A Simple Approach to Living With Less

ASK THE READERS: What is your favorite low-cost, low-maintenance family vacation location?

Hi Everyone,

I’m changing things up a bit today and asking for your input on: Family Vacations

I took a few minutes and did some Googling (yep, totally a word) in an effort to find some family vacation ideas. I learned in about 2.2 seconds that the family vacation ideas that pop up in Google are for big spenders that like to Go, Go, GO for the entire trip.

I just want a vacation that doesn’t cost an entire month’s paycheck for a week of vacation, have something fun that my kids can do, and provide lots and lots of relaxation for mom and dad.

So, I would LOVE it if you would share your thoughts, inspirations, favorite destinations, ideas you’ve tried, or even just ideas you’ve heard of that sounded really neat.

I’m so excited to hear what everyone has to say. If you have any links you want to share, I’m cool with that too. Thanks everybody!

Oh P.S. A Little Update

We finally emptied our last storage unit this weekend! We are storage unit free!! I am so excited I just can’t tell you! There are simply not enough exclamation points to go around!!

Granted, the few remaining items are currently in the garage to be determined if we have room for them or if they must find new homes. But it really isn’t that much stuff and I’m just so happy that we don’t have to waste anymore money on storage!

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Article originally published on 05/31/2011

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  1. nopinkhere says

    Our main nuclear family vacation is to go primitive camping on the beach at the coast about 4 hours away for a night or two.

    • Faith Janes says

      Primitive camping sounds like no bathrooms to me. If that’s the case, I don’t think I could do that. But otherwise I’m a big fan of camping.

  2. Karen (scotland) says

    Has to be a static caravan (trailer type caravan?) near a beach – a caravan always thrills the kids. Cheap and cheerful, preferably no “entertainment” on site. A swing park nearby. A stream for the kids to guddle in. A swimming pool nearby for the rainy days. A DVD player for down-time in the afternoon. A decent laundry facility so I don’t have to pack too many clothes and a decent kitchenette so mealtimes aren’t a nightmare.
    That about sums up my idea of heaven right now.
    Unfortunately, our holiday this year is a 10 day trip to Holland to see in-laws with ferry journey there and back. Four big days planned with same in-laws at amusement parks, a photoshoot with in-laws.
    It’ll be fun but not what I think fo as a holiday…
    Karen (Scotland)

    • Faith Janes says

      I dream of having a travel trailer for family camping. I grew up tent camping but a travel trailer would make it easier to do all year long.

      I hope you have a great trip in Holland.

  3. Camping !! We gather up some minimal cooking utensils, tent, sleeping bags and some food and we’re good to go for a few nights in the wilderness. We throw the kids (6,4,1) In the van and head off to the great outdoors !! I think it’s about $12 a night.

    The days are filled with relaxing, hiking, playing in the little streams throughout the site, finding bugs and wildlife, eating and spending quality time off the “grid”. (no cell signals or wifi in the middle of nowhere)

  4. I’m going to sound like a broken record chiming in on this one! But I’ll get more specific.

    I seem to recall you live in Georgia. Could be wrong on that one! Anyways not too far away (a little drive) in North Carolina is a place called Joyce Kilmer National Forest. It is divine. When Patrick and I first met we went on a camping trip there for a couple of weeks with a few friends.

    On the east side of the country it is the most beautiful place I have been, and camping was completely free so except for gas and food it would be a no-cost trip! The trip was spent hiking, camping, primitive cooking, swimming in the Little Santeetla Creek and enjoying the magic of that spot. It’s the only old growth forest on the east side of the U.S. and definitely worth a visit! My 2 cents. πŸ™‚

  5. I’ll chime in on:
    1. yes, camping! Great Smokies, Joyce Kilmer, lots of places to go in TN and WNC.
    2. Staycation or tourist in your own town (resist doing housework all week and allow the kids to choose daily activities)

  6. I will have to raise my hand for camping too! With 4 kiddos-it gets WAY too spendy to think about flying everyone somewhere. The kids ASK to camp. They love it! Lots of work-but very rewarding!

    • Faith Janes says

      Our kids love to camp too. We haven’t gone since Melody was born and she’s three now. I think it’s about time she learns how much fun it can be.

