If you have been keeping up with us, you know we went on a vacation recently to Wisconsin. I have a post here where I tell how we traveled the 9 1/2 hours there with an 8 month old. But, the point of this post is to tell you how we did it for less than $600!
Don’t get me wrong. I like vacationing and have spent much more on them, but when we can vacation on a budget and have a great time?! Score! It is also important for parents to know that vacationing on a budget IS possible and they should take every opportunity to do so with their children! To convince you of the benefits, Travels with Tots has a whole list of reasons why you should vacation with your kids! Kids learn SO MUCH from traveling and seeing new sights!
I completely understand that for some families, vacationing is not high on the priority list, mostly due to the cost. Hotels are expensive! Then you are stuck eating out most of the time and finally, excursions cost money. I am here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be that way! Do your research and it is possible. Here is how we managed:
Lodging for Less
The most expensive part of vacationing is lodging. Decent hotels these days are usually over $100 a night, especially on weekends. For only 3 nights that is already $300! This is part of the reason we didn’t stay in a hotel. Instead, we stayed at a campground, which was a cheaper option and let us get outdoors more! It was a win-win!
Now, I know some people do not consider camping their type of vacation. But we didn’t stay in a tent! We stayed in a cabin. Our cabin had a queen sized bed and two bunk beds. There was a little desk and an air conditioner as well. The bathroom was a short distance away at the campground office, which was not that big of a deal. The biggest challenge was making sure we had enough ice in our cooler to keep the food cold. This cabin only cost us $73 a night and that was for a holiday weekend price! It is usually cheaper. Our total was $231.05 for three nights.
Most areas have some kind of campground and many of them have cabin rentals. Many of our state parks in Kansas also have cabins and these even have kitchen amenities! You could also borrow an RV or camper from a friend if available. Or, you could go even more rustic and stay in a tent. But, that is a little too rustic for me! Especially with a baby.
If camping in a tent or cabin isn’t your cup of tea, check out other types of rentals. If you have other friends or family that you are traveling with, you could all chip in and rentals would be affordable. Trip Advisor has a whole section on rentals and many travel destinations have their own websites that list rentals.
Food and travel battle for next on the pricey list, but we will start with food because it is easiest to control!
When traveling, it is easy to start eating out for every meal and this can really add up! (And make you feel bloated!) Especially if you have a large family or eat at sit down restaurants each time. This is where the alternative lodging also comes in to play. When we stayed in our cabin, we cooked most of our own meals. We only ate out once after we arrived at our destination. I meal planned and did the grocery shopping before we even left. Some of our meals were already in foil packets so all we had to do was throw them on the grill and cook them up.
This really doesn’t take any more time than it does to sit at a restaurant and wait for your food. We also knew what to expect! The one time we went out to eat, I thought I ordered something like a calzone, but it came out SOO huge! I couldn’t eat it all and I felt bad for wasting it as we didn’t have any way to reheat it.
Here are some of the meals we ate:
- Grilled Chicken Salad (I premade the salads and then we just grilled the chicken to put on top!)
- Omelettes in a Bag
- Sausage and Vegetable Foil Packets (Put cut up sausage and veggies in foil with 3 Tbsp of water and 3 Tbsp butter. Cook over warm coals for about an hour.)
- Oatmeal with strawberries (I brought an electric burner and pot for this!)
- Hotdogs with S’mores (Can’t go camping without these!)
In total we spent $109.84 on food for our trip.
Transportation on a Tight Budget
Traveling to and from your destination is a little more difficult to save on. Sometimes you only have one way to reach a destination. We decided to drive 9 1/2 hrs north instead of fly. This was because we didn’t want to deal with multiple plane tickets and renting a vehicle. We also have a relatively economical vehicle and we only spent $137.98 on fuel! Wayyyyyyy cheaper than 2 plane tickets!
Your best bet is to do your research and figure out what will work for you and your family. My parents drove us to a lot of different destinations and we managed. If you are looking to fly, here are a bunch of tips on how to save when booking tickets.
Activities on an Allowance
When you go on vacation, you don’t want to sit in your room (or cabin!) all day, but excursions get expensive. Especially the more people you have go on them! (Thank goodness kids under 3 are usually free!)
However, we only spent $13.07 on activities this trip! There are so many free options these days and we took full advantage! Many of these I found on TripAdvisor. National landmarks, state parks, and historical sites are usually reasonably priced or free. Here is what we did in Wisconsin:
We had a great view of Lake Winnebago from the top of the lighthouse. We also spent some time walking around the park and showing Mia the water.
Wilmer’s Cheese Cellars
It was pouring down rain almost all day on Sunday, so we took the opportunity to go to Widmer’s Cheese Cellars. It was this tiny little shop down a side street of Theresa, WI. Because we showed up on a Sunday, we didn’t get to see cheese actually being made, but we were able to see all the equipment and watch a video showing the process and explained all about the different kinds of cheese. We were able to try samples of different kinds of cheese too! The white cheddar was really good and I bought some. That’s where the $13.07 came from.
There was a neat chainsaw exhibit that we got to check out as well. Completely free to stand around and watch the artist, and you didn’t have to buy if you didn’t want to. It was fun to try and guess what he was carving before he was finished. I sure couldn’t do anything like it! I’d probably cut off a hand!
Campground Activities: Swimming, Playground & S’mores
Because we chose to stay at a campground there were all sorts of activities going on! Mia got to go swimming for the first time with her daddy. Unlucky, it was after it stopped raining and even though the pool was supposedly heated, it was cold! It either didn’t have enough time to heat back up, or Wisconsinites have a different sense of what’s warm!
Their playground was also all sorts of fun with swings, sand, and jumping pillows!
And of course, because we went camping, we had to have a campfire! Not only did we have s’mores over our own campfire, our campground had a bonfire with live music to celebrate the 4th of July. At least they did until it started pouring down rain!
Take in the Scenery
There was so much beauty to take in when we were driving from place to place. Every little house seemed to have a cute old barn that went with it. There was also a dairy on every corner! That was my kind of scenery!
On our way home we drove through the Amana Colonies by Iowa City. It was a nice place to stop and stretch our legs for a bit. We walked down the street of main Amana and checked out the shops. We didn’t buy anything but there were some neat metal sculptures at one of the shops. The old buildings were pretty as well!
You can plan and plan and plan your vacation, but you always need to be ready for extra expenses. There were definitely things we forgot. We had to go buy pillows, charcoal, ketchup, and a car adaptor for my pump! I felt like I planned well, but we still ended up spending $107.33. Some of this was fun stuff as well! If you are the souvenir type, it is best to keep a budget. For us, our pictures are souvenirs!
In total, we spend $599.27 on our vacation. This helped make vacation fun and a little more stress free! Maybe we can make it on another vacation this year! Until then, I will be looking back at the photos and cherish the memories!
What was the greatest vacation you went on? Expensive or on a budget? Did you take one this year? I am always looking for new travel ideas! Comment below! Also, make sure you are subscribed to my blog using the box at top or bottom of this page. Happy travels!
More Vacation Photos