Summer vacations–whether for families, couples, singles or groups–don’t have to be expensive to be memorable. In the second of our three-part series (see Part I), we give you tips to help you stay within your budget while planning your summer getaway.
Each year, the Staes family travels to a different state for Amateur Athletic Union Basketball finals, which doubles as a week-long summer vacation. Having three children with varying ages and interests—Ethan, 13; Grace, 10; and Holden, 6–the Staes try to have fun without breaking the bank. “When possible, my husband Steven and I rent a home or condo for the week for $600. We can cook several meals, enjoy the private pool, and use amenities like the game room,” says Michelle, 41. “When we stay at a hotel, we look for discounts and complimentary breakfast.”
Hotels, Resorts, and Villas
Like the Staes, if you want more bang for your buck, stay at hotels that feature discount rates, free breakfast, Wi-Fi, and offers where kids stay free. Start with SideStep, a travel and search site that specializes in helping consumers compare the best prices for flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, and more. Also search Hotels.com and Kayak.com for comparisons. When you find a hotel of interest, be sure to go to the hotel company’s main Website to double-check that the discounter is really offering the best price.
Holiday Inn has a special deal for families with kids. Travelers who are 19 and under stay free at all of the company’s hotels. “The Holiday Inn Express brand has refreshed their properties and offer a wide selection of affordable locations averaging $80 a night,” says Joel Widzer, author of Penny Pincher’s Passport to Luxury Travel (Traveler’s Tales Guides; $12.95).
TripAdvisor.com is a great research tool for checking out hotels and vacation spots beforehand. The site offers brief reviews written by travelers who’ve been to the hotel or location you’re planning to visit. “I don’t book a hotel without going to Tripadvisor first,” say Nicole Early-Plummer, a travel professional for LTTTravel Connection. Another site Early-Plummer recommends: VillasCaribe.com. “If you’re looking for something different to do with the family, you can rent a five-bedroom, five-bathroom villa in the Caribbean–complete with a cook and housekeeper–for only $1,000 for four days and five nights,” she says.
Beachfront getaways normally charge a premium during the summer. Even so, savvy shoppers can still find a good bargain. Courtyard by Marriott in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, for instance, offers great rates starting at $169 nightly. “Steps from the ocean, guests can enjoy recreational activities that include bike trails, hiking, jet skiing, kayaking, sailing, golfing, surfing, and scuba diving,” says Lisa Dickinson, regional director of sales for Shaner Hotel Group. See Gordon’s Guide for other discounts on beach resorts in the U.S.
In Part 3, we’ll give you tips on how to entertain the kids without breaking the bank.
Leslie Royal is a regular contributor to BlackEnterprise.com.