I just came from one of the most fantastic Thanksgiving holidays with a couple of my friends along with our family. We Drove to Smoky mountains from south Florida, where we enjoyed mountains; Getting away from the plains of Florida was a good change before we officially greet the holiday season with open arms.
Of course, there was turkey and plenty of activities and laughter. But what made me happier is the fact that I was able to save a lot of money from the trip; yes, plenty of money. To give you an idea, my total expenses was around 50 percent off the amount I spent last year.
The following are the secrets for lower holiday vacation expenses.
We booked early
Right after Thanksgiving 2010, I already told myself we’re going to spend it in somewhere where we could drive. I went to Boston last year. I had to book flight, rental car and hotel. This year we drove to Smokies; Three families booked a minivan and rented a three bedroom cottage on the Appalachian hill. We booked our cottage in the summer when there was lower demand for thanksgiving accommodation.
One of us already stayed in that cottage and had developed a nice rapport with the owner, which enabled us to negotiate a lower than expected rate.
We planed very well
Speaking of planning, you must learn to take it one step further. For example, since I would be traveling with other families, we already looked for excellent activities to do with them. We discovered several family friendly trails, which didn’t cost a lot of money. We listed down how long we’re going to stay there, our potential expenses, and how much money we would be willing to spend for every activity or every day. This way, I would already have a good idea about my budget.
We travel with friends and family
As mentioned, I didn’t go alone. I tagged three of my best buddies, as well as their families. And each day was fun time. There was never a dull moment, and we had our dinner all the way until the wee hours of the morning. Financial-wise, my friends and I divided all of the costs associated with the trip, such as gasoline, accommodation, car and food
We packed lightly
We didn’t tag along our laptops and other gadgets besides our camera, Since we were not going to stay there for a week, just a few days, we also didn’t pack a lot of clothes. We packed only essentials and a pair of jackets and sweaters along with a shirt and one pant.
We cooked and therefore we saved
Out of 8 meals, we had 4 home cooked. And belive me, 6 personas helping with the cooking was a lot of fun.We bought our stuff from local grocer and shared the expenses. A per person per meal cost of $7 including the drink was way cheaper than $20 per person per meal cost at the restaurants.
We made smart selection
If you’re going to spend a lot of time outdoors, there’s really no need to pick a posh accommodation. It’s like draining your hard-earned money for something you can’t really maximize. On the other hand, unless your mind is set on specific attractions, it’s a lot better to just roam around and discover something that’s pleasant and surprising.
Due to the outside temperature, using the pool was not an option, and we didn’t look for accommodation with swimming pool. We rather bought fire woods from Wal-Mart, three nights only costed us around $50 towards BBQ and fire. Experience wise, it was priceless.
We chose nature as the only source of activities and fun. We hiked, we biked and we walked through the trails. Nature offers everything free and apart from parking and souvenirs the activities were all free.
Make sure you’re covered with travel insurance
Although it was not relevant to my trip, still useful for your trip if you are set on a travel to a far distant place.
A lot of people think travel insurance is an unnecessary expense. In general, it isn’t. It simply depends on your coverage. Make sure that you have sufficient coverage to cover lost luggage as well as delayed or cancelled flights. Fortunately, Many health insurance companies offer affordable travel insurance. Since I didn’t book flight, I did save on the additional premium cost.
My Smoky mountain trip proved one thing: I don’t need to spend fortune so I can enjoy, relish, and remember my experiences all throughout my life. You simply need to be more diligent in your research, be resourceful in meeting your needs, and be wise enough to separate a need and a want.
How are you saving money this holiday, readers?
Dr Dean says
This sounds like a great trip. We enjoy traveling with friends and do much the same thing. It’s always fun to cook together with a group. Nice photo.
Thanks dr. Dean, you bet we had a good time.
Newlyweds on a Budget says
That’s a great way to save a ton of money on you trip. I think the food portion always takes a big chunk of change so it was good you were able to cook at home!
Definitely we saved most money on food and outdoor activities
Robert @ The College Investor says
Those are some great tips on saving for a vacation. We are booking one now, and we’ve also discovered if you book really late, you can save as well.
Like the last minute deals? During holiday no seats or rooms remain empty. Not sure if it last minute deal are applicable for holiday season.
Shaun @ Smart Family Finance says
on average, travel is the most expensive part of a vaction. Driving and sharing the costs with friends and family is a great way to lower costs. Even if we aren’t going to stay with friends, we’ve carpooled to a location.
That’s good to know Shaun. Sharing does keep per head cost in check.
I agree planning early is a great way to save! We always do our own cooking on vacation too – It does save a ton of money!
Glad to know that Dana. Cooking at home or on vacation is sure to save money.
Hunter - Financially Consumed says
I honestly prefer a relaxed vacation like the one you describe here. Hotels and resorts are the last place I want to try and relax. I’ll have to look into the Smokey Mountains, seems like a great family and budget friendly option.
Oh yeah it won’t be that long drive for you, for me it was 15 hrs straight. Try one in the fall. The color is awesome there.
traveling together with others i think is the key. not only do you enjoy it more but save on costs such as hotels and food and gas.
Well said. But I’d say choose your co-travelers wisely, they should be the ones you enjoy being with. Don’t just pick someone to save money.
What a great trip. Did not not you could have that much fun at smokey mountains. I should vacation there in the future… We always try to get away to the beaches or amusement parks because of kids.
Do visit there with kids. It’d be a nice introduction to nature to them.
Home cooking is a huge cost savings.
When I travel to the US, I bring a box of cereal in my suitcase (lol) and buy some milk when I’m there, thus saving money on breakfast lol.
You can buy that cereal here as well, can’t you?