Planning a vacation
I am a planner, so my first step to planning a vacation is a spreadsheet and a new Pinterest board. I do research of the area we are traveling, and look on Pinterest for "Must See" things in the area. I just pin them and add them to the spreadsheet and am sure to add the web site address too for reference. I get a huge list started, asking each family member for suggestions of things they would really like to do also. The list contains double the amount of sights and ideas that we could ever accomplish during one week, but this is our starting point.
Everybody has some ideas of things they have seen or heard about. No idea was wrong, they just had to know that we would not be doing every idea. So as the ideas started rolling in, I start looking for accommodations. Once you find some you agree on and they require reservations, book them early. You don't want to be stuck at your planned activity to only find out that you needed to book it a month in advance. Make an email folder with all your reservation numbers. This puts them all in one place, easy to find and can help when the snorkeling place says they never received your payment, trust me on this one.
You don't always have to fly into the city you are staying in. We took a trip to the Florida Keys and it was about half the cost to fly into Orlando and make the drive down. We booked a hotel room that had free transportation from the airport to the hotel and make sure you can get to the rental car area for free too. Also be sure to look for a hotel with free breakfast as this will save a lot of money on food.
For our Florida trip our next accomodations were in Key Largo. Key Largo seemed to have the best home rental prices that could accommodate seven people and have a full kitchen. We use HomeAway.com but there are many home rental companies out there. Check around and use the one you feel comfortable with. I found a double wide trailer in a quiet community with a private beach for $133 a night which was cheaper than two hotel rooms. We figured that we would be out exploring the islands and would really only be using it for some meals and sleeping. It had three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a full kitchen, exactly what we needed.
The next planning step is the actual flight, hubby is normally in charge of this portion. He looks at the different discount web sites and the airline web sites for the best deals. Normally after two weeks he has found something. We normally end up with tickets from a discount website and fly out quite early in the morning to get the best prices. We don't mind one layover as that is normally a cheaper price for flying.
Personally I feel that the area you can save the most money is on food. I try to never get sleeping accommodations without, at the very least, a kitchenette, preferably a full kitchen. This is one of the reasons that I book homes rather than hotel rooms. If we are going to a coast, I try to find farmers markets to buy local fish. Often we end up at local grocery stores and have a list of meals we plan to make. The home you rent should have a list of which appliances and small appliances they have in the kitchen. My favorites are the ones that list that they have blenders and crock pots to use. There is nothing easier than throwing a chuck roast into a crock pot and head to the beach for the day, come home and loose meat sandwiches are ready. Blenders are great for morning smoothies if you are headed someplace warm and their fruit is already in season. Our home in Florida even had a rice cooker. I plan our meals around what they have and plan one or two meals out for fun. If there is a grill on the property, take advantage of it. Hamburgers and hot dogs are always a child favorite and so easy to make. And if all else fails, a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter always come in handy in a pinch. I plan my meals weeks before the trip and clip grocery coupons of items that I know we will be buying there. Remember to look for ketchup and butter coupons, those are always used.
Planning souvenirs? Sort of. When we do a beach vacation, one of the souvenirs the kids all get are new beach towels. They have the fun of picking out a towel with the location we are at, we don't have to pack them in our luggage on the way down and they use them for years afterwards. How many times after the vacation does that pooka shell necklace get worn? We also tend to pack a few less shirts that are needed to accommodate the few t-shirts that always seem to be bought. And not really keepable souvenirs, but we always tend to buy a few frisbees and buckets to play with at the beach and add them to the homeowners collection of toys for other families to use. Kind of our way of saying thank you for opening up your home to us.
This is how I start to plan a family vacation. You can check out some of our family trips on a budget below, just click on the destination that you are looking for. When they are linked, they will be live as new vacation locations are always being added.
St. Louis Missouri
The links in this post are just to show you the attractions or web sites, I am not compensated in any way by these companies, all opinions are my own. I just want to make it easier for you to find them if they sound of interest to you.