Traveling is one of the most important things to our Family. We love having the ability to take our children on vacation to explore new locations and learn about different cultures. Travel can be expensive especially for families. Being vegan can also sometimes be a challenge when traveling. If you take time to research and plan, you will be amazed at how many things can be done on one vacation. Here are my tips to enjoying a fun, budget friendly, vegan vacation.
Know what you are going to spend before you go and set a budget for your trip. Start a savings account specifically for travel. Whether you can set aside $10 or $100 dollars a week, it will add up quick and help you avoid using credit cards for your vacation. We usually have all our activities payed for in advance to help us stay on budget. Bringing food and sacrificing going out to eat for entertainment and/or activities is a great way to save money.
Plan, Plan, Plan:
I usually plan out our vacations at least 6 months in advance if not a year. I plan according to our family’s vacation days and holidays. The more planning that goes into your vacation the better.
Each day of our vacation has an itinerary that we follow in order to keep us on track. This can be a bit tedious, but you can imagine how much time people waste on their vacation trying to figure out what to do while they are there. You don’t need a ton of time to do a lot. Many of our vacations have consisted of 2 or 3-day weekends where we made the most of what little time we had.
Whether you plan on flying, driving, walking, cycling or taking a train, I recommend looking up travel times and distances between locations beforehand. This is the most important part of making an itinerary and will give you a better understanding of what can be accomplished in a day.
Hiking is usually a big part of our vacations. I will seek out the best trails to according to our family’s abilities and look up the average time it takes to complete the trail. I then add about an hour to allow our family extra time to enjoy the outdoors.
Deals don’t come to those who wait, at least this has been our experience when booking flights. The earlier you book, the better. Flying during the week and choosing early or late flights seems to be the key to scoring great prices.
Booking cheaper airlines and avoiding baggage fees by packing light is another great way to save money. Our favorite airlines for cheap flights are Frontier and Allegiant. Usually these airlines allow each passenger a personal item such as a backpack. This will help you avoid baggage fees and save you time at check in. Each one of our family members carries everything backpack. You’d be surprised at how much can fit in there.
When we travel for longer periods of time or are traveling to destinations that require a lot of clothing, we will pay to check one large bag and pack our extra clothing in there. If you are bringing a jacket, wear it. Wearing as much clothing as you can on your flight will also allow more room in your bag.
Let your flight determine your trip. Some of our vacations have been determined by the cost of flights to a certain destination. Of course, there needs to be some interest in the destination. This may not be for everyone but can be a huge money saver. Airlines regularly offer deals to certain cities different times of the year and if you check often enough you can snag some amazing deals.
Book a car rental as soon as you book your flight and make sure you are able to cancel if prices change. I recommend using Autoslash.com. You can get quotes and track rental car prices and they will even send you alerts when prices drop.
If you are a Costco Executive member, I recommend checking their website for rental cars and comparing them to different travel websites as well.
For big cities with good public transportation, we recommend not getting rental car and using public transportation and/or Uber, Lyft etc. Parking in larger cities are often more expensive than your daily car rental fee and traffic can be frustrating.
Drive if possible:
Our family’s rule is if it’s 8 hrs or less, we drive. Even when you score those super cheap round trip tickets that are under $100 it will still cost you more than driving. You must consider the fact that you may need a rental car once you reach your destination. Driving also allows you to stop and check out some cool roadside attractions and smaller towns on the way.
3-day weekends make for excellent road trips. Since 3-day weekends usually occur during holidays, we avoid flying and opt for quick weekend getaways.
Road trips make for some fantastic vacations but can quickly turn into a nightmare with small children. This is where distractions come in handy. As a mother, I’m not fond of the idea of children constantly being entertained by tablets. That being said, our children are allowed to use a tablet on road trips and road trips only. We bring toys, games, drawing pads and books for them to enjoy as well.
I recommend bringing wipes and a small portable toilet for younger children because they always seem to have to go at the most inconvenient times. This allows you to pull off the side of the road at your convenience.
We always say, “Our hotel is not our destination.” We don’t go on vacation to spend time in a hotel. We understand that type of vacation is appealing to some but is it in not the type of travel our family does and therefore we recommend staying in cheaper hotels.
I know cheap hotels sound scary but doing your homework pays off here. Reading the most recent reviews can give you a better understanding as to why a particular hotel has a 3-star rating vs 5- star. Many times, you will see reviewers complain about small, irrelevant things that may not bother you. We’ve only had one bad experience staying at cheap hotels.
We’ve had many good experiences finding hotels on hotwire.com. Trivago is also great for comparing prices. Airbnb and VRBO used to have good deals but within the past 2 years we’ve seen prices go up drastically in the U.S. Mexico is a different story. Booking vacation rentals in Mexico using Airbnb and VRBO can yield great results and has been instrumental in our vacations south of the border.
Often, we choose a destination based on the availability of vegan restaurants but there are some destinations that offer little to no vegan food. Some locations are so remote, you’d be lucky to find any kind of food within 20 miles. For those destinations, bringing your own food may be your only option. This tip is also helpful if you are on a budget. Eating at restaurants can add up quickly. Bringing at least one meal per day, per person can save a lot of money. If you are driving to your destination, you can bring a whole cooler full of food. For breakfast we recommend bringing oatmeal packets and fruit. Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches are a classic for lunch and soups are great for dinner options.
If you can’t wait to try all those yummy vegan restaurants, there is no better app for that than Happy Cow. I would also recommend joining vegan social media groups from the cities you plan on visiting to discover the latest and greatest vegan food that location has to offer. If it weren’t for Vegas Vegans on Facebook, we would have never realized how awesome Las Vegas is for vegans.
Entertainment and Activities:
Our family loves exploring the great outdoors. Hiking is one of the cheapest activities our family participates in. Our kids often take part in the free junior ranger programs at National and State Parks. We’ve found that locations with water are particularly interesting to children and the amount of complaints drastically decrease when water is around.
Beach vacations are one of our kid’s favorite destinations. They love wading in the water, riding the waves, and playing in the sand. We as parents love it because it’s virtually free and can be relaxing.
Groupon is our go-to for entertainment and activities. Many tourist attractions often show up on Groupon and you can score great deals. Groupon also gives you to opportunity to try something you might be on the fence about.