We just survived 15 hours in the van as a family of 7 as we traveled down the coast. Wow! Amazingly each trip gets easier - partly because the girls get older and partly because we get all our stops down to a science. Or maybe I'm just crazy and make us hurry up :)
Last year I had a number of gift cards to cut down on our traveling expenses. This year I did not but I still found ways to travel cheap and conveniently.
The best ways for us to travel cheap:
1. Budget. Yep, the yucky "B" word. It's so much easier to overspend when you're not paying attention to what you're spending. Simple as that. Since we had cash set aside for the whole trip the less we spent on traveling down the more we had to spend while we're here. And I'd much rather spend money having fun on vacation then on McDonald's food traveling.
2. Plan ahead. Similar to budgeting but applies to everything not just money. By planning our snacks and food in advance it meant that we didn't find ourselves hungry and then spend money on snacks at a convenience store or pay extra money at meals.
3. Use coupons. Of course. Though this time I didn't have coupons for what I bought so much as using my Staples rebates check for picking up some useful trip items there :) Since the ebate check can only be used at Staples I thought creatively picking up snacks (yes, snacks - they sell a huge bucket of animal crackers which the kids just loved) - mostly though I picked up items for the kids entertainment:
For under $20 I put together bags for each kids including crayons, coloring book, stickers and blank construction paper for coloring or stickers. They had a great time with these and by using the bags we didn't lose any crayons. Plus, I knew who had used which stickers!
4. Bring our own meals and snacks from home. Instead of buying breakfast I made it. I spent some time on Friday baking muffins for Saturday's breakfast. The kids LOVE blueberry muffins and since I had picked up muffin mix for basically free at Giant a month or so ago it cost me nothing but 2 eggs to comply. So, for about $0.50 I made breakfast. I also put some LIFE cereal in a bag (a box I paid $0.50 for) along with bananas so in total breakfast for 5 kids was less than $2.00 though I did splurge on milk and buy them their own bottle from the store for $1.00 each. Like their activities I put their breakfast and snacks in bags:
- for their snack bags I gathered up snacks from around the house then labeled a larger bag and filled them with the snacks. At any time I could offer the kids their choice of snacks and I have to say it worked really well.
- we also brought cold cuts for lunch and we only purchased one meal for under $30.
Since we have no control over gas we cut our costs in food and it helps a whole lot. If you have tips I'd love to hear them as we'll be heading home in a few weeks and I'd love to travel even cheaper!