Tuesday, April 20, 2021
O.k. friends, you don’t know this about me but I have planned many a family road trip on the cheap. I really enjoy doing this planning, too!
I thought this might be a good time to write about this since many of you are getting vaccinated and may be ready to go somewhere safely. It isn’t too late to rent a property for this summer. Or, you can choose to do a hotel. Heck, places are probably begging for people to visit.
Since I have had this blog, we have not traveled much so you haven’t gotten to hear about our family trips. Get those trips in before high school, because when high school starts, activities abound and schedules become harder and harder to work around. Yes, even in the summer there are so many things in the lives of high schoolers.
We took trips most Spring Breaks and one week every summer from the time our twins were about 2 until they were 14. Sometimes on Spring Break we wouldn’t do a big trip, but we would go to Great Wolf Lodge for a night or do something small. We also did lots of summer and fall camping – tent camping. I joked that Tom picked either the hottest night of the summer or the coldest night of fall to go camping. It is tons of work and you never sleep well, but we have good memories!
We traveled exclusively by car with our kids until our two week Germany trip in the summer of 2016. Air travel seemed too complicated and pricey and we don’t mind driving. Also, our kids were great car riders.
The ol’ family truckster:
Another advantage to driving is you can take more stuff!
So, my number one tip to save money is to drive.
We have traveled by car with our kids to:
Washington, D.C. which included Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water, Pennsylvania, and Maryland
Chincoteague Island and Assateague Island National Seashore
Jamestown, Monticello, Mount Vernon
Harry Potter World, Everglades, The Florida Keys and a boat trip to Fort Jefferson two hours south of The Keys
Dauphin Island, Alabama
Hilton Head Island
Lake Michigan – at least five times maybe more?
With me being a teacher and the boys in school, we were limited to Spring Break and summer. We don’t have a Fall Break in our district.
Lake Michigan Beach:
We love Lake Michigan. We can be there in under 5 hours and it is so pleasant in the summer. There is no salt water, no sharks, and the temperature is perfection. One time we booked a sailboat on Lake Michigan with a captain and one time the boys took surfing lessons on Lake Michigan!
We have taken our dog on many vacations. We didn’t take our first dog Archie much, but we have taken Ernie on at least 5 trips in his 8 years! Ernie has been to Lake Michigan 3 times and to Dauphin Island, Alabama.
-Decide where you want to go. Don’t rule out places closer to home. You will save on gas and you can maximize your time at your destination when you don’t waste a whole day or more driving! If your destination is far, you can divide it up in two days and find something interesting to do along the way. We usually only did about 7-8 hours a day in the car which made us all much happier. My kids even enjoyed a hotel for a night and we found reasonable rates. Give a kid a hotel room and a pool and they think they are at a water park!
-Don’t just think beach. City trips can be really fun! What are your kids studying in school? Is there a place they have expressed interest in seeing? On two of our Lake Michigan trips, we took the train (an adventure in itself) into Chicago for the museums. I like city combined with beach!
Amtrak train from New Buffalo, Michigan to Chicago:
The kids were impressed with the outlets to charge their phones and their mom was impressed with the bar car on the train!
-Save money by only staying for 4-5 nights. You don’t have to stay a whole week and sometimes a shorter trip can be just as refreshing. Some rentals make you do a full week if it’s in high season.
-I used VRBO for all of our rentals when we didn’t do hotels. The filters are great – check the boxes for the things you must have in a rental. Read the reviews. If there is even one negative review, do not do it! There are so many dog friendly rentals, too. Decide what are your non-negotiables and put those in the filter. One year we did a one bedroom and gave the boys the bedroom and we did the pull out couch in the living room where the t.v. was. The boys were 3 and it made sense and saved lots of money.
-Rent a place with another family. This makes it much more affordable. Bonus if you really like the people, have kids the same age, etc.
-Rent a place with washer and dryer. It’s so nice to pack lightly and have that available but don’t get into a trap like my sister does with doing laundry just as much on vacation as you do at home!
-I prefer houses that are run by people rather than rental companies. I have found the ones run by owner have spices, baggies, aluminum foil, and more for you to use. They often have strollers, wagons, beach toys, beach chairs, etc. One rental we used even had a lock box on the beach which was amazing! We didn’t have to haul stuff each day.
-If you have space, bring stuff for a couple of meals and possibly your breakfast and sandwich stuff from home. If you have a long drive, you will not want to worry about finding dinner. Or, order pizza the first night.
-Pack a cooler for the car so you don’t have to stop unless you want to.
-I always made activity bags for the boys to do in the car. Sometimes I put the state names on each bag so they could only open it when we crossed that state line. Example: bag with Tennessee on it contained a coloring book and crayons and they got to open it when we saw the state sign.
-When you do go out to eat, try to go at off times. We would have an early light lunch and then go out for dinner at 4:00 or 5:00. Ain’t nobody got time for a 2 hour wait on vacation.
-Do your research before you go. Make a list of restaurants with their addresses, possibly look for Groupons for that area, check attractions’ hours, etc. Also, if you do bring your pet, check the beach hours for dogs. Ernie was not allowed on the beach after 11 and then couldn’t be on the beach until 7. This worked out well as we took him on long walks on the beach (so romantic!) in the morning and he was worn out and ready to nap when we went for the day. After dinner, it got us back on the beach at sunset and he got another walk. We always meet other dogs for him to play with, too. Ernie really has it good, no?
Tom and Ernie enjoying a long walk on the beach:
What tips have I forgotten?
Can you recommend some great places to visit? My boys aren’t really beach people these days. Tom is also not really a beach person. He has to be pretty active and can do water sports but doesn’t really want to lay on the beach. I can definitely lay on a beach, but I like some sight seeing, shopping, history, you know?
Thanks for reading!