  7. We mostly do staycations. I usually spend a bit extra on buying easy-to-prepare foods or plan to eat out a couple of times, so I get a vacation, as well! We enjoy relaxing a lot at home, as well as doing some fun things locally. However, if I lived with family members, I would want to get away! The ideas shared sound great! Also, if you aren’t campers, many national parks have cabins that can be rented for less than hotels. Usually there are free or almost free things to do there and if you want to venture out to do one or two touristy things, you could. Even visiting new-to-them parks is fun for children (and free!). Can’t wait to hear about it!

    P.S. Three cheers for no storage units!

    • Faith Janes says

      Staycations can be fun, but as you said it’d be nice to get a break from the crowded household and just be a family of 5 again (instead of 10….actually it’ll be 12 this summer since my brother and his son are visiting for most of the summer).

  8. One more thing ~ I don’t have experience with this, but a friend of ours has rented houses and cabins for a chunk less by just offering less. I know they have rented cabins in Gatlinburg and a house near Orlando that way. If the place is not rented out and you offer them half price for it for the next week, they might give you a deal. Just an idea….

  9. Home exchange, definitely. We’ve been doing it as a couple since 2008, and for me is a gift that keeps on giving… even more if you have children, because you exchange houses with families like yours.
    It’s low cost, but it’s also fun, makes you see a place more like a local, allows you to pack less (because you’ll have a washer machine/dryer available) and to meet interesting people.
    See http://www.minimoblog.it/2011/03/04/home-exchange-en/ if you’re curious about it πŸ™‚

    • Faith Janes says

      That is a really cool option that folks should look into. I’m not sure anyone would want to swap with us though. Maybe if I got both of our families out of the house at the same time. πŸ™‚ Neat way to see places and meet people you miss otherwise.

  10. Of course there is always camping, but if we’re feeling really fancy, we stay at a Comfort Inn with an indoor pool. If they have a good breakfast spread, even better. My kids think this is the height of decadence. We were in Ann Arbor, MI last summer for a wedding. Their Comfort Inn even had free dinner some nights! I figured since we barely had to buy meals it was a huge deal. We did a lunch picnic at the park most days.

    • Faith Janes says

      I briefly considered staying at one of those hotels with the indoor water parks. My brother and sister-in-law stayed in one last year. Wow! Pricey! If we had a lot longer to plan for it, it could be a neat thing to do though.

  11. Hi Faith!
    We have also done camping and that was an awesome vacation, as long as there was no chance of rain. (even the best tent can leak, ours did, lol!)
    Once our kids got to big and too old to all be in a hotel room, we started looking into renting vacation rentals. Try searching for vrbo.com. It is a legit site for owners of properties to list them to rent. Have found some awesome deals there. Just read the print, make sure about cleaning fees, etc. Also, try Craigslist in your local metro area to see if ads for vacation rentals have been placed.
    As I write this comment, hubby and I are vacationing in FL, and staying at an Intown Suites. Definitely not the Hilton, but it is going to cost us $200 for 7 nights. We have a mini kitchen (no oven) and we do not have a pool, but we are near the beach. We will definitely stay in these types of hotels, if available, in the future!
    Check out all the state parks in GA, as well as other close-by states. Cabins at state parks are reasonable, but fill quickly!
    CONGRATS on the storage shed!
    Life, one step at a time…

    • Faith Janes says

      Thanks for the site, Bernice. I’m definitely bookmarking that one!

      That’s an awesome deal for a whole week! Way to go!!

    • Bernice – we’ve been searching VRBO the past several days, but we accidentlaly stumbled across the site. I wish I would have read your comment at the start of our search!

      The owner-managed vacation rentals on VRBO are far less expensive than those managed by a property management company. Many owners waive the cleaning fees too.

      And wow. $200 for seven nights?! That’s outstanding!

  12. Lots of people seem to be talking about camping – even if you didn’t want to go someplace a ways away, you could do that in your backyard. Pitch the tent, use sleeping bags, and if you have the ability you could even dig out a bit of a fire pit and roast marshmallows.

    Do the thing where you get some lean ground beef, potatoes, and carrots, wrap them all in a few layers of aluminum foil, and toss them into the fire. You’ll want to Google this a bit (since last time I did it was around 20 years ago!), but basically the outer layer of foil turns black, you fish it out of the fire, and then you unwrap it and eat.

    You could do that for a few nights, and it would be a great experience for the family.

    Otherwise I second the vote for a couple of nights in a hotel with a nice pool. πŸ™‚ With a little luck, you could get a decent deal on Priceline or a similar site. A friend of mine usually winds up getting decent hotel rooms on there for $30-$40 a night.

