Get away from hotels and rent a home! I have used www.vrbo.com 5 times in the past 9 years and have always had a wonderful experience. Done Right Management is the site I use for certain locations and we've used them 2 years in a row now to rent the same cabin. Many people can "use" these site... my secret?
1. Ask for a better deal! Once you have found a place you'd be interested in renting, calculate how much you're able to spend and make an offer! I have done this EVERY time and it has worked EVERY time! Clarify, If they weren't willing to barter, I moved along and found another home to make an offer on. For every vacation that I have used these rental sites for, it has worked.
In 2008, we rented this 3 story home for 10 days. There were 11 of us on this trip and it was a great set up for us. Since we go to Mexico during their slow season, we get awesome deals because these homes just sit empty so something is better than nothing, right? We hope. This gorgeous home with a pool and everything we needed was $150/night. The babe would have been free in a hotel but the others would have cost so, divide $150 by 10 of us and it's $15/person a night!!!
I mean, just look at this place! Private, safe, secure with the ability to eat at home, relax, swim, nap, read, WHATEVER we wanted to do!!!
VRBO rents everywhere.
In 2003, we rented Casa de los Suenos for $50 a night for hubby, two rug-rats and me. It was up the hill in Puerto Vallarta and we had to walk LOTS of stairs to get home. Okay for a first time renting experience. Price & experience was awesome.
In 2005 I found us Villa Francesca; a condo right in the middle of downtown Puerto Vallarta. We had my parents with us this trip and Paco was a year old. This ended up being perfect because we were close to the things we wanted to do and see and could walk everywhere. I should have gotten us a better deal on this one... the descriptions were not exactly right but because we had a great time, I did not push it. Live and learn and then I'll share what I've learned so you don't have to start from scratch! We paid $100/night for this one, divided by two couples so very affordable.
I shared with you our 2008 Mexico home at the beginning...
In 2009 we went to Florida for a work conference. We stayed at the hotel while the conference was on but then we stayed after for 4 days and I rented us a cool condo in Old Town Orlando. I asked for a 10% discount and owner agreed! So, for $95/night in Old Town we rented a 4 bedroom condo!
Take advantage of the pool! This place came with an awesome water slide!!!
So, don't be afraid to rent a home - you save money and the experience is so much better than staying in a hotel or inn.
2. Plan ahead. Some things can be planned for so do so! Unexpected expenses are stressful so plan for them. You are going to forget something - plan on it.
Buying tickets to tourist attractions in advance can save you HUGE amounts of money. Plus, you know how much the big ticket things you want to do will cost. I do this before we leave so we know how much things cost; which eases stress once on vacation. There are many sites to use for this... expedia, kayak, underground tourist... I spend hours searching for deals.
3. Eat at home. Just like when you are home, you know eating out is expensive. Same thing when you're on vacation... if you have rented a home like we do, eat there! Go grocery shopping, menu plan and then eat at home. We try to eat 2 meals at home and one meal out each day. Besides, taking a picnic to some beach is an awesome outing and the kids won't even know that it is "frugal." They will learn, however, that this is how families take vacations! Teach by example...
4. Get Organized. Someone has to have it all together to ease stress and financial splurges. I keep a 3-ring binder with everything we need to know in it. Airplane confirmations/schedules, rental car contract, house contract, maps, attractions, purchased tickets, things to do, local restaurants... everything I can think we might need goes in here. Copies of passports should be in here, too... I can't tell you how many times my binder has saved us money because they were going to charge us more but since I had it in writing, we got our agreed price.
5. Public Transportation... yes and no. Yes in Mexico - it is the only way we got around our first 3 times there. It's cheap & reliable (and they know where they're going - I think.) Yes in San Antonio. Yes in Chicago. NO in Orlando! I bought us a week long pass because it was the best deal online. The schedules were sporadic - it was slow - it was AWFUL!!! Never again there.
6. Ask the locals. Don't be afraid to ask people in the grocery store where an affordable place to eat with a family is. Ask if the portions are large (so you can split, of course).
7. Split Meals. By splitting a meal and adding a salad you save nearly half the cost. We do this OFTEN and then after dinner we are able to have dessert someplace else after we have allowed our meal to "settle."
8. DRINK WATER
Which reminds me.... WATER BOTTLES!
Water can be VERY expensive if you are buying it. So, plan ahead. You can take an empty water bottle through security and then fill it before boarding. This also makes it easy to keep whose bottle is whose where what and why while traveling. If you're not flying, no problem. FREE WATER from a faucet!!! There are also some very economical drink mixes you can add to a bottle of water on the go.
9. Pack what you can. The closer you are to a beach, the more expensive a plastic bucket and shovels become! Take it with you, if you can. We bought snorkel sets in 2008. We have taken wonderful care of them and will take them with us again this year. Scouting out Costco can sometimes be a good thing...
10. FIRST AID KIT - This might be a given but I mean, really stock that baby for a 911.
11. Travel Snacks. Healthy is better than not... just saying.
12. Fun-filled backpacks! This is a surprise!!! I have the older girls put what they want in their pack and then they give it to me. I then add whatever surprises I have stocked up on over months and months and come departure day, they get it back! Granted, I have usually have the night before to fill their packs so I have to be organized... The boys' packs I fill myself and have lots of NEW things from clearance sections and the $1 store to help keep them busy on the trip. THIS IS A LIFESAVER!
That's all my brain can think of right now. I'm sure there's more and if I think of it, I'll let you know.
Happy Vacationing without breaking the bank!!! (or your budget!)
P.S. CASH has paid for this awesome trip we are taking. Thanks, Dave Ramsey. What a great feeling. Staying close to home for 3 years to take this big one is worth it.