Vacationing for the Frugal: Tips for the Cost-Conscious Traveler

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It’s vacation time and you want to get away. But with money being tight, you don’t want to overspend on your vacation. What can you do? Below are a few inexpensive options:

• Try a “staycation.” Aside from saving you money that would otherwise be spent on food and lodgings, a staycation entails less stress—no long car drives or air travel. Plan a themed staycation that will allow you to make an itinerary and feel as though you’re really going somewhere. For example, your family can enjoy a historical staycation where you travel to all the historical landmarks in your local area.

• Save on accommodations. If you do decide to go on a vacation, avoid blowing your budget on pricey accommodations, and consider staying with family or friends. I remember once going on a family trip to New York (I live in Baltimore). My family and I visited the Empire State Building and Ellis Island and saw a Broadway show, but we stayed at my grandparents’ home in Teaneck, New Jersey. This gave us the space we needed, with the best hosts, and the most delicious food.
You can also split a vacation rental with friends or family. Save agency rental fees by getting in touch with homeowners—visit www.vrbo.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner) for lists of vacation rentals by owners worldwide.

• Go camping. For the more rugged family, camping is a great money-saving option. You can choose between camping sites where you will really be roughing it and those that offer all the basic amenities including showers. Visit KOA.com to find a campsite that suits your family’s needs. Kosher food staples to bring along include dried fruit, trail mixes, cereal or protein bars, and powered or evaporated milk. If refrigeration is available, bring along string cheese, and frozen hotdogs, hamburgers and chicken.

• Make use of social buying. Look for deals in the area that you’re visiting through social buying sites such as Groupon and Living Social. (Kosherkouponz.com is one such site geared specifically for the kosher consumer.) Social buying, another term for group or collective buying, is the purchasing of an offer which has been significantly reduced, due to the fact that it is only valid if enough buyers are found. Group buying is available online in many forms. You can get discounted museum and adventure park tickets at such sites.
In addition to looking for deals in the area that you are visiting, get in touch with the local vaad or community rabbi to find out if kosher dairy products, baked goods, restaurants or stores are available in the area.

• Bring your own food. For the kosher frugal traveler, bringing your own food is a must. Why spend money at vacation spots or buy things on the go when you can travel with the canned goods, frozen goods (in a cooler), and packaged foods that you like? You can refill your cooler with ice at any fast food restaurant.

• Look for value over a cheap deal. “The lowest price is not usually the best value or best deal,” says Michael Hochheiser, co-owner of Doneson Crown Travel in Southfield, Michigan. He suggests finding a travel agent who will work with you. Travel agents charge a nominal fee for booking simple airline tickets; but for international tickets they get a commission from the airline and for vacation packages or cruises, they get paid by the supplier. This means that you can take advantage of an agent’s help, without paying for the service. Together you can plan a trip where value and quality come together.

Ways to Save (ideas taken from www.thefrugallife.com):
• Don’t buy souvenirs.
• Book your hotel or motel a few miles away from the main strip in a major resort area. This won’t add much to your gas bill, and will save money on your hotel or motel bill.
• Plan your vacations for off-season.
• Save Up! If you want to go on vacation but know you don’t have that much money to spend, put aside a little bit every month for your trip.
• Book cruises in advance so you can make small monthly payments without going over your monthly budget.

Rivka Slatkin is a professional organizer living in Baltimore. Her web site is Jewish-life-organized.com.

This article was featured in Jewish Action Summer 2011.

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