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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vacation Tips for Summer 2011

I've been wanting to share this for some time.  I am not a travel expert, but here's some things I have learned over my time living in a resort area.
There are many Low Cost options and ideas to do when on vacation this year or anytime.  Many families have put off having a family vacation because of the cost involved in general, so my post here today is to give everyone some ideas not to neglect that favorite, well deserved time away with family.
Schedule one thing or event to plan to attend to while on vacation.  Many destinations offer a good handful of very costly events or special things to do.  Instead of trying to fit all or most of those things in while on vacation, try to book just one.  This will be considered your most expensive thing to do.  Some may prefer to attend an amusement park, go to eat at a fancy restaurant, or set this expense aside for that ocean front (or hotspot) condo/hotel room.  Whatever you choose, stick to your guns!  Don't give in and get off track, or you'll literally be paying for it later.  
Most cities offer an array of hotel/housing for out of town guests.  If you choose that your hotel is not your most expensive item, than look for these things:
*local rentals- many homeowners have 2nd homes, or exclusive rental property.  Some of which is terribly expensive, but some not quite so.  I have a friend that has an older small home she redecorate, and constructed into a 'fisherman's lodge'.  It is not right on the beach, but it is close to a little marina further in town.  She has provided adequate sleeping up to 12, I think.  Consider sharing a rental with friends, or extended family. My firends house is smaller, but it is stocked with all the necessary comforts of home.  In these cases, you have a full kitchen (stocked), laundry area, and living areas to relax in after a day of fun.  If you choose a hotel or local home with kitchen facilities- visit the local grocer. Buying up sandwich meat, salad mix, snacks, and drinks can be a whooping huge money saver.
*Look into hotels further in town. You don't have to be right in the thick of the entertainment- look for hotels online in say a 15-20 minute radius from the place you'll spend the most time in.  Worried it will be in a bad neighborhood, or part of town?  Look up the local schools in the area.  Good to their websites, and look at test scores, the facilities, etc.  Usually you can tell if you'd feel comfortable sending kids to that school, if you'd feel comfortable having a hotel in the area.  Another thing to consider is whether the hotel has free breakfast, wireless, or happy hour.  All these can be huge money savers.
*Check in the the old 'Mom and Pop' Motels.  Many owners have went to extent to remodel and upgrade these cool, nostalgic bits of property.  Many offer more than most chain hotels because they are privately owned, and many owners live on site.
Next, try checking and researching what the communities actually offer that is FREE or next to free.  Here's a list of ideas, you can make your own lists to highlight what you'd enjoy most.
*Birding Center/ Nature Trails
*Local Monuments, and good old sight-seeing
*Beach Destinations, Marinas, Ship Channels
*Local Arts Centers and Museums
*Local rentals in the area (surfboards, fishing poles, golf carts or buggies, horse riding)
*Local festivals in the area- try going to the city's website- look in their residents area under 'Arts and Culture', 'Parks and Recreation', or community newsletters
*National Parks and activities they offer.
*Look to see if there are local home tours- (many magazines have model homes too)  You can collect ideas for your own decorating style, and simply see such beautifully constructed local work.
*Antique Shops-try actually taking the kids!  My kids LOVE it.  I never thought they would, but they get to see things society doesn't use anymore.  My kids were stunned when they saw a rotary phone and as smart as they are, they couldn't even figure out how to dial!  Kids like making you feel 'old', and find new things!
*Treasure hunt!  Ever dabbled in Geo-Caching?  Google it- there are multiple locations all over the world- and it's something you can even do in your own city.
*Collect treasures- make it a point to keep shells, rocks, driftwood, bottle caps, etc.  When you get home, you can do a family project and maybe make a cool 'vacation frame' and put a family photo of you on the vacation.
*Photography- you don't have to be an expert to have fun with a camera!  Also consider buying a bulk pack of disposal cameras for the little ones.  You'll treasure those pictures, and sometimes the kids really surprise you. 
*Local Craiglist listings- sometimes it can provide some good info.  Check the community sections, housing for short term rentals, etc.

Now lastly, but not certainly the least important- HEED LOCAL WARNINGS!  For instance, if you're planning on making a trip to a coastal area, check the local beach warnings.  Just last week here on 
North Padre Island, we had 2 girls injured from rip currents, and one young 12 year die and drown from being pulled out in the rip current.  Talk to locals, visit the news website, etc.  This can be the most important and valuable information you will receive before going on vacation!  This goes for everywhere- locals are prepared better, because the simply live there.  Look at wildlife warnings, sea conditions, if boating, and other warnings you just may not really think about.

I hope this has helped and enlightened you to make the choice to take that well needed time with your family and friends.

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