EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE: How to take a vacation
Forget the excuses. You need a vacation, and for more reasons other than it’s just fun to get away. Research shows that regular getaways may increase longevity by preventing heart disease. In fact, men in a nine-year study who took at least one vacation per year were almost 30 percent less likely to die from a heart-related cause compared with the men who kept their noses to the grindstone.
Family vacations are one of my best childhood memories. Being together away from the normal routines of life creates an atmosphere just right for bonding and for making memories to last a lifetime.
If you can manage the time, I’ve got some tips and ideas to make it happen:
BE REALISTIC ABOUT THE COST: Consider the money you have first, and then design a vacation that will realistically fit within that financial boundary. If you have a family of five and $500 to spend, don’t even think about a couple of days at Disney World.
BE REALISTIC ABOUT TIME: Divide what you can spend by a reasonable daily budget to determine how many days you can be gone. Carefully consider all the costs, not only the admission fees and overnight accommodations. Instead of full weeks, consider day trips or a weekend vacation.
CAMPING: If you’re careful, camping can be nearly as cheap as staying at home — provided you already have the basic equipment or can borrow it. Kids love to camp! A nice campsite costs about $15-$35 a night. Many campgrounds now require reservations, so don’t wait until the last minute to make your plans. The National Park Service website, www.nps.gov, has all the information you need about every national park in the country.
GAS UP THE CAR: Road trips are an American tradition, a wonderful way to see the country and an inexpensive vacation alternative for families with young children. Even if your goal is to get somewhere and stay there, make the drive itself a special part of the vacation. Stop often. Take in every Visitor Center and historic site. When it’s time to fill up, visit GasBuddy.com or GasPriceWatch.com to find the cheapest gasoline price. Hint: Sunoco gives an immediate $.05/gallon discount at the pump with its gas card. No strings attached!
MEALS: Look for family-friendly, residential-style accommodations that include a complimentary breakfast. Take full advantage of it, and then make lunch your main meal of the day in a restaurant. Pick up food in a deli or grocery store for a dinnertime picnic.
STAY-AT-HOME VACATION: If your bottom line says you just don’t have the money available to leave town on vacation this year, don’t let that get you down. Take your vacation at home. Visit your own city as if you’ve never been there before. Go to the museums, theme parks — all those places that tourists visit when they come to your town, but you’ve only driven by. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce. Google your city plus “tourist.” Take day hikes. Visit all the parks within a five-mile radius of your house. Clever and creative parents can turn even a tent in the backyard into an amazing camping experience.
Change all the rules for your stay-at-home vacation. Sleep in, unplug the phone, stay up really late, endure movie marathons.