Road Trip on a Budget

I love getting on the road and going new places. I’ve always enjoyed it, except maybe when I was a little kid. For some reason when I was younger I used to get car sick, maybe it was just really bad anxiety. Even though I always loved the outcome of going somewhere. Most times getting there was the hard part. I’m so thankful that whatever it was I grew out of it.

When a trip is happening I’m generally the one who is planning out the festivities, doing the research and figuring out when, how, the price… And while I think I can plan a pretty amazing trip for low cost, it’s just finding all the information. Gathering details about certain companies, reading reviews, watching youtube. I always do through research into my trips. I want to always make sure that what I’m doing and where I’m going is worth the money I’m about to spend. I would hate to get somewhere and the unexpected happens and not be prepared for it. So if I spend a little time ahead of the trip doing the research I feel a little more prepared on what I’m getting into. And I feel like that is the mom in me. Usually I have the girls in tow and I want to make sure I’m not only prepared for myself, but the other people that are with me. I’m seriously hoping that with the girls getting older and my nest starting to empty I can once again let go and not be so prepared… Haha.

What do you do when you first start planning a vacation? Have you picked a location? Do you research different possibilities of places to go? Then how are you getting there? Do you have accomadations?

Did you know there is always a way to practically travel for free. Reguardless if your flying or driving. Seriously. The hard part is finding it. I am going to give a few travel tips that I have learned over the years traveling with Andy. I’m going to reference a trip that him and I took for example. Because I honestly don’t think there would’ve been a cheaper way to get this trip than I did.

Heres the trip. Was our one year wedding anniversary trip. We got married in Vegas, so we thought for the one year we would return. This time we decided though to rent a car and do a roadtrip taking us through a few states. Then down to Arizona to see his grandparents.

  • We flew out of Seattle to Vegas. We flew through Alaska Airlines. I decided in 2010 to apply for a Alaska Airlines Credit Card. I did, and the card I recieved allowed me one free companion ticket a year. BAM! Husbands ticket taken care of. My ticket I purchased on Cyber Monday the November before. My ticket was $114 round trip.
  • We got to Vegas, went to the car depot I guess you can call it to pick up our Chevy Monte Carlo that came with Flex Fuel. We paid $79 for the car plus insurance for six days. When your into traveling go to travel websites and car rental pages, sign up for their newsletters that are sent to your email. They always send promotional coupons. Really good ones sometimes on given holidays. (Travel websites also come in handy when looking for reservations at hotels, I always reccomend signing up for their newsletter)
  • Get our car and we’re on the road, waving goodbye to Las Vegas as that is really considered our final destination. (See we flew into Vegas, where car rentals are the cheapest, to return the car exactly where we got it, no state transfer fees.)
  • Our first destination on the trip was to head to Zion National Park. We got there and were upset that we didn’t plan for more time here. Given we had just flown into Vegas from Seattle, its maybe 9ish a.m. we’re already tired since our day started around 3am. So we are focused on getting to our sleeping destination for the day to relax from traveling. We only got to spend half the day here looking around. If you ever make it out this way, I can easily see spending a week here. Checking out the town, hiking, oh the hiking here is absolutely amazing the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. The colors, textures. Truly beautiful.
  • Our sleeping destination was Page, Arizona. 273 miles from Vegas about four 1/2 hours driving. We did stop a lot along the way when the scenery gave us something amazing to look at.
  • In Page I booked us a Choice Hotel. The Quality Inn. They have an app. You book so many rooms they give you one on them, or highly discounted rates and perks. And of course, I’m apart of that. But you know, me being a penny pincher allows for more spending money to do these kind of things and have fun even when you are counting each penny to make it work. I travel a lot with the photography business for weddings and I don’t always require the nicest accomedations. A comfortable bed is all I’m looking for. If they have breakfast even a bigger perk. Gym is also nice too. Which the majority of these hotels have. So, its everything I like and need to get by. The room was very standard. Nothing to go gaga over. Very standard. But only needing to pay the tax on the room because it was a room on the house I wasn’t about to complain. I paid $26 for an extremely decent breakfast providing hotel. I would definitely stay again if I were out that way.
  • We got up super early that day because out plan was to see Antelope Canyon which was maybe 15 minutes away from where we were, then head to Four Corners and Monument Valley the off to see the Grand Canyon. We got to the check in for the Canyon Tour. We were both super excited for it. We had just missed the first bus, since they hadn’t updated their website with current times, we would’ve had to sit and wait an hour and forty-five minutes for the next tour. That was cutting into our day on making times for the other attractions. So we said phooey on Antelope Canyon (Which I regret) and Four Corners and just decided to head to Monument Valley. Andy had always wanted to go here because of that scence in Forrest Gump when he was running on the long stretch of the highway where he ends his run. He loves that movie and he wanted to see the Monuments. And WOW! They are so big. No photo or movie could ever do them any justice. The color of them is pretty amazing also. Loved getting the chance to see them. After spending some time there taking in the sites and photos, we drove 272 miles to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Didn’t have to pay to get in, since we bought the America the Beautiful pass when we got to Zion. The pass gets you into any National Park. We’re on our second park of the trip and we didn’t have to pay to get in. The pass was only $80. We spent a considerable amount of time at the Grand Canyon. There was an outdoor shop that Indians were running selling some of their hand made items, clothing, decor. Was fun to walk through that and look at all the things they had. We spent some time hiking around at the south rim, taking in the sights, the history that was there, looked into the gift shops and indulged in some food. Took the scencic ride out of the park, pulling off at all the turnouts taking in the various different views and short walks.
  • After the Grand Canyon we had a super long ride to make. We were trying to make it to Mesa, Arizona. This is where Andy’s grandparents live and we wanted to take a day to see them. From the south rim of the Grand Canyon we were looking at 242 miles, almost four hours to go. Of course there were lots of stops. Playing tourist. So that four hours was more like five or six. We were both kind of excited to see Sedona as it is described like the Grand Canyon, but unfortunately by the time we made it there it was dark. We felt like we were behind on making our time. So getting to our room (another Choice Hotel) was our main focus. Checked into another Quality Inn this one was $82 since I had used my rewards for the room prvious I started over with my rate, plus we were down there the sametime Spring Training was happening with baseball so rates were a little higher because of that.
  • The next day we spent it with Andy’s grandparents. Went out and did breakfast then went back to their house for a few hours and was back on the road around 1ish for the five hour ride back to Vegas. I told Andy that I wanted to see cactus. You know Arizona native cactus. He delieverd. I got my wish which was awesome. We had a fun ride back to Vegas, talking about all the things we saw, things we were going to do when we got there. No judging allowed but he made it in record time. What should’ve been five hours we made it in more like four. Even stopping a few times.
  • Vegas! It’s pretty much our backyard. We say that because we have went so many times. That we actually decided on taking a break from going, because we were going so often that we were kind of bored the last time. Even though we did a bunch of new stuff. We got there and had picked the Excalibur to stay at. I think that was our third time staying there. No complaints. Guess thats why we went back so many times. Now, our expierence in Vegas was extremely cheap. We have been playing an app called My Vegas Slots. You can choose to put money in if you’d like to or not. Still you earn points that you can use in Vegas. We paid our room taxes and companion tickets to buffets and attractions. We stayed in Vegas for three days our room taxes using the app came to like sixty something. Then ten to twenty dollars here or there to make up the difference of the attraction offer using the app. The app is easy the process isn’t that difficult. I mean you go through the motions once the next time your in town you’ll be a pro at using the app/process. I highly suggest it. Play the app for ten/twenty minutes a day the points will accumulate quick. I’m really looking forward to Andy and I’s next trip there. We have got a ton of points stacked up to use.
  • We tried out some new buffets, we did the shark reef at Mandalay Bay, we went up to the top of the Stratosphere, we went to old town, went in the iffel tower, Sigmund and Freud cat zoo, went to a Cirque du Soleil show, went down the Vegas sign, seen a Comedian… Did some shopping and dinning.
  • One day we went out and saw the Hoover Dam and the Red Rocks. (More America the Beautiful pass perks) Hoover Dam was discounted and the Red Rocks we didn’t have to pay to get into to see. It’s one of our favorite places to go when we’re in Vegas. The Red Rocks are absolutely beautiful. I love the bright reds on the yellow. Such a viberant contrast.

