Spring Break conjures up many memories for me: epic road trips with my family, quiet weeks when we just stayed home, day trips to nearby cities for adventure, winding our way to an off-the-beaten-path restaurant, or exploring a state park.
This year, regardless of your travel plans, you will want to consider these money-saving tips and ideas to keep your trip from becoming a less-than-pleasant memory.
Plan on staying overnight somewhere? I typically use hotwire.com along with betterbidding.com to find a great deal. Better Bidding is a online user forum where consumers who use Priceline and Hotwire share what the results were for their searches in a specific area. That way, you can go to the actual hotel website to look at pictures and read reviews.
Note, both Hotwire and Priceline have better offerings near larger metropolitan areas. So if you can plan for your trip to be near a larger city where there are more hotel offerings, you’re bound to score a better rate with these companies. Some hotel chains guarantee that their online pricing is better than what you’ll find on a deal site.
Others grant special rates if you book a couple of weeks in advance rather than at the last minute. No matter where you stay or how you book your room, be sure that you’re a part of the hotel’s rewards program.
You’ll collect points that you can use toward free stays or other incentives plus you’ll receive perks like free Wi-Fi or free bottled water while in the hotel. Only join rewards programs that are free. You can fill out a form on the hotel’s website online before you leave home.
If your trip itinerary includes visiting a large museum, check to see if a local museum has a reciprocal membership program.
Oftentimes, you can purchase an annual membership that grants you free or reduced rate access to other destinations. By the time you buy general admission tickets to the bigger institution, you may end up spending the same amount.
Why not enjoy your local museum all year long? Use an internet search engine to determine whether or not the museum you plan on visiting has reciprocal offerings.
Plot your stops
Every road warrior gets weary. Rather than crashing at a hotel where you overspend or settling for a meal you don’t really like, use the website meetways.com to determine a halfway point in your destination.
Simply enter where you’re traveling to and from, and you’ll receive a suggested stopping place right in the middle. The website also lists potential hotels, gas stations and restaurants.
I always recommend stopping at a grocery store rather than a restaurant. Many have gas stations. You can find drinks and snacks at a fraction of the cost, and you can stretch your legs by walking around. As an added bonus, any items you forgot to pack can be picked up in the store, too.
Buy souvenirs early
Parents, if you’ve never traveled with kids before, lean in and let me tell you a little secret. Someone in the city or tourist trap that you plan on visiting is secretly plotting against you in a lab somewhere. They know which light up, plastic hunk of junk your child will love the most and convince you to spend $30 on in a moment of vacation frenzy.
Quickly, they place these products at the eye level of a child. And then they rub their hands together and wait for you to walk through the door. Especially if you are planning a trip to a theme park (the one with a rather large rodent comes to mind), it’s a good idea to purchase souvenirs before you leave.
Look for character T-shirts, notebooks, or small toys in the dollar section or store. Buy glow sticks or wands. You will end up spending a tenth of the cost and even have the opportunity to wash items before you leave.
Of course, you can still bless your kids with the experience of making a purchase on vacation. Just set a cash budget before you leave (you might even allow them to be in charge of the money), and stick to it, no matter how awesome the souvenir.
Making memories doesn’t have to cost a dime, friends. You can play at the park down the street, enjoy a board game together or make your family’s favorite home-cooked meal. If you do travel this spring break, simply take the time to consider ways you might save before you hit the road.