As I mentioned in a previous post (here), our family recently took a totally spontaneous trip to the beach. We literally decided the night before and began gathering supplies. Of course, my kids were so excited when we woke them up and told them to put on their bathing suits. It was such a great surprise for a Friday morning in February! Subsequently, I had lots of people ask me how it’s possible to make spontaneous travel affordable.
I get it. Most of the time last minute equals extra spending. However, there are several ways you can travel- even at the last minute- on a budget!
Here are some suggestions to make your spontaneous travel affordable:
- Back Pocket Ideas: The planner in me has to admit, I always have some trip ideas in my back pocket. In fact, I have a list of places I want to visit that are within a certain radius of our home. So although the decision to go is somewhat last minute, the planning has taken place well in advance. Most of the places on my list are free or a very minimal cost. For example- state or national parks. Whenever I see a day on the calendar with gorgeous weather, and no activities- I always go to my back pocket list to see if we might be able to travel.
- BYO Everything: In case you didn’t follow, that’s Bring Your Own Everything. No matter how spontaneous the trip, I always make time for a quick run to the grocery store. We fill a cooler with food and drinks so we don’t have to spend a bunch of money eating out. I also make a point to remember things like sunscreen and medicine so we aren’t forced to stop and make unnecessary purchases. Even if I have to spend the extra 5-10 minutes preparing, it’s worth it to slow down and make sure we don’t forget anything before leaving the house. Read more about how I save money on food and water by clicking the links!
- Pack More: Similar to BYO, I always pack double what I think we’ll need for a spontaneous trip. Even if it’s just a little day trip- I pack a change of clothes, shoes and extra towels. There’s nothing worse that being unprepared and needing to stop to buy something. For example, last year we did a little Staycation. It was somewhat well planned out, but circumstances threw us some curve balls and we had to change our plans last minute (read all about it, here.) Unfortunately, I hadn’t packed appropriately and we ended up needing to stop to purchase a change of clothes. That added a huge expense to our trip and it could have easily been avoided if I’d taken the time to pack extra.
- Deal Shop: It’s never too late to shop for a deal on travel. In fact, some of the best deals come from last minute planning. Taking 20 minutes to check Groupon, search for coupons online and/or check for last minute rates via a phone call can add up to huge savings! Similarly, it’s always great to know if there are certain days with lower rates (go back to the “back pocket” list- do a little research!) Another example from our Staycation- we learned that TopGolf offers a much lower rate before noon. They also have a discount for kids! Knowing that information, we were able to work that activity into our trip and save a lot of money by working around the deal.
- Be Flexible: If you are willing to stay flexible, so many travel companies offer last minute discounted rates. One I’ve seen most often (and even taken advantage of myself) is for cruises. Often if you sign up to be on the email list, you will get notified of any last minute fares. If you’re flexible enough to travel with just a week or two notice, you can often save TONS of money. Likewise, some airlines also offer last minute deals. Watch rates so you will know when you are getting a great deal!
- Delete History: It’s really no secret that the internet is making it possible for companies to track our every move. It’s truly alarming. Sometimes I swear I haven’t even typed in a search and suddenly ads are appearing on my screen for the item. CRAZY! But, one way to avoid falling victim to hiked up prices based on what the travel industry knows about your search history is to delete it! Before searching for rates on airlines, rental cars and hotels, I always make sure to clear my history. Try it and I think you’ll be amazed to see the rates drop!
- Be Smart: It always pays off to stop and think a little before jumping into spontaneous travel. Don’t get so rushed that you make a mistake. For example, we live fairly close to a state line. The cost of gas is noticeable different between the two states- even if the gas stations are within a mile of each other. Take the time to plan your trip enough to make smart decisions- like fueling your car at the most affordable pump!
- Pay Cash: For me, there’s something so motivating about having actual dollar bills in my hand. Yes, I totally understand that money coming off my debit card is the exact same thing…but the mentality is just different. If you want to make spontaneous travel affordable for your family, set a budget and withdraw the cash. Forcing yourself to spend only the money on hand will require that you think through your spending a little more carefully.
Everyone needs a break from the routine every once in a while. A spontaneous trip is an awesome way to make memories with your family and visit some new destinations!
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