Thursday, March 11, 2010

Planning a Trip on the Cheap

Most people are quite astonished when they hear that we go on extended vacations (for working folks , two weeks is a long time to leave work.) with all of our children and the dog. In fact, most of our friends locally think we are crazy and often comment that it must be nice to have so much money. What they don’t understand is that we go on the cheap. They also miss the opportunity to go on vacations with family that they never dreamed possible. I want to share today with you some of the things that we do in advance of our vacation to plan our trip on the cheap.

The first thing that we do as a family is dream. I know, this sounds crazy, but for us it works. We may come up with several options that we really want to do or show the kids in the near future. Now, this is where we tend to be a little different than most young families. Our top destinations are not Disneyland and water parks. We love to focus our trips on historical places and National Parks. We want to share our love of our country, so that is our focus. Early on, we realized that if this was our focus, the cost was greatly lowered in the end. I’m not saying that you can’t do any of the waterparks, or Disney type activities on a trip-on-the-cheap, but if the focus isn’t around that, it can be a a great addition.

After we’ve made our decision on where to go, then we go on the internet and research the area. For example, this year, we are headed to visit relatives in Washington State, so we contacted the Chamber of Commerces in that area and requested all and any free materials we can have from there. We will try to come up with some stops along the way to relieve us all from the dreary trips, so we also request materials from those areas also. For this trip, we plan a stay over on the return trip at Custer State Park on our way back over the Memorial Day Weekend, so we don’t have to driving in traffic.

At this point, we save money for our vacation. We figure out what we will need to go, not including the food we bring with us. With the prospect of gas going up to over $3 a gallon this spring and summer, the majority of our budget does go to gas. We also account for parking fees, eating out, and any extra entertainment that we want to do. This trip is nice, because our family is planning many activities for us based on local activities, such as clamming, fishing, hiking at Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens and many other fun, but cheap activities.

The next thing we do is pick some main activities (OK, it’s a little more dreaming) that look like fun or what we might enjoy doing. We also pick a big splurge that we all really want to do. On our trip to Glacier National Park a few years ago, we all wanted to go horse back riding in Glacier. We set aside the money just for that purchase (what we didn’t realize was that their horses were too small for my dh, our two youngest were too young, so only two of us could go!) We’ve learned not to set this one in stone, but maybe have a back-up plan. We went out to dinner in Glacier and had fresh trout from the lake as an exchange for our horseback riding. We all enjoyed being able to eat out somewhere, we might never have eaten otherwise (McD’s tends to be a better option with kids) and our back sides were spared the pain!

At this point, we have gotten to the nitty gritty of trip planning on the cheap. These were the more dreamy things we do to go on vacation with a family, but now comes the not so fun, but well worth the effort planning. We begin to do tune-ups to the truck and the Airstream alike. I also do extensive menu planning and clothing planning. In our case, there always seems to be something that we need to do to improve to the Airstream. (If you don’t believe me, see my honey-do-list on our blog!) All of this might seem like a lot to go through, just to go on vacation, but we have found that not only does our trip cost us less than most, we enjoy it more, because we don’t have to worry about things breaking down, and we all have fun because we took part in the preparations. Also, I think one of the most rewarding parts of the trip is the anticipation of going.

Stay tuned for more on our trip preparations, and of course our final adventures out West!

I am linking up to:
Met Monday - Between Naps on the Porch
Make it for Monday - Cottage Instincts


  1. One of Grandpa's oft repeated bromides was, "Anticipation is greater than realization." Although that's often true, you're likely to turn up some neat and interesting stuff along the way that never made it into the brochures. If nothing else, you can always keep your camera ready when it's time to dump the tanks! Have a great trip and keep us posted!
    Uncle Bill and Aunt Mary

  2. We did this trip 4 years ago from Wisconsin to Oregon,our kids were 16 and 12, it was a great trip. I am sure you are going to have quiet an adventure. It sounds like you have a good plan, we hope to do it again with more time, we had 17days.
    Enjoy your trip

  3. You had me at: "The first thing that we do as a family is dream. " That really needs to be on a plaque somewhere! Plus I love your post--we just discovered Rving last summer, and it was so wonderful. We rented, though, so it actually wasn't much cheaper than a hotel. We'd love to find an old airstream someday. Have fun!