My family loves to travel. Even Declan makes us play "airplane" on a frequent basis, where he'll pack up his mini suitcase and practice flying across the county. So even though we've had to scale back on plenty of expenses while building up piddix, we've also come up with several creative ways to contine our traveling on a budget.
1. Rack up the Miles.
Now that we have to pay for three airplane tickets, flying is even more expensive. We almost always try to get at least one if not two of the airplane tickets for free using miles we've collected with credit cards. Both Brian and I signed up for the American Express Delta card, where we get 20,000 miles with the first purchase and no annual fee for the first year. When looking for the best airline miles cards I first ask friends and research online. I then call the credit card company, read the fine print, and make sure that the miles I "earn" by making my first purchase automatically transfer into an airline account rather than staying with the card. That way, I can cancel the credit card if I'd like before the yearly fees kick in. I also add a little sticker to the front of the card that says "cancel by May 2010." That way I won't get hit with a $95 fee by accidentally keeping the card more than a year. We have also set up most of our bills to be paid automatically by credit card and then pay off the cards right away (another great way to add up the miles). And yes, we're careful not to apply for and cancel too many cards, which may negatively affect our credit.
2. Do Your Homework Beforehand.
We're hoping to go to Disneyland in mid-January for a tradeshow/mini-vacation. Upon learning that one-day entrance fees are $70-$100, I did some research for alternatives. I found that by volunteering at a non-profit organization before we go, we can receive a free park ticket. It is often much easier to research and print out coupons and specials beforehand. That way, I'm not wasting my vacation trying to hunt down deals.
3. Find "Bonus" Time.
When I think of timeshares, the first thing that comes to mind is this South Park episode. In other words, not a very pleasant experience. But we've actually been fortunate to pick up "bonus time" through my parent's timeshare quite often. Basically, we purchase unused rooms for a small portion of the cost plus a cleaning fee. You have to go through a friend or family member who can book the timeshare for you, and in our case we have to wait until two weeks beforehand to secure a room. Another bonus, besides the very-low cost, is that the rooms have full-sized kitchens so we can save money by eating several meals a day at the condo.
4. Combine Work and Play.
For us, pretty much any work trip can be made into a mini family vacation. When I was still selling at craft fairs, we'd pick which fairs to sell at based on where we wanted to travel. Similarly, when I decided to attend a tradeshow in Anaheim this winter for piddix, we looked into activities we could do as a family in my off-days (like Disneyland). I also spend a good portion of my traveling time visiting different archives to scan material for my collage sheets and we almost always go as a family--definitely one of the large bonuses of us all working from home and having flexible schedules.
If all of our winter travel plans work out, I'll be posting from both California and from a month-long trip to the mid-West. Who knows, perhaps I can find a tradeshow in Venice this Spring? I'm sure they have some amazing archives, too...