Welcome back to Replay Thursday, where we “replay” an oldie – but goodie – savings tip for you…just to make sure you don't miss out on anything great!

Since it's summer time and all, I thought I'd re-post how I saved BIG TIME on a family vacation to Sedona, AZ. Road trips are so fun, and there are lots of tips you can use to keep your costs down. WAAAAAY down. Here's what I did:

(Click HERE for the original post)

Hello, hello everyone! I apologize for the lack of posts, I just got back from a great 10-day vacation to Sedona, AZ to spend time with my husband's family. It was great!…but it's also great to be back to “life”.

Today's savings tip is fresh on my mind for obvious reasons! Vacationing can be expensive, especially if you are gone for as long as I was. However, my husband and I found ways to save a bundle on this vacation! Here's how:

  • We spent a little over $70 to completely tune up our little car. We got an oil change, topped off all of our fluids, got it washed and vacuumed it out, filled the tires, checked all the major parts, tuned and tweaked things. Our car ran great, even in Arizona's 110+ degree heat. A broken down car on vacation costs you a ton of money, time, and patience.
  • We made the LONG 10.5 hour drive in one day so we didn't have to stay over night. This takes lots of planning ahead, especially with kids! One tip that helped us: pack the car the night before, except for a small grocery sack with the items you need for that day. This allows you to simply wake up, get ready, and hop in the car.
  • We packed light so we could squeeze into our small car that gets good gas mileage. There is definitely not as much leg room or comfort as an SUV, but it saved a lot on gas money.
  • We drove on cruise control and made sure our tires were inflated properly. This makes a difference in gas mileage! Here is an article with more “good gas mileage” tips.
  • We packed our own food so we didn't have to stop for fast food or gas station snacks. (We packed pre-made sandwiches, a small cooler with cold drinks, treats like candy for when those gas station treats look really good…, cheese and crackers, apples and fruit, bagels, chips, etc.)
  • We coordinated with other family members that were going on the trip so we didn't have to bring any unnecessary items. We were able to avoid bringing big items like our stroller and booster chair by doing this. We also coordinated for meals. Each family brought drinks and snacks enough for their own family. This works well because you're not bringing excess, and each family has age-appropriate things, and things they like.
  • We called ahead and asked the resort what free amenities they can provide. They reserved a pack-n-play, high chair, and extra blankets for us which saved lots of space in our car.
  • We reserved a room with a full kitchen. Even if this costs a little extra up front, it saves more in the long run because you can avoid eating out.
  • We brought our own food to eat at the resort. We filled a cooler with our own malt-o-meal bags of cereal, a gallon of frozen milk (yes, you can freeze milk! It keeps your other food really cold on the drive, FYI. It barely thawed out in our cooler, even though the drive was so long.), snacks, drinks, lunch fixings (cheese, bread, meat, tortillas for quesadillas, etc.), and dinner meals for the week.
  • We planned ahead and made almost every meal in the resort! Each family traded off being in charge of dinner each night. My meals were: Stuffed Pasta Shells, Chimichangas, and Taco Soup/Taco Salad. 
    • I made the pasta shells, chimichangas, and ground beef for the soup/salad ahead of time and froze them (shells & Chimis in 9×13 glass pans with lids, the ground beef in a ziploc bag. 
    • Using the disposable foil pans saves on space for the drive home, but they don't hold up very well if you need to stack things on top of the pan in the car – FYI). 
    • We packed the cooler full of ice, blue ice packs, and our frozen gallon of milk, so everything was frozen solid still once we arrived at the resort. 
    • We stuck them in the freezer until it was time to cook the meals for dinner. 
    • The stuffed shells and Chimichangas were ready to go, and the soup was easy – I simply packed my own cans of corn, black & kidney beans, diced tomatoes, and packets of taco seasoning. Throw them in a crock pot or pot (find out what the resort can provide) with water, and vuala! A beautiful meal. 
    • I brought a frozen container of sour cream, a can of olives, a frozen block of cheese, and simply bought tomatoes and lettuce to complete the taco soup and taco salad meal. SO EASY.

    • We took advantage of free activities in the area. The concierge at the hotel typically works on commission, so they will nearly always direct you to more expensive activities. Ask the locals what hikes and activities they recommend, that are free. We did lots of hikes, sight-seeing, and swimming.
    • We asked for discounts. We asked the hotel concierge, Park Rangers, store clerks, everyone! Any place where we were about to spend money we asked if they had any “group discounts”, student discounts, any “specials”, or simply asked, “is there anything you can do about that price? I'm really interested but it's a little high.” The worst they can say is NO, and often times they are happy to have your business and will work with you!
    • When we did eat out, we ate out for lunch. It's fun to try new, local restaurants so I'm all about eating out once in a while on vacation. Lunch-time often provides cheaper prices, often times for nearly the same portions. Call ahead to the restaurant – often times they have deals for the “twilight hour” of 2-4, since it's too late for lunch and too early for dinner. You can get great meals for great prices during this time.
    • We attended a timeshare presentation. After some negotiating over our gift, we got a $75 gift card and $80 off a Jeep tour. Yes, this took 2 hours out of our vacation. Yes, it was annoying. Yes, we had to say no about 50 times. But $75 and a Jeep our? SO WORTH IT!
    • We took our camera everywhere. Yes, our camera big and bulky, but this captures memories which helps us avoid the need to buy souvenirs! 
    • We set aside A FEW hours for work. We “bought” internet for my self-employed husband for a few hours on the trip. While I think it's very important to leave your “life” behind and enjoy vacay, devoting a few hours for us helped him keep a handle on things at work and make some money while we were gone. You have to have the will power to tune work out once the internet is off, though!!
    • We found someone to watch our dog for us while we were gone. Boarding an animal is E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E. I found a family member to watch our dog for us. Yes, it's inconvenient for them, but if you buy them a nice gift or find a way to “trade” somehow, it saves a lot. If you can't think of anyone off-hand, get creative! Put a free “wanted” add on Craigs List or Facebook asking for a dog sitter. Ask around your neighborhood or church. Put a flier up at the humane society, pet shop, or local school or university advertising the need for a dog sitter. 
    Lastly, we ENJOYED OURSELVES! Everyone needs a mental and physical break from the daily grind. While vacation can be expensive and takes time away from work, taking a break once in a while will keep you mentally and physically healthy, prolonging a long healthy and happy life. 
    Happy savings…and trails…to you!