Cleve and I have been asked several times how we’re able to get away so much on church and ministry incomes. Well, most people aren’t rude enough to actually ask it like that – they’re more creative - although we’re not easily offended. It’s actually pretty simple.
First, we make getting away for quality time a priority. It’s a fun way to take a break from day-to-day chaos and focus on our kids and each other. This means sacrificing in other areas so that we can afford to have this fun.
So, here are some of our tips. When combining these efforts, we get pretty great deals.
We have a savings account that I put just a few dollars a week into. It’s not enough to pay for whole vacations, but it’s enough to take the sting out of writing a big check for a cabin reservation. Spreading out the spending over the whole year is a huge help.
SET A BUDGET AND STICK TO IT
This summer, Cleve expressed interest in not only our typical beach vacation but also some extended time in West Virginia around the area where his dad grew up. At first, I totally dismissed the idea because there was no way we could afford to do both.
At a second glance at the budget, I realized if we took the resources we had already planned to spend on vacation and took on one extra freelance project, we may be able to make this happen. Eventually, we were able to find a small beach front condo and a cabin in the mountains that fit our budget using some of the tactics below.
COST SAVING HABITS
Don’t just sit down and book your travel plans. Look at all of your options and keep checking back to see if rates change. Book when you see the lowest rate through the lowest vendor. Southwest Air will also let you lock-in a rate, but allow you to get a lower rate if it becomes available later.
Check different days of the week when making travel reservations. Tuesdays, for instance, are often better days to book lower-cost flights. Whatever algorithm travel sites use to determine prices means some days or weeks are cheaper than others. If at first you don’t get the price you want, try and try again.
Adjust your travel dates around non-peak times. This year, we went to the beach the week before peak-season began. That saved us hundreds on our condo.
If you have your heart set on a particular location or hotel, planning ahead is usually important to get the best deal and have the best availability. But there is something to be said for waiting until the last minute to get last minute fares. Sometimes spontaneity pays off.
You wouldn’t believe how many discounts we get simply by applying visa discounts and making reservations with a visa. AAA, AARP, and other discounts are also helpful when you can use them.
For years, we stayed at the same beach condo owned by a family friend. We didn’t stay for free, but we stayed at around a 50% discount. Huge savings on a beach front condo. Who do you know?
Loyalty to discount sites.
We’ve used Hotwire so many times, we’re “valued” customers and get a few more perks. Many people don’t book through places like Hotwire because of the cancellation policy, but most of these sites love your return business. Once you’ve proven your loyalty, they treat you differently. We have the ability to cancel and change reservations of all kinds (hotel, car rentals, and even airfare) because we’re loyal.
When we book cabins through vrbo.com, we never pay the asking rate. Sometimes we ask for the cleaning fee to be waived (and still get cleaning service) or we’ll ask for a lower nightly rate.
The cabin we’re currently renting in West Virginia for a couple of weeks is a great example. It didn’t have internet (and mobile hotspots don’t work in the mountains), so we negotiated two weeks for the price of one plus the addition of internet. We were able to do this because in this particular location (which was important to us) had a good chance of not being booked at all. The owners were happy to have the same family there for two weeks even if they couldn’t make as much.