Summer is coming and that means the kids are off and you get to spend your weekends delving into vacation plans. Yay!
Actually, this can be a fun and relatively rewarding experience. Planning a trip with the family takes a blend of skills: frugalness, ingenuity, and resourcefulness. You want to know all the great places to stop at a certain destination, but it needs to be as inexpensive as possible, yet entertaining and rewarding for all.
Wow. How can you manage to be so awesome?
Here are 3 great tips for acquiring that cheap holiday full of memories and pictures that tell a story remembered fondly by all
- Understanding the Hotel and extra occupant charges with the kids
So obviously, this one depends on the size of your family. If your unit is 3 or 4, you might be able to make do with just 1 room. The boy’s bed/girl’s bed setup worked in my family – dad and son, mother and daughter. If you’ve got 2 girls or 2 boys – they can share a bed (hopefully with minimal fuss) and mom ‘n dad get the other.
Things get easier if you’ve got one little one. Even to the point of not being charged! Contact the hotel before hand and inquire about the age of children that needs that ‘extra person’ charge. Many times the hotels say 4 or 5 years old, yet the internet sites usually charge after 2 years. If you’ve got the hotel approval, just put 2 adults and save yourself the extra nightly charge!
- Weighing the Costs of Transport
You’re probably thinking “It’s cheaper to just get taxis”. And why not? It’s less hassle, you don’t know the streets, and quite possibly – you don’t drive stick!
But, wait. These days, taxi prices are growing. More and more ‘metered’ cars negotiate the price before hand and leave the machine off and unplugged, leaving you clueless as to the correct price. And who knows if there IS a correct price. A taxi trip from airport to hotel can run you a steep price making you ponder the ‘cost vs. rental car’ mid-trip.
Here in Phuket, one 30 minute trip from airport to hotel can cost you the same as 2 days of rental car. Crazy. A trip to the beach? Ten bucks down the drain. Restaurant? $15… The prices add up and if you’re planning multiple outings, best to have one payment with a driver you know and trust – you. Just understand that the road rules are different. Bikes and motorcycles come first. And keep your wits about you and emergency numbers on speed dial.
- Eating – the hidden expense!
If you’re like our family, food is the big motivation for a vacation location. Tourist restaurants in our theatre of the world are the costliest and also the least delicious. They cater towards making foods that tourists have in their own countries – pizza, hamburgers, strudel, fish & chips, etc. They have the biggest signs, brightest pictures, even doormen directing you in to their expensive establishments. They’re banking on you not quite having a grip on that exchange rate. 300 Thai baht sounds cheap for a burger, but actually that’s $10 and it’s made by a chef that wasn’t working in the restaurant last month and probably will move on next month. Restaurant cook turn-over rates are high at these places, where menus are books with pictures downloaded from the internet.
Stay away from the brochure eateries and go where the locals go – if that’s why you’re there. Food courts might not be the flashiest of places, but the food there has been cooked by the same guy for 20 years. It’s their own stand/stall/cart! Of course they’re going to want to make the best dang food possible – their livelihood depends upon it.
Best Phad Thai I ever had was 45 baht from an elderly cook who worked the wok like a wizard! Hotel Phad Thai? 300 baht and lacking both the flare and the flavor. Food is culture. Experience your trip every way possible!
Hopefully these 3 tips give you a little insight into budgeting your vacation while still leaving room for exploration and pure entertainment!