How to Ditch the Staycation & Get Out of Town on a Budget

The weather is starting to warm up, and the kids are already starting the countdown until school's out, which means summer vacation will be here before you know it. A lot of families on tight budgets opt to take a staycation rather than actually get away, but this year, why not actually go somewhere new? It's totally possible -- even on a super tight budget.

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On a recent school break, Extended Stay America offered to send my family on a five-day vacation at any of their 600-plus locations in the US. Even though I was thrilled for the sponsored trip, I was a little nervous about our budget vacation and how much fun we'd be able to accomplish without breaking the bank.

Since I'm a single mom to two girls, I invited my own mama to come along too, and we ended up all having a total blast. Plus, I was basically my kids' hero for taking them somewhere new and different and fun, and also a hotel. Hotels are magical places to kids, I'm telling you.

So how did I do it? Here's how I ditched the staycation for an honest-to-goodness family trip.

1. Figure out how far you're willing to drive. This will be different for everyone, but you know your comfort zone. When traveling on a tight budget with kids, airline tickets are usually not an option, so open up Google Maps and see what's within driving distance. We chose Palm Springs, just a two-hour drive away for us. The kids had never been, I knew the weather would be great for the time of year, and it wouldn't be too busy or go, go, go. Plus, it's just a beautiful place to visit, and we ended up with a fantastic view from our room.

2. Stay somewhere budget-oriented and family-friendly. Since ESA sponsored our trip, we obviously stayed there, but I'll definitely be doing it again in the future. The going rate for our room was about $125 a night, and after talking to several other guests throughout our stay, I learned that they agreed it was an amazing bang for the buck.

Remember, this is not about turn-down service or five-star restaurants in the lobby -- it's about getting your family out of town and staying somewhere clean and affordable, and that's exactly what you're getting here. We had a suite with a king-size bed and a pull-out sofa, which was perfect for our family of four to relax.

3. Grocery shop instead of dining out. Our room at ESA had a kitchenette complete with a full-size fridge, a two-burner stove, and a microwave.

4. Take advantage of everything free you can. Check out if your hotel offers a continental or hot breakfast with the price of the room. We had oatmeal and fruit for breakfast every morning, along with Mommy's coffee fix. My kids also had a ball at the pool, and the setting couldn't have been more relaxing.

5. Check for discounts on everything. There's a water park in Palm Springs that ended up being our big splurge for the trip. I asked the nice people at the front desk if they thought it was worth going, and I was handed coupons for $5 off admission for each ticket, including kids. $20 saved. Awesome. That meant margaritas for the grown-ups. Hey, it's vacation, right?

We had such a great experience on our budget family vacation, especially considering that the whole thing was accomplished for just under a grand, including the cost of the hotel, the gas for the whole trip, food, wine, movie tickets, and even a trip to the water park.

I'm already trying to figure out where we can go next. After all, the more we can budget, the more we can travel.

 

Images via Jenny Erikson 

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