So, you’re ready to find out how to go on vacation for under $400? In this post, I will show you how I did it, and you may be able to save even more using the tips and tricks I wrote about in my previous post “How to plan a cheap vacation“. I will show you what I did to enable me and my family to go on vacation for under $400.
My wife had previously visited Biltmore Estate while I was away on a business trip and loved it. She knows I love stuff like that and after a while, when the budget allowed, we planned our trip from to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
With the prices of air-fare being so expensive, we decided to take our own car to maximize our savings. This cuts the expense of having to get a rental car as well so it was a no brainer decision for us to make. Plus, driving to our destination means a Road Trip, and that is always fun in its self. I know quite a bit on how to maintain a vehicle and save on vehicle expenses, so I knew my car would make the trip with no problems.
Next, I logged onto gasbuddy.com to plan for fuel expenses. After clicking the Trip Cost Calculator, I entered in a few bits of information about my vehicle, the starting and ending destination then allowed the calculator to do its magic. It calculated my trip cost for gas which was $83, and even gave me a map that included where I needed to stop for gas, to and from my destination. For a free service, that is pretty nice if you ask me. The trip cost that it had determined was fairly accurate, we did do some driving around town so we used a little more gas than expected, however only $3 over what had been projected by gassbuddy.
Total Fuel Cost $86
The bulk of the entertainment on this trip was going to see the Biltmore mansion. We found tickets for $35 each plus $10 for an extra day (this place is so big, you can’t see it all in one day). The tickets are originally $55 each so we saved quite a bit for watching the prices of them on their website for a year to see if they lower them by season (and they do).
We were fairly close to the city so we chose to explore the city on foot. This is something that my wife and I love to do together, and it doesn’t cost a dime either so that is definitely a plus. Also, there are many places with live music that have no cover charge if you are eating there, so we planned to eat at places we could enjoy the live scene without extra out of pocket expenses.
Total Entertainment Cost $90 with $40 Saved
With a destination in mind, I went to hotwire.com and kayak.com to compare prices. Kayak.com actually had the best prices (as they advertise), so that is the “search” route we used to find the best deal for lodging. We planned the trip through the week so that we could save even more money (hotels and admission tickets cost more on the weekends most places). I found a nice 3 star hotel, 2 miles away that offered a continental breakfast for only $58 a night and regularly charges $88 a night. Being the kind of guy that likes to save as much as possible (like I am), I actually called the hotel and talked them into giving me the rooms for $52 a night, not much more discounted but every penny counts. I could have opted for a deal of $48 a night, but you kayak.com gives you no information of the hotel until you book (no refunds either). I have been in some pretty nasty hotels and would rather know where I am staying and see pictures before I commit, so naturally, I chose one I could see the hotel information (you have the option to see deals that have no names to them or the other way around).
Insider Tip: When searching for a hotel, knowing the location of the hotel can benifit you a couple of ways. One, you can calculate the cost of gas to see how far away from your destination is, you may be able to walk if you are close enough. However, the hotels closer to your destination are usually higher in price, so use your digression.
Total Hotel Cost $116 (tax included) with $74 Saved
Food and Drinks
We use meal replacement shakes for breakfast and lunch anyway, so cost of food for the trip consisted of some snacks that we bought after noticing they were on sale at the grocery store. If you don’t do meal replacement shakes, you can pack a cooler with ice from your freezer and fill it with sandwiches and a few fruits to keep you away from expensive food along the way.
Total Cost of Snacks $20
Next I logged onto ebates and clicked on the resturant.com link so that I could search for local cuisine. When I did this, ebates had a coupon code to use when checking out that allowed me to purchase 2 -$25 gift certificates for only $6 out of my pocket (on top of the %15 cash back from ebates). In my opinion, that was pretty great. The restaurant had great reviews as well as live music so, as I mentioned earlier, this worked also as nightly entertainment. With the gift certificates that I bought, the fine print mentioned that I had to spend a minimum of $35 in order to use the certificate along with an automatic 18% gratuity. We would have spent at least that much anyway so I was able to shave $44 off the total by getting the certificates the way I just explained.
I also went to livingsocial.com to look as well and bought one gift certificate worth $25 (without needing to spend anything else as I did with the restaurant.com gift certificates) for only $10. We used this one to fill our tummies for the trip home (5 hour drive woohoo).
Total Cost of Dining $49 (would have cost $107.60) and Saved $59
So what was the damage?
- Fuel $86
- Entertainment $90
- Hotel Cost $116
- Snacks $20
- Dining $49
Total Trip Cost $361
So to wrap things up a bit, we had an awesome time and really enjoyed a romantic vacation together while saving money on everything we did. We could have easily spent over $1,000 on this trip by flying, eating wherever we wanted and buying snacks on the way, but by taking our time to plan it out, we were able to save a bunch and make this trip affordable even on a tight budget. This also made the trip more enjoyable, knowing that we didn’t break the bank in order to take this vacation.
What are some tips you have for saving money when taking a vacation?
Photo of Biltmore Estate by Mike Miley
Photo of Hotel Desk by UggBoy♥UggGirl