How We Vacation For $500

by Joe Plemon on June 4, 2010

A great vacation should allow you to get away, relax and have fun. For me (and I assume for you), relaxing and having fun is impossible if it isn’t affordable. This post will share some tips that Jan and I have used over the years and will conclude with the breakdown of our upcoming $500 vacation. Admittedly, we weren’t able to vacation for $500 when our four children were still at home, but we nevertheless used several of these tips even then. And whereas we vacation in the states, you who travel overseas can save a lot of money by learning the best way to exchange currency. My hope is that you will find a idea or two that will help your vacation be more affordable.

Share the fun.

Rent a condo or a house and divide the cost with two, three or four families. Make sure that you have plenty of room (a separate bed and bath for each family) and count the savings. For the past few years, my wife and I have shared a huge log mansion (this link is the exact home we stayed in) with three other couples for fall getaways. Cost per night? $300 total…$75 per couple.

Save on meals.

Eating out is, for many, the biggest vacation money drain. A family of four could easily spend $120 or more a day in restaurants. But if you could cook your own meals (another reason to rent the condo or house), you are basically getting free food. Why? Because you buy those same groceries whether you are at home or on vacation. Our four couples take turns cooking supper, have lots of fun sharing the meal together and always have plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. Do we eat out at all? Sure, but we afford it by using our entire monthly eating out budget during our one week of vacation…again sort of like free food.

Choose off season

An ocean vacation is off-season starting in the fall; a mountain vacation is normally off-season in the summer. Check and compare. Some off-season prices are discounted by as much as 50%.

Save on gasoline.

I realize that sharing a vehicle is not convenient when each family has children, but it is worth considering. We normally share with another couple, cutting our gasoline expenses in half.

Plan your shopping

You ARE going to shop. Right? Then take advantage of your shopping time by purchasing Christmas and Birthday gifts. This is money you would spend anyway, so plan your list and have fun! In the same way, you can buy clothing from money you already had budgeted for clothing. Last year Jan handed me $40 from our Clothing envelope and ordered me to buy some slacks. Using price and comfort as my criteria (style is not on my radar), I was able to find both jeans and cargo pants for under $40. My point? I used our clothing money to make my purchase; no vacation money was required.

Our $500 vacation

We (with three other couples) already have our lodge reserved for a Smoky Mountain getaway this fall. Here is the tabulation:

  • Room: 4 nights at $75 a night = $300
  • Food: We will use our normal grocery and eating out money. Vacation expense = $0
  • Gasoline: 800 miles round trip at 20 MPG @ $3/gallon divided by two families = $60
  • Shopping: Using budgeted Christmas, Gift and Clothing money, vacation expense = $0.
  • Total cost = $360

OK, I know I said we were going to have a $500 vacation. We might just go crazy, live it up and spend another $140. After all, we ARE on vacation!

Readers: In what ways have you made your vacations more affordable? Which one tip would you share with us?

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