Tips for Taking a Practical Vacation

I’m headed out of town next week to help my boyfriend make the move from DC to Texas. When I moved, I shipped all my things home in a few 14 boxes, packed up two suitcases, jumped on a plane and was home in 6 hours. His move is a little more complicated because he has to drive his car down.

I always knew I would head back to DC to help him pack up and keep him company on the long drive – I figured the trip would also be a good chance to see my friends! If we drive it straight, or even over two long days, I could theoretically fly in on Friday night, leave Saturday morning, and be home in time to go back to work Monday morning. But since he’s starting his first “real” job it will be awhile before we get to take a vacation – especially because we already have three weddings and my college reunion on our calendar for next summer! When we realized that, I decided to take a full week off of work and turn his move into a good old-fashioned road trip. We’ll be visiting at least 4 cities over the course of several days. Below, some of the ways we’re saving money by taking what I’ve deemed our “practical vacation.”

Road Trip Savings Tips

  1. No extra gas: Since he would be driving this route no matter what, the transportation costs for our vacation are basically zero. And since Discover is giving an extra 5% on gas this quarter, we’ll save even more!
  2. Stay with friends: We’ll be on the road 3 nights for sure, and maybe 4. But for at least two of those nights we’re staying with family members or friends who have generously opened their homes to us. It’s a great chance to spend some time with some of our favorite people who live too far from Texas to see as often as we’d like.
  3. Be flexible: As I mentioned, we may be away 3 nights, or it might stretch to 4. We declined to make a hotel reservation for that last night since we might just stretch out a long day of driving to make it home. If we do decide to stay one more night on the road, we’ll find an inexpensive hotel away from a major city and pay less than $50 for it. I didn’t want to book something and lose the money if we pressed on, so I didn’t!
  4. Use rewards programs: As I mentioned, we’ll be saving 5% on gas through Discover. I also used hotel rewards points saved from work travel for the one night we’re sure we’ll need one. By staying 5 miles away from the city center, I only had to use 10,000 points instead of 25,000 – I’m frugal even when I’m not spending money! Another good way to fund a road trip is by redeeming gift cards for gas, hotel or restaurants via Swagbucks or MyPoints.
  5. Look for deals: Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean your normal habits should stop! I have been looking for Groupon and Living Social deals in the places we know we’ll stop – we’d like to take the time to eat at local restaurants and see at least a few touristy spots while we’re driving through parts of the country we’ve never seen!
  6. Pack an ice chest: We’ll probably stop for lunch and dinner to stretch our legs and get some fun out of what’s really a move. While it would be cheaper to pack all of our meals, I’m a little worried about cold cuts and such staying good in an ice chest for several days – and I can only eat so much PB&J!  But I still plan to pack an ice chest of drinks and snacks for in-between meal times. It will save us having to pay convenience store prices when a sweet tooth hits!

We’ll be going from DC to Greensboro to Louisville to Little Rock before ending up in central Texas. Any suggestions for fun and frugal stops along the way? Tell me in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Tips for Taking a Practical Vacation

  1. Toni

    Hey Jill,

    Good luck on the Road Trip! In case you decide to stay at a hotel the last night, you may want to make those reservation via the internet. I road trip with my 3 kids frequently, and I have found, that if I can stop along the way and make internet reservations from my ipod touch or cell phone, then they are much cheaper than when I just walk in. Sometimes, I’ve made the reservation from the hotel parking lot (using their wifi) and the rate ends up being much cheaper. I’ve also found that the Red Roof Inn has come a long way over the years, and in some parts of the south, could even be considered “swanky!”

    Safe travels!

  2. Diane

    Just south of Little Rock is I believe a state park where you can pan for diamonds. I’m not kidding. I was in Little Rock many times with a sick parent so we never got the opportunity to check it out but I’ve heard its a bunch of fun. Check it out for me!

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