Vacation on a Budget and ThankYou Points Giveaway

It’s 35 degrees outside. The wind is gusting making the bare tree branches dance. The sky is dark, covered in clouds blocking most of the sunlight. It’s  decidedly  NOT my favorite time of year. If I could hop on a plane to somewhere warm today, I would! Give me some sunshine, some warmth, and some time off of my  responsibilities  and I’m a happy lady.

While I can’t up and hop on a plane today planning this year’s vacations can give me something to look forward to, and more importantly helps me make smarter financial choices to get us there without causing us to get into debt. Planning ahead for vacation can never start too early.

To start let’s just debunk something right now, if you’re in debt you can still take time off for a vacation and in fact I encourage you to take time off! While many financial gurus want you to laser focus on debt and to give up everything extra (including vacations) you have to balance your financial goals and your life goals.

Vacation on a Budget

Starting to think about your family vacation plans for 2013? So how can you plan a dream vacation while staying within your budget? My friends at  Women & Co.  â€“ Citi’s personal finance resource for women – have compiled  seven strategies  to help plan an affordable vacation that the whole family will enjoy.

Additionally I’ve learned a few ways to save on our vacations as well. Here are a few ideas for taking an affordable vacation (whether you’re digging out of debt or not):

Ways to Plan Vacation on the Cheap

Key Things to Remember When Vacation Planning:

  • Research, research, research: The key to a fun-filled and stress-free trip is to plan ahead. This includes researching local blogs for info on the best places to visit, buying or downloading a book on the area, and making plans.
  • Be Flexible: While planning ahead is key, if you are traveling with a group or kids keep your expectations in check. Having options is great, but be sure you make plenty of time for downtime, and don’t be afraid to pull the plug on an activity if it’s not working for you or your family.

Travel on the Cheap

  • Road Trip: Travel by car may limit you more to locales, but it can be much cheaper than air travel.
  • Train Travel: Train travel may seem to be part of a bygone era, but you can find great rates on train tickets depending on when and where you travel.
  • Visit Friends & Family: Not only are you able to visit with family, but you can also save big bucks on lodging. Just make sure to be a good guest, and bring a host gift. 😉
  • Day Trip: Taking day trips can be just as fun, and you won’t have the expense of staying overnight.

Lodging for Less

  • House Share: There are more and more websites devoted to house sharing where you can sign up to share your own home, as well as take advantage of staying in someone else’s home. Sometimes it is for trade, sometimes it is for a small fee.
  • Rent a Landing Pad: In many major metropolitan areas you can choose to rent an apartment or condo instead of booking a hotel room.
  • Sign up for Sale Emails: From airline frequent flier emails to hotel emails you can score great deals. If you have a specific attraction you want to visit (a waterpark for instance) make sure you get their emails as well.

Save on Expenses

  • Pack it Up: Packing your own food can be a great way to save big bucks. We tend to eat a big breakfast and pack a ton of easy to eat snacks like fruit, nuts, and homemade sandwiches.
  • Scour Deal Sites: Wherever you are visiting you can score great deals on attractions, hotel stays, and restaurants via sites like Groupon and Living Social.  
  • Find Free Days/Activities: Many museums offer free or discounted days, off-season pricing, and special activities that are included in the price of admission. You may also be able to take advantage of a reciprocal membership with another museum you are a member of (check with any you belong to for more information).  

ThankYou Points Giveaway

Now you can start your vacation planning with a little extra from Citi! FOUR lucky winners will receive 10,000 Citi ThankYou ®  points redeemable at   Citi ThankYou points can be redeemed for merchandise, gift certificates, travel getaways, electronics and more – and they come in very handy when you’re booking your trip, since points can be used towards air travel with no blackout dates, on any airline.

Visit  for more info, where one Citi ThankYou ® member from Portland, OR shared that her 10 day Maui vacation only cost her $5 in transportation costs – “all three flights for just $5 thanks to my points, rental car for free!”(WOW!)

To Enter:

Comment: To win, share your insider tips on family travel – whether it’s a great kid-friendly hotel or restaurant you’ve visited, a tried-and-true strategy for easy travel with kids, or your favorite family vacation activity.

Extra Entries:

Score extra entry points by doing the following and letting me know in the comment section below:

Extra Love (doesn’t count as an extra entry):  Become a fan of Citibank on  Facebook.

Rules:  Read the  full giveaway rules  before entering. Giveaway ends February 24th at 10am ET.

Good Luck!


Disclosure: Citi provided me with ThankYou points for my use, and to giveaway to readers. This giveaway is sponsored by the Centsible Life.

About Kelly

Kelly Whalen is the founder and editor of the Centsible Life blog. She started the blog 6 years ago as her family faced a mountain of debt. The blog became a resource to readers and a hub for everything you need in life for less. Kelly lives in the Philadelphia area with her superhero husband, 4 awesome kids, and one adorable dog. She still believes you can have it all....just not all at once.


  1. says

    My husband and I saved money on our honeymoon in Maui by eating a big breakfast, booking excursions that included lunch, splitting dishes and dessert, and snacking throughout the day, instead of going out for a big lunch and dinner!

  2. christinew says

    My favorite thing to do is look for local coupons or Groupons to save money! Thanks for the chance, justicecw at hotmail dot com

  3. Carrie says

    Keeping healthy snacks in the car keep us from hitting every wawa on our trips! The less stops make it less trips to “go potty” too!

  4. C.j. says

    For road trips What I like to do is buy a few fast food restaurant gift cards at a store like Kroger where I can get extra fuel point rewards. I just make sure that the eatery is somewhere we’re staying or along the way to we’re going. That way we can eat cheaper if we have to eat out without worrying about over spending and have help on the gas while on the road. Also, before I leave for a trip I also try to find out where the dollar or discount stores are in case I run out of something by chance That way I’m not paying for over priced items at a convenience store if I’m in a rush

  5. Sarah Hughes says

    We always go down the shore the week of labor day. Most kids start school so we save a ton of money and it’s a beautiful time there!!

  6. Alissa Boyle says

    One thing we love to do when we’re on a road trip with kids is to build in time to stop at weird roadside attractions along the way. It gives us some more memories with them and makes the trip less about getting from here to there and more about, quite literally, enjoying the ride!

  7. melissa teears says

    Follow @womenandco ,@centsiblelife and @Citibank on twitter. Twitter name @melist95. (I also do follow Citibank on Facebook. Facebook name melis tee)

  8. melissa teears says

    Our favorite family vacation activity is going to the boardwalk and beach in Wildwood nj. We save $$$ by bringing groceries down so we don’t have to eat out much. (There are a few spots we do have to visit though.)

  9. Rebeckah Leatherman says

    We always try to go off season to Wildwood : ). I know, I know. Big ballers around here, right? We always go before the 4th of July or after Labor Day. Thanks for this awesome giveaway!

  10. Tabathia B says

    When we plan on going on vacation I always sign up for travel brochures mailing list and online list and email different places for coupons and I visit the visitors center.

    tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

  11. says

    Favorite family vacation activity is road-tripping to local places! I live in metro Detroit and my family and I used to go to Grand Haven, MI, to go to the beach.

Share your thoughts!