    Just some thoughts. You’ll have to let us know what you come up with!

    • Faith Janes says

      I really would be tempted to go with camping if it weren’t so hot here. It’s going to be 98 this weekend and we’re not schedule for vacation until a week after that. I guess “Hotlanta” got its name right.

      I’m not really good at staycations. It’s hard for be to be disciplined to not do stuff. Since I work from home and homeschool the kids, it just feels nice to get away from the house and the extended family we live with.

      When we went on vacation with my family last year, we did the foil dinner thing. My dad called them “hobo dinners.” Not sure if that’s very P.C. anymore πŸ˜‰ but that’s what they called it when he was growing up. We did some with chicken and other veggies too. They were good.

      Thanks for the lead on Priceline. I’ll have to keep that in mind too. I hear about people doing the “name your price” thing but I’ve never tried that.

      • If you decide to do the Priceline thing, read up on it a bit.

        My friend explained it to me, and the gist of it was:

        You make an offer for a specific level of hotel (2 star, 3 star, 4 star, etc.).
        The hotel(s) have pre-set “accept” criteria (which you don’t know about).
        If your offer beats the pre-set “accept” criteria for a hotel, you see that hotel and get a chance to deny the booking if it’s unacceptable.
        The catch is, you can only adjust your bid once every so many hours or days. I think it’s once every 24 hours. So if it’s the night before and you do $30, you’re out of luck. I know she goes on about a week ahead of time to do her first “bid”.

        Like I said, look into it a bit and see if you can find info on how the game is played, so to speak.

        Best of luck Faith!

    • Mmmm. Good call Robert. I love the foil dinners on an open fire. We did those with my son’s Cub Scout group on a camping trip in the spring. They were quite delicious!

  13. I’m gonna be in with the party line, yet the odd one out. My yearly vacation is Pennsic, an annual event with the Society for Creative Anachronism north of Pittsburgh, PA (search google images for pennsic, you’ll get the drift). It’s like camping with 10,000 medieval history buffs from around the world. I take free classes all day in all sorts of subjects, wander around shopping, and spend the evenings with friends around the campfire. My hub competes in fencing and archery. This will be our 5th year going. As vacations go, it can be very cheap. $125/adult for registration, plus gas to get there and groceries to cook. Our particular camp group has “baby camp” set up to corral children and keep them safe, participants are in all age ranges. Of course it does require a period wardrobe, and an interest in medieval life. πŸ™‚

  14. A little more expensive, but more relaxing: the Orlando area has lots places with pools with slides on site and full kitchens. We stayed at Floridays once and really enjoyed it. Just be really careful to check the place out in person if possible and via Internet reviews if not. Some places aren’t well-maintained.

  15. jennyandcompany says

    I’m not a big fan of camping. few amenities = more work. We have been going to Gulf Shores/Orange Beach AL for over 20 years and it’s the easiest vacation ever. We stay in the same condo every year, therefore we know what to expect and have to bring very little. We cook super simple meals while there, and just relax on the beach or by the pool daily. We do one inexpensive outing that’s fun for the kids, but I think they prefer staying on the beach to play anyway.

    We usually go just after the fall rates kick in, so it’s quite affordable. You don’t have to pack much – for the kids, just a couple of swimsuits and a couple of sets of clothes that can double as pajamas is sufficient. You can wash if necessary (which I like to do before coming home so that I can relax when we get back!) It’s easy, stress free, and everyone loves it.

  16. It sounds like most everyone is suggesting camping. I like camping, but I wouldn’t like it for an entire week with a toddler in diapers (we have a 21-month old). And I wouldn’t like it for two hours without a bathroom. πŸ˜‰

    Check out the http://www.vrbo.com/ site Bernice mentioned. We’re working with an owner of a beautiful condo in Hilton Head, SC. This owner is charging about 1/2 of what the property management companies are charging for the same complex. The rates drop significantly in mid-August as well.

    We also found some great deals on TripAdvisor.com for owner-managed condos.

    We prefer to stay in a condo when we travel. It’s nice to have a kitchen to prepare meals and an air-conditioned, quiet place for our youngest to nap. Oh, and we like having a washer and a dryer so we don’t have to pack a bunch of clothes.

    And the most important part of the condo to us is the view from the balcony! We spend most of our time in the condo on the balcony anyways.


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