It’s that hectic and chilly time of the year when we begin dreaming about better days. Sitting at the keys of my laptop, my mind wanders to warm beaches and hours spent sipping iced tea, sinking my toes into the sand with my heart caught up in a good book.
No matter what the weather report states, I believe that better days are coming, lords and ladies. Spring break is just around the corner. So, rather than complain about the chill in the air or your insane schedule, begin the process of planning well to make the most of a few days off from the regular pace of life.
Don’t just drive until you drop. Taking a road trip this spring break? One of the greatest temptations facing travelers is the urge to hit the bricks without much of a plan for the stops along the way en route to the final destination. Perhaps, we are in such desperation to get the heck out of Dodge that we neglect careful planning.
While a freeing sensation, this practice could cost you big bucks in the long run. Weeks before you leave, strategize where you’ll stop to dine, for bathroom breaks or to rest for the night. I love using the website www.meetways.com to calculate a halfway point between your home and your destination. Then, I begin to scout out hotels using Hotwire or Priceline for hotels. The online forum betterbidding.com is a great companion tool to crack the code of the pay before you discover where you’ll stay strategy of these discount sites.
Stop at grocery stores for rest breaks or meals. Certainly, bathroom breaks can’t always be calculated when you’re traveling with small children. However when you can, choose to stop at a grocery store or big box retailer instead of a restaurant or gas station. You’ll be able to pick up snacks and meals at a fraction of the cost and also stretch your legs in the aisles. It’s also a great way to grab items you forgot to pack, such as toothbrushes or deodorant. Added bonus: Your shopping bags will quickly clean up the travel trash you might have accumulated.
Quench your thirst
Bring a Britta pitcher. This might be one of the oddest things our family does for a long road trip, but we often pack a slimline water filtration pitcher along with refillable containers instead of bringing bottled water. Everyone knows that purchasing water along the way adds up quickly. Packing a flat of your own water is great if you have the space. But, bringing your own pitcher will allow you to keep everyone quenched for practically free. So long $4 hotel bottled water.
Avoid fast food
Pack your snacks and at least one meal. Don’t drain your dining out budget on drive-thru fare or gas station junk. Save those dollars for a spectacular meal by packing your own snacks and at least one meal. Breakfast is probably the easiest meal to eat on the go with fruits, cereal, granola bars and nuts at its center. Pre-bag snacks for kids and, if they’re old enough, place them within reach. One meal packed from home can easily save a family $20 to $50 per day.
Benefit from sleep
Collect points and score freebies with hotel rewards programs. Be sure to sign up for your hotel’s rewards programs. These programs are absolutely free and often allow you to accrue reward points good for free stays in the future or other discounts. In addition, you can instantly receive special perks such as free WiFi. Always check at the front desk or with the concierge to make the most of your of membership status; and when possible, stay at the same hotel again to amass more points.
Don’t go anywhere
Make the most of a staycation. It’s not wise to make a pricey trip every year, but you can still have plenty of fun in your very own backyard. Don’t let the days slip by in the humdrum buzz of the television and hours spent playing Flappy Bird (how can a game so simple be so difficult and why do I continue to play even though I can barely make it past three of those little pipes?!).
Create a daily itinerary filled with fun at home — board games, trips to the dollar theater, maybe even a lunch out. There’s no need to make a spring break a snorefest. You might even have enough dollars budgeted to get away at a local hotel. Making memories doesn’t require a theme park. Do the best you can with what you’ve been given.
Even if it’s merely a practice of distraction from your current status in life or to ignore the persistent winter this year, begin intentionally planning your spring break now.
Don’t let the desire to get on the road as quickly as possible drain your vacation fund. Make the most of each dollar and each minute with your family.
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. Send questions, column ideas and comments to