for the entire day. Regardless, this ended up being a bigger chunk of cash than we had planned for; knowing about it beforehand could have allowed us to make adjustments in other areas of the trip. Total cost: $68.
- Food. We wayyyy under budgeted in this area. Our hope was to buy groceries and eat two meals a day from the apartment and one meal out. After being attacked by seagulls multiple times when packing a lunch for the beach, and just by flying by the seat of our pants, we ended up eating (and occasionally drinking) out much more than anticipated.
- Entertainment/Experiences: I included the cost of these in my total for the vacation, but they are definitely not necessary. It all comes down to what you want out of your vacation! We chose to get a couple’s massage, I wanted a spa facial, and we went a dolphin excursion. We used Groupon to save on these, but if you’re not about those things, you could easily save over $100.
In general, we’re thrilled that we were able to get away for a FULL seven nights, not feeling like we were constricted at all by our budget, and yet not feeling like we were blowing through our cash and setting ourselves up for stress when we got home.
Here’s how we kept costs low:
- Be flexible. We didn’t care much about the specifics of where we ended up. I just wanted a beach and warm weather. Our dates were pretty flexible as well. Sometimes changing which days you travel just by a day or two can save you HUNDREDS of dollars, so keep that in mind. The length of the trip can also make a difference; some places will offer a discount if you stay for an entire week.
- Search. Search. Search. We checked lots of airlines and deal sites; on repeat. Google. Search. Search again. We ended up booking through Expedia on Sun Country airlines. Total cost (for two people, not each) including taxes and fees: $320. (Yes. Total.)
- Be open to trying out a different way of doing things! It used to be: “go on vacation, book hotel. book flight and car.” These days, there are SO many options that can really save you a lot of money. We’ve used AirBnB a handful of times now and have plenty of good things to say about our experiences. Reviews on the listings have helped us immensely in choosing where to stay, and we have the comfort and convenience of an entire apartment or home to ourselves! Now- disclaimer- sometimes there is a little sacrifice involved. We ended up staying in a neighborhood that wasn’t very exciting, and about 15-20 minutes from the beach we most frequently ended up at; HOWEVER- it was completely 100% worth it for the price that we paid. It was exactly what we needed! Total cost for 7 nights: $485 (includes rental of $49/night -5% for renting an entire week, plus taxes, service fee, and cleaning fee, subject to rental). Interested in trying out AirBnB? Use THIS LINK for $40 off your first trip!
- Try out some apps. We decided to “splurge” on a car. A basic rental at the airport was going to cost us around $280 for the week (not including insurance). Instead, we booked through Turo, which is basically like AirBnB, but for cars. People rent out their cars (and yes, everything is legit and you can get temporary insurance for a small fee- just like a regular rental), except you have way more options! We went with a BMW convertible, because: Florida. Unfortunately we were notified that when we first arrived our car would be getting a repair; so in the meantime we also got to try out the owner’s much nicer Audi A6. Total cost for 7 days (including insurance): $305. (plus around $55 in fuel). We will absolutely use Turo again in the future. *Click THIS LINK to get $25 credit on your first trip!
- You don’t always have to eat at a restaurant, and if you do it doesn’t always have to be expensive. We bought groceries and hit up a Total Wine to stock the apartment with the basics. When we did go out, we took advantage of happy hours, hole-in-the-wall beach food and tried out a lot of local places. This often resulted in lower prices and great food! Also, don’t forget to check out Groupon for deals on local eats. Total cost: $499.
- No shame in deals. Speaking of Groupon… deal sites are a great way to save on experiences. We pre-bought and booked a couples massage for $71 as well as spa facial for me for $26. *don’t forget to tip! Once we arrived and checked what areas we might want to hang out in, we decided to book an “excursion”. We went with a dolphin boat tour that we got for $22 for the two of us (normally $25/person!). *hint: Groupon has extra coupon codes almost daily. So on top of the Groupon price, don’t forget to enter those codes at checkout for even deeper discounts!
There you have it. A full week of vacation that doesn’t break the bank. What are your favorite ways to save?