For those of you with kids who are moving into the tween and teen years, I am sure you’ve noticed the cost of taking them on vacation or even just out to your local zoo or museum. This is very evident to us as we travel so we’ve had to come up with some strategies to help out with the budget along the way.
We have always purchased America the Beautiful Annual passes from the National Parks Service. This allows us a full 12 months of entry into national parks, national historic sites, along with other federally managed lands. Right now EJ doesn’t have to pay admission since under 16 is free but we still make out ahead with the pass since many parks charge a per car fee (the Grand Canyon or Zion alone cost $35 each for a single entry).
We also carry the Parks Canada Discovery Pass each year so we can visit our own national parks and historic sights all year. Again, EJ is free right now since he is under 18 but again many parks have per car fees at the gate so this works out to be an economical option.
So these are the first two of our annual passes. Next on our list is a pass that allows us entry no only to a (somewhat) local science center plus gives us a reciprocal membership so we can visit many more as we travel for low or no fee through the ASTC Travel Passport Program. I say somewhat because we don’t actually belong to our local science center. No after considering the special exhibits that the Telus World of Science in Edmonton brings in each year, we decided to purchase our family membership there which means about a three hour drive each way for a visit. We often make this into a weekend visit with V1 and visit other spots in Edmonton while we are there.
We go with a family membership since we are able to add our daughter on as an extra adult for a small fee. EJ is a child for this year but when he turns 13 he becomes a youth so still eligible under our family membership but if we did individual admissions his ticket price would go up quite a bit.
Our final family annual pass is for our local Glenbow Museum. This provides us with admissions to a very nice museum in our own city plus reciprocal membership through the North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) Association. We have made great use out of both the NARM as well as the ASTC reciprocal memberships over the including art museums and museums of history throughout Canada and the United States. We may not have made these visits if we didn’t have the membership sine admissions can get pretty pricey, especially now that EJ is often a youth rather than a child.
There are a ton of options out there for reciprocal memberships so I encourage families who have travel plans to have a look at your local facilities. We find that we often more than pay for our membership when we consider the admissions we save while traveling.
Now we get into feeding the family on the road. I have some food sensitivities and have to keep a fairly close eye on what I eat so we often find accommodations where we can prepare our own meals. I used to pack a slow cooker but now I bring our Instant Pot. It can be used to boil eggs for snacks and salads or to whip up a quick pasta supper after we get back to the room from a day out.
Of course, there are times that we eat out and this is where we really find costs have increased. There are very few places where EJ can order a kid’s meal that will fill him up. One spot where he can still get a great meal at a kid’s price, Cracker Barrel. He loves eating there (it’s all about the mac and cheese) and if we time it right have his meal and we can order off the special lunch and supper menus for a reasonable price.
Another spot we like to stop at is Culver’s. They have snack packs that cost about $5.00 and are plenty for a 12-year-old boy. I like Culver’s since it is easy for me to make a gluten-free choice (although it can’t be guaranteed due to the possibility of cross-contamination they do try to ensure this does not occur, just be sure you let the manager or cashier know about your sensitivity or intolerance) and their custard is amazing!
Another way we work to stay within budget during our travels is to watch for coupons, Groupons, local specials, Costco packages, and any special offers that might be available to us due to membership in an organization. For instance, my husband works for the railway and we often find excellent prices on hotels by using their special rate. We also watch for Canadian specials. For instance, for the past several years we have been able to get a 25% discount on passes to Disneyland and Walt Disney World. They are usually valid for certain dates so e make sure to plan any visits at that time. AAA and CAA memberships also allow you discounts at several vendors including hotels and restaurants.
Finally, we make sure to take advantage of credit card, airline, and hotel loyalty programs. By using the credit card that matches up with our favorite hotel program we can earn free stays even faster. This works for the airlines as well (I don’t often fly but we use our points to fly our girls to meet up with us during our travel, this way it only costs them the fees and taxes rather than the entire fare).
When I am booking room nights with points I try to plan them where they will be worth the highest value as well as taking advantage of booking four nights and getting the fifth night free, a savings of 20% of points that I can keep in my account to use in future. So generally if we are traveling and staying for only one night at each stop I won’t use points. In areas that are more expensive, we will often stay in a KOA Kamping Kabin. Again, it helps with the costs as well as gives us the opportunity to relax around the campfire and roast some hot dogs and s’mores.
So there you have it, just a few of the things we do to help keep within budget as we travel with our very growing
tween teenaged grandson and homeschool on the road.
Be sure to visit some of my fellow crew members as we share ideas, advice, and even laughter during the Not Back to School Blog Hop.
Annette @ A Net in Time – Homeschooling.
Betty @ Lets Get Real – Homeschooling High School
Cassandra @ My Blessed Mess – Eclectic Homeschooling
Yvonne @ The Life We Build – 5 Days of Relaxed Homeschooling
Destiny @ Some Call It Destiny – Encouragement for the Homeschooling Mom
Or visit our linky: