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The expenses of taking a holiday begin long before the bags are packed, don’t let a vacation put you behind on your bills, by budgeting before the trip and planning ahead not to be caught in any tourist traps. Mostly, expect everything to be more expensive on vacation.
For this example, I’ll give tips for the Orlando area in Florida. With a million things to do, beautiful weather most of the year, and where gift or souvenir shops are a dime a dozen, here’s some of what I’ve learned while vacationing there.
Don’t waste time
Avoid wasting time in line to purchase tickets, view presentations for free gifts (with the kids), or wait in line for a ride or show. Each of the major parks have a system for going to the front of the line or choosing attractions on a schedule. This additional cost can save you money. As much money as I spend while I’m there, my time is pretty valuable… or expensive. These can be signed up for online, in advance, or at the door on kiosks, usually.
Research Your Vacation
Take a look online at the attractions available, what ages they’re good for, who is most interested in what, and read reviews! It is easier to find a general consensus when the attraction is established for a year or more, and some review sites or profiles don’t have enough ratings to give an average. Decide which are worth the wait, or worth the extra expense, and which are not.
It’s OK to do the same things
Do the things you know your family will love and stay entertained during. Keep the older kids off the phones, that includes everyone over the age of 18. Employ someone to be in charge of taking pictures, someone carries or remembers the mom-bag, someone who grabs the stroller, the umbrella, or the ponchos. Depending on who goes with you, you can keep everyone invested in spending the time together by finding activities that are interesting for everyone. It’s okay to go back to the same restaurants, theme shops, year after year, if you know you’ll like them and it’s a tradition.
Work With the Elements
Don’t waste time planning an outdoor adventure or anything in the water if the forecast is not calling for sun. If you do, have a backup activity at your resort or in the travel emergency kit, ready for the inevitable rainy day. Take advantage of the elements by going to museums, out to dinner, and bargain hunting at the local thrift shops. I will warn you about the souvenir shops in another post, but the bargain shopping I’m referring to is not at the Gift shops. We bring a couple board games or research about the area we’re in and find historical landmarks using GPS.
Shop in Advance
Also, don’t waste time going shopping when the sun is shining, for things you could have got at your local dollar store. Come prepared with the necessities, and go shopping when everyone’s all sunned out. When you get into the area, visit Walmart for the best deals on Disney and other trademark souvenirs. The dollar tree also has reasonable prices. My advice is to go when you’re not with the kids, get the things you want for them, and break them out as gifts throughout the trip as appropriate.
Resort Stays are better than Hotels
Don’t waste money going out to eat by staying at a hotel with a kitchen in the unit. There are many resorts to choose from. Some of my favorites are absolutely insane expensive, if you’re not a share owner. Some offer complimentary breakfast, have included restaurants, or a cafe at the hotel. Make plans in advance to make dinner together.
Don’t feel pressured to spend the money that the tourist traps suggest. If you can think of something you might want to buy there, with Disney on it, please shop online beforehand, you could save $100, just in souvenirs!