All work and no play makes Jack/Jane a dull boy/girl. As much as Johnny and I talk about saving and budgeting, we’re also big proponents of having some fun. A yearly vacation is mandatory in this household, even if it’s just a weekend trip (and some years that’s all it’s been). But I call bull on anyone who embraces the “What happens on vacation stays on vacation” spending motto.
We all know the truth. Within a day, a few hours, or sometimes just a few minutes of getting back from vacation, the responsibilities of real life come pouring down as subtly as a bucket of ice water — including the ol’ budget and finances. I can’t imagine a worse feeling than realizing those days of R&R had gotten too carefree and broken the bank. So no matter whether our vacation lasts a day, a week, or a month (only in my dreams), Johnny and I still look for ways to save. Here’s how vacation savings work OFB style:
It’s vacation, so we let our hair down and loosen our ties a bit when it comes to eating out. Except that we never wear ties anyway. Well, I guess Johnny does on Sundays, but I can’t remember the last meal he wore a tie to. Bad analogy. ANYWAY, we choose a select few nice dinners and/or lunches, and then the rest of the trip’s meals are muy budget-friendly. As soon as we arrive at our destination, we stop by the grocery store and pick up milk, cereal, and disposable bowls and spoons (or we bring our own). Sorry $24 scrambled egg, two sliced strawberries, piece of toast room service meal, we’ll pass.
For our lunches on this past trip, Johnny and I filled our hotel fridge with Lunchables. Yes, the Lunch of Champions. That’s their tagline, right? After being in the 100-degree sand and sun, we’d come back to de-sweat-ify in our hotel room. And while Baby Girl napped in her bassinet with the white noise blaring, Johnny and I had a little Lunchable picnic on the bed. We had two meals at sit-down restaurants on our trip (one lunch and one dinner). And all our other dinners were straight off the dollar menu of our favorite fast food establishments.
The key for us is deciding our total trip budget beforehand and then figuring how much we want to allocate to food. Since this past trip wasn’t our main trip for the summer, we tried to keep our food bill to a minimum.
Johnny is the king of finding us awesome vacation digs for an even awesome-er price. We don’t pay face value for a hotel — ever. We’ve found savings by using our airline reward points on vacation packages. But most often Johnny finds savings using discount sites or name-your-own-price like Priceline Negotiator. This past trip we scored a $250, 4-star resort room on the beach for $65/night. Sweet, right? Johnny has a very specific method to his deal-finding madness, which he’ll be spilling about in a post coming soon. And there’s no “we’ll-clean-your-hotel’s-toilets” catch, I promise.
Also, despite staying at nice places, we don’t partake in any of their extra services. We forego the bellhop and valet parking, as well as the spa or the beach chair/umbrella rentals. We don’t do room service or poolside lunches and drinks. The idea of being served every second of our trip sounds magical, but those kinds of splurges don’t currently fit our budget. And we’re not going to pretend they do just because we’re on vacation. Until those splurges make sense to us (which isn’t in the foreseeable future), our ability for R&R won’t be hindered by parking our own car and going out to get our own meals. Oh, the horror!
Johnny and I only fly to our vacation destination if we have the flight reward points to do so (which we build up through our airline credit card). Or there are rare occasions when we’ve found screaming deals on flights. Otherwise, we make a fun road trip out of it and drive to our getaway, like we did this past week. And if and when we need a rental car, Johnny usually books it through Priceline and rarely pays more than $15/day.
So that’s how we do it. Such a huge chunk of a vacation’s expenses are usually decided after arriving at your destination. So we do our best to buck that temptation and figure out how we’ll save beforehand. And then we make it happen, one shameless Lunchable at a time.