Living on one income means my family doesn’t take a whole lot of vacations. In fact, this year is the first vacation we’ve taken as a family. We had decided that we wanted to see the ocean; which was a huge deal for my 3 year old! So, I took to the internet in search of the most budget friendly trip ideas, and Charleston, SC seemed like the best fit. Here is how we saved money on our family trip:
Set a Budget: Sit down, think about how much money you might need for your trip. Think about every little thing you might have to spend money on. Write down your budget, and stick to it. My advice, set your budget a little higher than you might think you need. That way, if you come under budget, you can save the rest.
Transportation: We drove, making overnight stops in cities on the way there and back so that my kids wouldn’t have to sit still for almost 15 hours! While we have a newer car, we didn’t want the burden of adding the extra miles, and the risk of something happening to our personal vehicle (plus it’s small!). We ended up renting a vehicle for our trip. We saved the bulk of our planned budget here. Before you book your vehicle, think about what size car you’ll need and how much gas will cost for that vehicle. Also, check multiple rental companies to compare prices. Sites like Expedia and Kayak help you to compare multiple prices at one time. You should also check with your employer. Sometimes companies offer their employees corporate discounts to places such as car rental companies. We saved a large chunk by using my husband’s corporate discount! Here is your final tip, when you decide on your rental company, check multiple locations, and compare prices against each other. We found that rental prices closer to the airport were cheaper than the locations closer to our home.
Lodging: There are multiple lodging choices for when you travel. There are RV sites, rental homes, historic inns, and the standard hotel. When choosing a hotel, I wanted to make sure they offered a full hot breakfast; that way we could save on a breakfast budget. We booked through Expedia, which saved us a great deal when compared to the hotel’s website. When booking, you are sometimes given the to pay now, or later, if you choose to pay right when you book, on Expedia, you can save money. Here is an extra tip when booking hotel rooms, if you plan on traveling again, sign up for rewards programs! Each time you stay, you can earn points towards a free or discounted stay. Expedia and Hampton Inn both offer this.
Food: Food can take a huge portion of your budget, I mean, you gotta eat! Before you travel, find out where the locals eat. These places will often cost less than bigger restaurants. When we arrived in Charleston, we headed to Sullivan’s Island, where we ate a a BBQ joint with a tin roof! It is also good to check Groupon for any deals. You can save up to 50% sometimes by purchasing a Groupon. I went through dozens of menus for restaurants to compare prices before we even left for our trip.
Fun: I’m going to say this again, check with Groupon! The less you spend, the more you can do (that’s what I tell my kids at least). I found a Groupon for a private boat charter to Morris Island to view dolphins and collect sea shells. We had one more person than the Groupon allowed for, but the price would have saved us 50% off of our planned budget for this activity, so I contacted the charter captain. He graciously honored the Groupon rate for us if we booked through him! Take advantage of free attractions if you can find them! We visited the beach, City Market, and Rainbow Row which took up time, and didn’t cost anything. If you are interested in visiting a historic fort, you can visit Fort Sumter for $11-$18 per person, or Fort Moultrie, which is within eyesight and across the harbor from Fort Sumter, for only $5 for the family! The city of Charleston if full of history. Just walking down Meeting St. you can see lots of historical buildings. Make sure you stop by the visitors center (375 Meeting St.) and grab brochures and maps. A lot of times you can get coupons for activities or restaurants. Another tip, if you walk into any of the shops down Market St (along either side of the City Market), you can find coupons for restaurants right on their counters!
PLAN: My husband laughs at me for my well planned travel itineraries. However, he’s not laughing when we wake up and don’t have to think about what we are going to do, how much it will cost, and how we get there! If you are on a budget,, it is in your best interest to have a complete plan of what your family plans on doing; that includes back-up plans just in case it rains. You also want to make sure you are well packed. Pack extra clothes, extra diapers/pull ups, medicine……anything your family might need while you are traveling. Make sure you also pack snacks and drinks for when you are driving. The last thing you need is to take money from your budget to purchase extra clothes or toiletries because you forgot them. Remember, even the most well planned trip can hit a few bumps. Just remember to have fun!
If you are planning a trip to Charleston, make sure you check out my reviews on TripAdvisor! They will give you more details about my family’s experiences.