HOW TO: Travel on a budget

by April Fortner

It’s that time of year again! Good weather is to be had all over the continent, and perhaps you have an acute attack of the travel bug. The biggest challenge of planning your trip will most likely be money. Here are a few ways to assuage your travel bug before the vacation season runs out.

Bring your own food

If you’ve never tried this it may seem strange at first, but I find that bringing your own food can be a fun bonding experience for a family, and it knocks out a great deal of travel expense. 

My family especially likes to make a large sub sandwich out of a loaf of French bread and take fruit, cookies and perhaps a 2-liter of soda pop or some water. This is a great picnic lunch for a day trip. Sometimes we cheat and buy tuna/cracker packages, but even then it only costs around $7 instead of the $30 we might spend if we took all six of us to a restaurant.  

For longer trips, my family has been known to bring camping supplies and cook at park picnic benches. State parks are best for this, but it can be done at rest stops and local parks as well. You might get a few stares if you bring out the camp stove, but most people think it’s cool. Grilling is a lot of fun as well, and even though it is time consuming, it’s usually worth the wait.  

Another plus for cooking outdoors: your kids get to run around while they wait for the food.

Camp on the way

When I was in high school, my dad took my sister and me on an amazing trip to Bella Coola, British Columbia. The only problem was money was tight. In order to see all of the vast wilderness and interesting folks, we camped our way north from Washington, staying at a new site each night and cooking along the way.  

During this trip we saw glaciers, fjords, black bears, German immigrants and an Inuit hitchhiker who fed us sockeye salmon that she had caught and canned herself. If we had traveled more traditionally (with hotels and restaurants), it would not have been such a long or interesting vacation.

Use travel points and radio deals

If you travel often for work, sign up for a hotel rewards program. Choice Hotels offers especially good deals, which you can rapidly earn free nights to use on vacation. If you use a credit card for business expenses, find one that offers gift cards when you earn points. A note of caution: beware credit card debt. Interest is a budget killer!

If you or your spouse travels for work, you might be able to take your kids along for a family vacation. The hotel is already paid for, and usually whoever is working has their meals paid.  You can play in the hotel pool until your spouse gets off work and then make a picnic dinner.

Local radio stations often have coupons or deals on their websites for hotels near them. 

Get on your computer and diligently plan out your trip. You’ll be glad you did!