Sunday, June 13, 2010

Minimizing Costs of Outings

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Trips often cost a pretty penny, even when the venue is a cheap or free activity. Food, drink and transportation as well as other trip related expenses can really add up. With a little forethought, many of these costs can be eliminated, or at least greatly reduced. I've put together a list of tips that help save money on trips. You'll notice that the common element here is advanced preparedness. A little forethought usually save you lots, and outings are a prime example of this truth.

Bring Everything You'll Need.

Things bought while out and about will likely cost much more than you'd pay for them on a typical shopping trips. Tourist places especially hike up prices exorbitantly, knowing that most people will come unprepared and desperate enough to pay a mint for things they need.
Better pack too much than too little; rather come home with unused things than needing to pay through the nose because you're missing something crucial.
CamelBak BPA-Free Better Bottle with Bite Valve,Grey,1 Liter

What to Bring on Trips:

    Good Health Kettle Style Olive Oil Potato Chips, Sea Salt, 5-Ounce Bags (Pack of 12)
  • Drinks. Water bottles filled with water or homemade drinks at home are much cheaper than buying while out. If you want to have chilled drinks while out, freeze your bottles before leaving.
  • Snacks. Bring homemade healthy snacks like popcorn, vegetable spears, fruit or homemade crackers. If you're insistent on junk or store bought snacks, buy large packages and divide them into small, individual serving bags. Cheaper than buying small snack packages, and tremendously cheaper than buying from vending machines.
  • Lunch. It's tempting to eat at a restaurant when traveling, but it'll save you much money if you bring along sandwiches or other easily transportable meals, like stuffed tortillas or patties.
  • Diapers. Running out of diapers and needing to buy a package while out, especially for someone like myself who cloth diapers can be outrageously expensive. I once ran out of my cloth diapers while out and the only brand available to buy was Pampers, a company I refuse to buy on principal because of cost. Better bring too many diapers than be stuck without.
  • Women's Products. Just as with diapers, especially if you generally don't use disposable feminine products and you run out while traveling, you may end up needing to buy disposables of a brand you don't enjoy or have no need for once you return home. Even if you weren't expecting your menstrual cycle, it still pays to be prepared with a little bit of backup, in case Aunt Flo shows up unexpectedly.
  • Spare Clothes. If you have a newly potty trained child, a baby prone to blow-out diapers, or a carsick child, consider bringing a change of clothes so you don't need to buy a new outfit in case of emergencies. 
  • Tissues. Bring along your hankies so you don't need to buy disposables.

Buying Cheaply on Trips

People sometimes forget or have no time to bring along necessary things. If you're caught without, here's what to do.

  • Do Without. Can you wait till you get home to have that snack?
  • "Borrow". If you're stuck someplace without a diaper or feminine products, instead of buying a fresh pack that you'd have no use for after that day, consider asking another woman if she has a spare diaper or pad or whatnot instead. From my experience, people are usually happy to help out.
  • Grocery Stores. Instead of buying from kiosks, concession stands, or vending machines, try to find a local supermarket. Prices there will usually be cheaper, and you can buy larger amounts of food for less. If you want to treat your kids to ice cream, instead of buying ice cream in the food court, consider popping into a grocery store and buy either a package of ice cream bars or a carton of ice cream. Buy large bottles of soda instead of cans or small bottles.

Don't Plan Last Minute

While I usually rush out the door, doing this has its pitfalls. By preparing a little bit before embarking on your trip, you'll save yourself money.
  • Packing what you need. You'll have what you need and won't need to buy new.
  • Coupons and discounts. These are often readily available online and in the newspaper. With a bit of legwork, you can usually save yourself on admission fees. If you have a membership card, remember to find it and bring it along.
  • Taking your time. If you're in less of a rush, you can avoid paying fees for rushing- no speeding tickets or taking taxis or using expensive easy to find parking lots because of your hurrying.

Other Trip Tips to Save You Money

  • Avoid gift shops. You can usually get anything sold in the gift shop for cheaper elsewhere. If a memento of your trip is important to you, photographs and brochures work as cheaper keepsakes.
  • Non peak times. If the place you're visiting charges less during the off season, during weekdays, or in the mornings, consider scheduling your trips then.
  • Cheaper transportation. Consider either traveling completely by public transportation, walking, or driving to free parking on the public transportation line to avoid parking fees and gasoline costs.
  • Group prices. Some venues offer reduced prices for groups. Consider organizing a group trip to cut costs.
  • Use cash. Take only a minimal amount. This will cut the urge to splurge.
  • Bring good company. Don't go on trips with people that encourage excess spending if you can avoid it. They'll make you feel bad for saving your money and you will be pushed to spend money that you wouldn't otherwise spend.
  • Discounted prices. You'd be surprised how many places offer discounts for different affiliations you may have. Ask about discounts for AAA members, military families, students, handicapped, seniors, holders of certain credit cards, etc. The list is endless. It doesn't hurt to ask about available discount. The worst that can happen is they'll say no, and you'll pay full price.
Going on trips can provide for great fun for your family. Preparedness is key to saving money on outings, so you don't need to break the bank while having a nice time.

What do you take along with you on trips? What are your tips to saving money on trips?

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