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Posts Tagged ‘Travel Discounts’

My Top Ten Creative and Affordable Vacation Ideas

May 11th, 2010 by bsmith | 3 Comments | Filed in Family Travel, Legoland, Museums, Road Trips, San Diego Beaches, Ski Adventures, Smith Family Adventures, Snow Vacations, theme parks, Travel Discounts, Travel Tips

I have been meaning to do this kind of tip post for a while now, but my friends at Twittermom finally gave me the excuse I needed to get it done. Here are the Family Adventure Guidebooks Top Ten Creative and Affordable Vacation Ideas:

Saving Money on Food:

1) Pack a Picnic.  Whether you’re hitting a theme park or on a road trip, packing a picnic cuts down on the cost of overpriced, yucky fast food.  I am always sure to include  some special treats: berries, salami sandwiches, etc…something the kids don’t get to enjoy every day.  Eat your picnic at a local park or rest stop.  Your kids will make new friends and get their wiggles out.

2) Do it Yourself Room Service .  Supermarket delis have fun, healthy take out.  Everyone can eat what they want and if you get paper plates…no dishes.  TV Dinners are a rare treat in our family so if there is a microwave and freezer in the room I sometimes pick some up.

3) Pick Hotels that Have Breakfast Included.  Last summer our family stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Santa Cruz for two weeks.  It was lovely to have a hardy breakfast (eggs or omlette, sausage, fruit,etc.) every day.  Since we filled up at breakfast we were able to eat a lighter lunch!

Saving Money on Lodging:

4) Time Shares Don’t buy one…rent one…!  Our latest discovery is renting time shares on a per night basis.  With a family of five, we find that we all have a happier vacation if we are able to spread out.  Renting a time share gives us extra space, a full kitchen,  and privacy for Mom and Dad at an affordable price.

5) Join the Club.  Join Hotel Chain loyalty rewards clubs and stay at only one or two chains when you can.  Also keep an eye out for stay ___ nights get a night free promotions.  Our summer Holiday Inn Express stay yielded a five day  ski vacation in Lake Tahoe.  We used our bonus nights at the Holiday Inn Express in South Lake Tahoe,  and used the the money we saved to pay for ski lessons. 

Saving Money on Themeparks and Attractions:

6) Do Your Research.  Figure out how many days you are going to spend  at a themepark, then look at all the admission possibilities including memberships.  Sometimes buying a membership is the same price or even cheaper then a number of single day admissions.  It may be worth buying a membership and making a return trip.

7) Keep an  Eye Out for Discounts and Special Events.  LEGOLAND holds a special fundraising event for the schools every year.  They also invite people to a smaller section of the park  at night to experience their Halloween festivities for less than the price of full admission.  The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk offers discounted weeknights during the summer.  Our family never misses them when we go to visit.  All rides are the cost of one ticket which adds up to significant savings if you want to ride the famed Giant Dipper more than once.

Vacation Fun on a Budget:

8.) Visit a Children’s Museum:  These are way cheaper than theme parks and are just as fun!  My friend Minnemom has pointed out that some museums have reciprocity agreements. So, if you purchase a membership at your local museum it may give you free admission to museums at your vacation destination.  Some of my favorites are The Bay Area Discovery Museum, The Children’s Discovery Museum of San JoseThe Lied Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas, The Exploratorium in San Francisco and The Portland Children’s Museum.

9) Hit the Beach. You can spend a blissful day (or two or three) with your kids entertained for hours.  Just purchase a few cheap buckets and shovels, pack a picnic, slather on the sunscreen, and read a book that you brought from home or picked up at a local used book store.  If you want to splurge you can rent surfboards or boogie boards from a local business like the one run by my friends at Concept Specialty Board Shop  in Encinitas, California.

10) Play at the Park.  Here in California playground safety laws were changed a few years ago so almost every town has had to update their playground equipment.  This is a real benefit for travelers.   No trip to Monterey would be complete without a visit to the famous Dennis the Menace Park.  Our kids love to perch on top of the train.  Even less famous parks can be lots of fun.    Some other favorite California Parks  are Cottonwood Creek Park in Encinitas, Louden Nelson Park in Santa Cruz,  Holiday Park in Carlsbad, and Moonlight Beach Park in Encinitas.

Happy Trails!


“I wrote this blog post while participating in the Toyota Sienna and TwitterMoms blogging program for a chance to get a $30 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”


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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Join the Club!

May 12th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Travel Discounts, Travel Tips

A few years ago, we took a fabulous Florida Vacation while my husband attended a conference.  We had the opportunity to stay at the Tampa Mariott Waterside Marina and Luxury Hotel.  We had so much fun staying at this Mariott ,  Ken joined their rewards program.  (By the way, if you ever stay there,  the Cafe Waterside had a delicious oatmeal creme brulee with fresh berries. I’ve never tasted anything like it. It was one of the least expensive items on the menu, and I had it for breakfast every day during my stay.)

Whenever Ken travels on business he tries to stay at a Marriott.  This works out well, because although Mariott has beautiful luxury hotels like the one in Tampa, it also offers more affordable options for the budget business traveler.  When traveling with the family we prefer properties that offer suites like The Fairfield Inn, The Residence Inn, Towne Place Suites, and Springhill Suites.  The small kitchens, continental breakfast, and other ammenities really come in handy when traveling with the kids.  Since we are rewards members we also earn free hotel stays.  If you pick an out of the way location those points can really go a long way.  On our recent visit to Seattle, my husband and I stayed at the Towne Place Suites in the picturesque town of Mukilteo, Washington.  It was a drive into the city, but the property was very close to the water.  It had an extensive continental breakfast, a basketball court, umbrellas in case of rain, as well as the usual pool and workout room.  You could even rent a fish to keep you company during your stay!  Ken and I used reward points to stay all three nights!  Without the free room our Seattle adventure would have been much shorter.

Sign up for the Mariott Rewards Program or choose the hotel chain that your family uses the most and sign up for their loyalty program.  With any luck you can enjoy a few extra affordable family adventures with your free hotel stay.

Our Seattle trip also showed us how important it is to  be enrolled in those car rental preferred member rewards clubs, and to keep your info updated.  Ken thought he had a membership with Dollar Rental Car, but his membership was so outdated they had changed the name of the club and he was no longer in the computer!  We waited about 20 minutes to get to the front desk, just to do the paperwork for our rental.   Then it was off to an off-site building to wait again to pick up the car.  If the kids had been with us it would have  been torture!  Dollar Rental Car had rock bottom prices, but the service was slow.  Here’s the link to sign up for their Dollar Express program.  Do it now and save yourself some rental car hassle.

Happy Trails,


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