January is the time we start planning our family vacation, with the “family” now consisting of myself, my husband, and our dog-child. Social Security is our primary income, so after the holidays is when we start putting aside $100 each, more or less depending on what we can afford. We also save our change which can add up to a tidy sum over the course of 7-8 months.
Living in the mountains of W.V. year-round makes the east coast our desired choice of destination; for us, the complete change of scenery and different way of life is what our vacations are all about. Traveling by car is our only option, but using our Jeep Liberty isn’t. If it’s in our budget, we rent a medium-size car from a service that gives us an AARP discount, and the long ride is more comfortable; we also save on gas since the Jeep isn’t as fuel-efficient.
After determining what’s affordable, we pick a state (anywhere from southern N.J to South Carolina) and search online for motels near the shore that are in our price range and pet-friendly. Most chain motels like Days Inn, Super 8, and Knights Inn are in that category, and we already know from experience they give AARP discounts to members. Some also offer coupons to use at local eateries; if they don’t offer, ask. We then schedule our arrival and departure for weekdays, when rates are lower.
Instead of buying over-priced snack foods and drinks when making gas stops, pack apples, bananas, nuts, and granola bars. Not only are they healthy, they contain fiber which hold off hunger pangs. We always take a cooler with bottles of water, cans of soda, and plenty of ice. Don’t forget to bring your own drinks and snacks to stock your motel room. This not only saves money, but is more convenient to have on hand after a full day.
Always buy sunscreen, sunburn lotions, and toiletries before you leave home, and assemble a first aid kit for small emergencies. Pack clothes for hot, mild and cool weather. Needing to buy slacks or a sweatshirt is an unnecessary expense that takes away from your “fun-fund”, and every dollar saved by bringing your own supplies is more money for you to spend on local attractions, souvenirs, and a chance to enjoy the local cuisine.