First Person: Planning a Thrifty Vacation

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Do your summer plans include a family vacation? When you are short of cash like our family, funds for a vacation may be tough to squeeze out of your budget. One of the ways we're finding cash for a summer vacation is by cutting back on everyday expenses such as groceries, utilities, and entertainment. We are also looking at creative ways to save money on our vacation as well.

Stay with relatives.

With family scattered over the US and abroad, staying with relatives is an easy way for our family to save hundreds of dollars a day. This arrangement works for everyone involved because we reciprocate by sharing our home when relatives visit Idaho. Staying with relatives means no hotel bills, a kitchen in which to prepare meals, and access to a washer and dryer. Savings: $100 a day minimum.

Prepare our own meals.

Eating out three meals a deal can get very expensive which is why we always prepare our own meals while on vacation. I usually fix a hot breakfast to start our day, then pack sack lunches and snacks for when we are out sightseeing. We usually split dinner responsibilities with our host with each of us taking turns cooking for the entire crowd. Savings: $50 per person a day.

Drive instead of fly.

For vacations west of South Dakota, we always drive our car instead of flying. Since our vacation is in Seattle this year, the cost of driving will only be $150. By comparison, a round trip plane ticket is $200 per person. Savings here: $450.

Discounted entertainment.

Even though the attractions in Seattle can get rather expensive, we've discovered that presenting our AAA card usually entitles us to a 10-20% discount on popular attractions. To keep our entertainment costs under the $200 budgeted amount we set for ourselves, our family usually limits ourselves to a total of three paid attractions and will spend the rest of our vacation doing free things like beach combing, window shopping, bicycling, and walking tours. Savings: Varies.

Second hand summer clothes.

Since Seattle's weather is so different than what we have back home, I usually have to buy things like windbreakers and sweats that can be worn on the beach in the evenings. Instead of buying new, we hit the thrift stores for gently used beach duds at a fraction of the price of new. Savings: between $50-$100.

A two week trip to Seattle can cost most families up to $3000 in hotel accommodations, air fare, and attractions. By looking for thrifty alternatives, you'll discover like our family has that its totally possible to have a great vacation without going into debt.

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More by this contributor:

How a 'no spend' week can free up extra cash.

Thrifty ways to have a family vacation.

Cheap vacation souvenirs for kids.

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