I have several goals for vacations and travel:
- Take vacations with healthy regularity
-Have a meaningful and memorable time
-Use frugality and wisdom so you're freed up to go more often!
Since my husband is a business owner, I usually only have a couple weeks' notice to plan little trips, and I take great delight in doing so. We recently had an incredible little getaway in the Georgia mountains and I would love to share some tips for taking memorable and frugal vacations:
Please don't just call up Red Roof Inn or the Hilton and stay in a hotel. If you have to stay in a hotel, use Hotwire and at least get a great deal and make your location a mystery :) But try using AirBnb (click here to sign up and get $35 off using my link) for staying somewhere really interesting. It cost us $82 to stay in the basement of a cabin and get a gorgeous and delicious breakfast, and check out this view:
Also, state parks often offer cabins, cottages, and even yurts. Our lakefront yurt at Sweetwater Creek State Park cost $85 (and could've slept 6) and it was gorgeous. (But we didn't bring linens so we had to buy some at Walmart real quick. We were able to bring our sheets and blankets back home but it hurt to throw away $8 worth of pillows that we only used one night. Oh well, it was worth it.)
2. Find the best deals.
Rome2Rio is a site that shows you the cheapest way to get from one point to another. If flying, use Google Flights or a similar site that shows you a calendar and even bar graph of the cheapest rates at different dates and from various airlines. I feel uncomfortable with paying more than $100 for a round-trip plane ticket to anywhere on the east coast. It's far too easy to find them cheaper. (This morning I found round-trip tix to Cleveland for $40!)
I love discount airlines such as Frontier and Spirit. People complain that they nickel-and-dime you for everything, but I see that as A La Carte pricing rather than a ripoff. If I choose to only bring one carryon, I don’t care about where I sit, and I don’t expect food on my flight, I don’t want to have those luxuries added onto my ticket. And if I do want to pay for those things, I can factor that into the cost of my ticket and it will still probably be cheaper.
Also, Costco is an amazing resource for acquiring rental cars and they throw in some good benefits. And check back every once in awhile because you can cancel your rental car without penalty and book it more inexpensively if possible.
3. Pack light.
More stuff, more problems. If possible, avoid checked baggage because waiting for your suitcase can be pain, and only use a carryon. Max out their sizes for a personal item so you can fit more stuff and avoid paying for extra baggage.
4. When you arrive, head to a grocery store and buy some essential foods so you won’t have to eat out as often.
-A gallon or 1.5-liter of water and a nice drinking bottle for each person (smartwater makes really quality water bottles.)
-A bag of apples or oranges (or some other sturdy fruit)
5. If you see a glorious brown state park sign or scenic overlook, it’s probably worth pulling over to see it.
There's a hefty chance it might be one of the most breathtaking things you’ve ever seen!
6. Talk to park rangers.
My husband calls them “rangels” because they’re so nice. Ask their recommendations for the best views.
7. Talk to locals.
When you’re getting frozen yogurt, ask the cashier where she likes to get a good burger. Ask her how she likes living there. Connecting with people will greatly enrich your vacation (and it might enrich them too!)
8. Eat out 1 meal and 1-2 snacks each day. And try to avoid fast food.
Eat at a cool restaurant (like Burger Bus, as pictured) and get a filling meal. Splurge on a pretzel or apple cider slushy. But eating out all the time will rack up the cash and make you feel sick. If you munch on snacks you bought or brought from home (I love buying snacks from Graze for this type of thing), you’ll feel better and have more time and money. And please save yourself from going to Wendy’s. Eat real food and your body will thank you.
8. Try to implement minimal amounts of time spent on social media.
Nothing makes a moment forgettable like spending it all on your phone. Be present. Set a goal, such as “No Facebook more than 2x a day”, and stick to it. Breathe in nature, make conversation, sit, pray, think, read. Almost anything we do is a better way to spend time than on our phones, especially when on vacation!
9. Visit a solid local church and hang out afterwards.
The Gospel Coalition, 9 Marks, Sojourn Network, and Acts 29 all have directories you can use to find churches that might be solid. Check out the church's website, read their values. I signed up for an email list of a church we were planning to visit, and the pastor reached out and asked if there was anything he could do for us. I told him we were visiting that weekend and would love to grab lunch with people afterwards. He offered us a place to stay (but we already had accomodations) and reached out to several couples in the church and arranged for us to have lunch with some of them! It turned out that we had some really awesome and random things in common with these people (most of all our love for the gospel!), we had some rich conversations over good BBQ, and we hope to stay in touch with them. That was a super encouraging highlight of our trip!
10. Plan times of praying together.
I remember being greatly encouraged hearing about John Piper’s times away with his wife and how they would pray through scripture. Choose some passages beforehand (John 15 is amazing!) and take turns reading those scriptures out loud and worshipping God through them, begging God to help you apply them. This might be your favorite part of the trip!
11. Plan times of peacefulness and gazing.
As a business owner, there isn’t such thing as a true “vacation”, really—especially when you have employees who are depending on you—so my husband still had to spend several hours on the phone and computer each day of our trip. That was fine because it afforded me the opportunity to be alone and just behold. I sat on a rock for a long while gazing at mountains. I laid on a bench and gazed at the leaves above me for an hour and a half. Those moments of quiet peacefulness and worship were healing for my body and soul.
12. Bring a meaningful audiobook.
Before we left I bought a 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness audiobook by Eric Metaxas and we were able to make it through some of the book as we drove in the car. It was informative, interest, and thought-provoking and helped enrich our time and conversation.
13. Go Geocaching!
Geocaching is basically a treasure hunt that takes place around the world. It's free using an app and it's an awesome way to get yourself to go outside and explore places you've never been. Sometimes they have logs for you to sign or little treasures to swap. It's really fun! See that little ammo can peeking out between the twigs?
14. Pray beforehand!
You can spend hours planning and preparing, but your trip can still be really lame. You and the people you’re traveling with can be argumentative, whiny, ungrateful, sick, etc. I don’t usually pray that my trips will go smoothly because a lot of times disruptions, inconveniences, and even sickness might be the very things that God uses to increase my joy on the trip. Beg that God will lead you in worship on your trip and strengthen the relationships of those with whom you’re traveling. Pray that God will give you grace to love Him more and see Him as the source of all the beautiful things you’re about to encounter. And enjoy Him! :)
I hope this was encouraging to you! Let me know your tips and tell me about your travels! :)
And now for a few more pics of our trip:
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My name is Hope.
I'm 26, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 6, 4, 3, and squishy-baby. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today