This trip it cost literally no more than $600. We spent money on gambling and won. So we took that as getting some of the money we put into the trip back. Then in the beginining of this blog I mentioned our car had Flex Fuel… Ever go out car shopping make sure your car has that. We got gas once in the six days we had that car. And at the end of the week we were just driving around to waste the gas seeing we were to give the car back on empty. That car got AMAZING gas mileage considering we drove around 1800 miles.

Tips on travel…

  • Subscribe to those news letters on travel sights and car rental angencies. You will be so happy that you did. They offer compact cars as low as $7. Almost worth just renting long term with prices like that. Haha.
  • Pay attention to holiday sales. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Presidents Day.
  • Check multiple travel pages, your computer records your history. You’ll see ad’s for travel in your facebook feed… BUT some of those ad’s are great rates and coupons. Then a little wierd hack. Check back into those travel pages multiple times before commiting to buying a package. The price is always all over the place. It changes daily. Change the date on your research a bit each time. Note that hotels are cheapest during the week. Sometimes even having a weekday deal.
  • Same with flying, prices, times and stops change all the time. Make sure to check back.
  • It’s been said that the best time to buy any sort of reservation is 2-4 weeks before the trip. Just consider the time of the year.
  • Check Groupon and Amazon Local. They have AMAZING travel deals on there. I will soon have a post just on a trip paid for through Groupon. Be on the lookout for that.
  • Do research on where you are looking to go… There is always something. Take this little tid bit… Ever want to go to Disney Land? For you foke that are up here in the PNW, we have Fred Meyers. Did you know that they sell hopper passes cheaper than you can find anywhere else. So a tip, you have a trip your planning say in December, purchase your gift cards from Fred Meyer throughout the year and you’ll get fuel rewards. Double rewards when you purchase on the weekend.

Shopping around to get the deal, its just something to put into consideration and think about.

If you ever have any questions on budgetting while traveling let me know. I have probably looked into it, or can give you some tips on your trip.

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