Category Archives: Saving Money

Is Free Parking for Overnight Hotel Guests Going Extinct?

Is Free Parking for Overnight Hotel Guests Going Extinct?

Paying to park when staying overnight at a hotel has long been commonplace in heavily populated areas like downtown Chicago, New York City, or San Francisco. Travelers, though, were able to park their vehicles for free at most other locations, though, adding to the savings of driving to their destination. For my family, it also made the decision to rent a car fairly simple as we preferred the convenience of having our own transportation. It appears, however, free parking for overnight hotel guests is disappearing. Continue reading

Using Disney Gift Cards to Save for a Disney Vacation

Like most people, I need to save up to go to the Disney Parks. There are many different ways to do so including the Disney Vacation Account, but I have found that the best way for my family is with Disney Gift Cards. Plus, with Disney now making it so that gift cards can be tracked and transferred online, that has become even easier. Here are a few tips on how we use it to save. Continue reading

Turn Your Travel Resolutions into Goals and into Reality

2016 goals - New Year resolution concept - text in vintage lette

 

In 2016, barring any unforeseen complications, I am going to complete one of my long-term travel goals – to visit every one of the 50 states in the U.S. My last two, Montana and Idaho, will be visited during a trip I’ve planned to Yellowstone with friends this summer. For a girl who grew up in a very small town, whose family could only afford modest vacations, that was a lofty goal and yet here I am nearing completion. Continue reading

Why My Staycation May Have Been Better Than a Vacation

Doesn't this photo just scream vacation? A staycation can come with all the amenities of a vacation.

Doesn’t this photo just scream vacation? A staycation can come with all the amenities of a vacation.

For this past long holiday weekend, my husband and I had a trip all planned and booked. We were going to spend a child-free weekend in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, about two weeks earlier, my husband’s company, which had always observed the 4th of July in the past the day before or after if it fell on a weekend, decided that they were going to be open instead and he was going to have to work. Reluctantly, I canceled everything in Las Vegas and booked a room for us at the Arizona Biltmore, located only about 30 minutes from our house, instead. While I do love Las Vegas, this staycation was absolutely wonderful and I’m so glad we did it. In fact, it made me realize that there are many ways a staycation is even better than a vacation.

Little to No Travel – We only drove 30 minutes to our hotel. We didn’t have to pay for gas, buy plane tickets, eat meals on the road, or sit anywhere for hours on end waiting to get there. This also meant that we could enjoy a late checkout at the end of the trip and still got home at a decent time.

The Arizona Biltmore offered a lot of amenities for our staycation including lawns for croquet, cornhole, and outdoor chess.

The Arizona Biltmore offered a lot of amenities for our staycation including lawns for croquet, cornhole, and outdoor chess.

Time to Enjoy the Resort Amenities – When on a vacation, we often spend very little time in our room or our resort, which means we don’t get to enjoy the amenities that they offer. Because we were close to home, we’d already seen most of the tourist locations so we were able to enjoy what the resort had to offer. At the Arizona Biltmore, there were numerous things like the spa, the pools, water slide, outdoor games, fitness classes, cooking classes, high tea, movies at the pool, golf, wine tastings, etc. It was easy to keep busy if we wanted to. There was also a great kids’ program so that while parents could spend time with their kids doing all the fun things the resort offered, the parents could also enjoy some adults-only time.

Time to Relax – We didn’t have to take in all the things offered, though. Because there was no sightseeing to do as well as no cooking, no dishes to wash, no laundry, etc., we could just sit and do whatever we wanted. I enjoyed time reading, watching movies, sitting by the pool, taking a long bath, and even taking a nap. These are luxuries I wouldn’t have had if we had stayed home where it always seems some chore or another is calling my name. As I mentioned, this was a child-free weekend, but even if we had our son along, I could have relaxed simply by putting him in the kids’ program. Moms, imagine a massage or a long, uninterrupted bath while your children are having fun doing crafts and playing under great supervision. Yep, the staycation is probably worth it just for that.

Our staycation at the Arizona Biltmore came with a great view. This was the balcony for our room.

Our staycation at the Arizona Biltmore came with a great view. This was the balcony for our room.

Felt Like Vacation without Using Vacation Time – We were only 30-minutes from home, but it still had a vacation feel to it. We were in a hotel room, at a resort, living out of our suitcases. We were dining in restaurants that we don’t normally go to. There was a major change in scenery, at least for us. At home, we can see mountains, but not much grass. At the Arizona Biltmore, our room overlooked the golf course.  A hotel will offer a different view even if it’s just of a garden or pool. Regardless, there’s just something inherently refreshing about being away from home even if we didn’t go far. It was a much-needed break without taking any time off work!

Still Hung Out with Good Friends – Because we were so close to home, we still got together with friends who don’t ordinarily travel with us. My husband went with a friend golfing while the “wives” had high tea in the hotel lobby, which I highly recommend if you ever have a chance to visit the Arizona Biltmore. We played cards. We enjoyed the 4th of July fireworks together. It was like having them along on vacation without the expense.

Before booking a staycation for your family, consider these tips.

  • Make sure the resort has the amenities you’re looking for and that they will be open. Most hotels have lists of their available classes (like the cooking ones), pools, golf, etc. on their website, but it may not be inclusive. Call the hotel and ask about them. Also ask if they are undergoing renovations. It doesn’t do you any good if they have a pool, but it has no water in it.
  • Shop around for the best deal. While sites like Expedia.com and Hotels.com have great rates, they may not always have the best rates. Also, check Groupon, Living Social, and Amazon Local, which always have getaways and local deals listed. Be sure to check with the resort directly. We actually found the best deal at the Arizona Bilmore through them. Plus, by booking directly, we were able to get a package that for $90 more per night, the $28/night resort fee was waived, we had free Wi-Fi, we got 20% off spa services, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two each day was included. We calculated that we were basically eating all three meals for about $30/day per person. I’m not sure we could even do that at McDonald’s.
  • Have a Plan B. If you’re looking forward to hanging at the pool all weekend and it ends up storming all weekend, it’s not going to be much fun just hanging in the room. See what other amenities the resort has that are indoors. Make sure you know what’s nearby that your family enjoys. Worst case scenario? Know the resort’s cancellation policy and if you can do it on short enough notice (some allow cancellation up to the afternoon of the day of check in), reschedule.

If you’re lamenting that you don’t have the time or the money or both to enjoy a vacation this summer, consider a staycation. Even if you are going on vacation, why not add a staycation and double dip?  You will love it and your kids will, too! We are already planning a weekend back to the Arizona Biltmore!

Saving for a Vacation by Prepaying

I’ll admit it. I’m not very good at saving money. I always feel like if I do this or get that, I’ll put the money back into savings someday, but someday never comes. Unfortunately, if I want to travel, it requires putting some money away… or does it?

I have found a way to not only save money for travel, but often save on costs as well. I prepurchase much of my vacation! Plus, it works on everything from hotels to rental cars to admissions to meals. How? Continue reading