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Budget Tips for a Stress-Free Vacation

This is a guest post by Leslie Campos of Well Parents. Because of our large family, we don’t exactly vacation much…but we do camp and, of course, travel to New Zealand. I hope you find some helpful tips in this post!

The water at Ocean Beach is beautiful blue.

There’s nothing quite as disappointing as a stressful vacation. You spend months — maybe even years — planning and saving for the ideal trip, but it’s difficult to enjoy the experience when people aren’t getting along or things just go wrong. However, avoiding the vacation from hell is largely a simple matter of planning and preparation. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your time and money, and come home with memories for a lifetime.

We had a chance to visit the shipwrecked Peter Iredale while on the Oregon Coast.

Set the Ground Rules

Craft at least a loose itinerary and make sure everyone knows what to expect. If you’re headed for a Florida beach vacation, for example, be sure that everyone (especially the kids) understands that your plans do include a couple of days at Disney World. Knowing what’s ahead will help avoid potential conflict and prevent sulking by establishing expectations. Of course, communication is the key; as long as everyone knows what the plans are, there won’t be any unpleasant surprises — and that’s a great way to preempt stress. 

Crossing the Astoria bridge into Oregon.

Don’t Overextend

It’s natural to want to squeeze as much fun into a vacation as possible. If you’re headed to London, it makes sense to visit Paris, Madrid, and Munich. Train travel is budget-friendly, timely, and often reliable, but tacking on Vienna and Athens could turn an enjoyable junket into an expensive whirlwind with too little time for the sites (and you’ll wear out the kids). Don’t overdo the sightseeing; if your timetable doesn’t allow for everything on your “bucket list,” pick and choose and save what you can’t get to for next time. Rule of thumb: Don’t overextend yourself, financially or logistically, and you’ll keep the stress factor at acceptable levels. 

Family camping in the Pacific Northwest is always a treat!

Keep the Kids Happy

Kids and car and/or plane rides often don’t mix. The little ones are cramped and unhappy, while teenagers are bored. So, look for budget-friendly ways to keep them entertained. Invest in handheld electronic devices so they can play their favorite games — online deals from sites such as Rakuten can help you do it affordably with great deals on many items (search for daily deals first). Whether you go with a handheld mobile device or a kid-friendly laptop loaded with games, technology is definitely your friend on a long trip. 

Balance bike or training wheels? Which is the best option?

Reconnect and Rekindle

The success of a family vacation may indeed hinge on whether you can keep the kids happy. That said, don’t forget that vacation is for everyone. Busy moms and dads need time to reconnect, so make time for “date night” at a posh local restaurant, or enjoy some outdoor fun by hiking, biking, canoeing, or whatever you enjoy doing together. Some resorts and hotels can hook you up with a reliable daycare or babysitting service, or just set the youngsters up with their favorite movies, video games, and snack foods for a couple of hours — as long as they’re old enough to look after themselves and you feel comfortable doing so, of course.

Luggage ‘Finders’

Anyone who’s ever traveled on a commercial airline understands what can happen to luggage. A complicated flight itinerary and switching planes can consign your bags to the “Twilight Zone.” Fortunately, technology can give you a measure of control over the situation. Electronic luggage trackers are affordable accessories (most are available for less than $100) that allow you to track your bags’ progress, via a smartphone app or a small tile, that fits on a keychain. 

You work too hard to let stress and financial issues ruin a well-earned vacation. Think through the logistics of your trip and identify problem areas that can be addressed easily and affordably. Just remember to communicate, plan ahead, and ensure that everyone’s on the same page. 

Be sure and read Safe Holiday Sleep Tips if you are traveling with little ones.


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