5 Ways to Spend Less During Your Vacation
My wife, my daughter, and I recently visited San Francisco for a wedding of our friends (congrats guys!) and decided to make this our summer vacation by extending the trip for a few days after the wedding. We had a great time but budgeting was, as are all vacations, something I am always concerned about. Here’s some ways we saved a bunch of money.
- We ensured our hotel had a mini-fridge and stocked it with groceries. (Much to our chagrin, it was a mini-bar, and we checked with management to have the goods removed without penalty so we could use the fridge ourselves). We stocked up on $54 in groceries that gave us most of our breakfasts and several lunches while we were in town. For breakfast, a quick bowl of Cheerios and milk or a Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit were a great way to start our day inexpensively. We also got a head start on all the attractions we wanted to see while people were standing in lines at breakfast joints.
- We bought a 3-day pass for mass transit. Most American cities should have something similar. This way, we were able to hop on and hop off whenever we wanted on trains, buses, and cable cars. Depending on which mode of transport you took, it would cost you anywhere from $5-14 round trip normally. We definitely got our value out of that pass. We spent $64 for my wife and me (my 2 year old daughter rode free) and rode with no worries to how much it would cost us to get to any destination in the city since we prepaid for it. San Francisco also offers a bit of a discount for each subsequent day for which you buy a pass, so that was great too! Also a nice benefit: not having to worry about carrying around cash or exact change all over the city. Potential downside for parents with kids: having to sing “Wheels on the Bus” a lot.
- When we did go out to eat, we dined in ethnically diverse neighborhoods with locals. Seeing a restaurant full of people with cameras, maps, and other tourist paraphenalia is a turn-off for me and my wife (generally). We know that those places – especially chains – are over-priced, crowded, and don’t give you an authentic meal from whatever city you are visiting. By going to Chinatown, Japantown, and Little Italy, we got to each some truly phenomenal authentic Chinese and Japanese dinners, and some Italian pastries. Good signs for us included menus that also had the foreign language displayed, neighborhood residents eating there, and reasonable prices. We did eat one treat at a tourist trap, and guess what, for a single Ice Cream Sundae ($13.49… no the price wasn’t posted, no doubt I had some sticker shock!) that we split three ways was nearly half the cost of our dinner in Chinatown ($32 after an 18% tip). Street food can also be great. We fed the three of us on a bread bowl of clam chowder for $7.75 on one of the days.
3.5: When we go out to eat, we try to avoid buying our daughter a “kids meal.” Not only are these usually nutritional disasters, but are super overpriced choices of 2 or 3 pieces of fried then frozen then re-heated chicken or mac and cheese. Pointless, I say! Plus, as a parenting goal, we want our daughter to have a desire to explore and try things she has never had before in her life, and that includes food that would normally be uncommon to us. So, what we often do is just split whatever we order with her and it usually works out.
4. We saw plenty of sights that were free or inexpensive. Guess what? Walking up to the Golden Gate Bridge and taking pictures of it from a nearby park are free. We already have an annual National Park pass, so going to Muir Woods National Monument and San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park were no-brainers for us as well. I did a morning run to and around AT&T Park where the San Francisco Giants play and I got to read all the monuments dedicated to their accomplishments and seeing the stadium from the outside was pretty neat. City parks are free and let my daughter burn off her energy. Before bed, heading to the hotel’s hot-tub was a good way to relax that didn’t cost any additional money.
5. Don’t forget about back home. Turn off your lights, lower your heat way down, or raise your air conditioning way up, lower your windows and close your blinds. If you’re going away for an extended period of time, lower the hot water heater temperature. Empty the fridge in the days prior and don’t replenish your groceries until you get back (this way you’ll save money on both not having to throw out spoiled food and you’ll reduce the cooling costs of the refrigerator). Unplug unnecessary appliances like your TV to reduce “vampire” electricity spending.