Prepping for Travel

A big component of being an organized person is being prepared for whatever comes your way. If you’re dealing with a chaotic house on a regular basis, then it’s likely that along with disorganization, you don’t have a lot of systems in place to help you ease through everyday life and handle the curve balls life throws from day-to-day.

This topic has been on my mind lately as I have had occasion to travel a couple of times in July.

Along with being an organized person, I consider myself to be a frugal person—and part of being both is being prepared. Always looking ahead, always planning, having a good calendar, doing the research, taking advantage of amenities/discounts/points/miles.

So, our first vacation was up to a great resort in Vermont on Lake Champlain. Message me if you’d like the name of a beautiful, historic, fun, Dirty Dancing-esque resort. It is a dream! This was our second time staying at the resort, so I had an idea of what to expect: breakfast was included, but lunch and supper weren’t. Rooms have mini-fridges, but not microwaves.  I was aware of the dining options, from ties and jackets to informal, along with the other amenities this resort has to offer.

Last year when we stayed at said resort, we had just been on a Space-A adventure that was meant to end up in Germany.  Our plans fell through (someone–ahem–not me, was not prepped) and we just continued north to Vermont and booked this place on a whim.

It turned out to be great, but I was not prepped and the biggest sticker shock was not even the cabin prices. It was the FOOD. Meals were crazy expensive. Breakfast was included in our package, so I made sure we timed breakfast to tide us over until lunch. We drove into town and purchased a few snack items and stocked the fridge with drinks for the adults and the kids (they did provide a corkscrew—I mean, I can’t resist that temptation!).  That helped our food bill a bit, but we just weren’t prepared for how much food would cost and although we had a great time, I felt a little ill over the final bill.

We left knowing that we would likely be back again, but this time, with a little better planning. This year, I packed my cooler (thanks, Amazon Fresh!) with lunchmeat, cheese, yogurt, applesauce, drinks and bread. Oh, and ubiquitous peanut butter…peanut butter and bread have traveled the world with me and my fussy eaters, and in the process has saved me probably hundreds of dollars.

So, there I was, enjoying myself on the shore of beautiful Lake Champlain, sunning and reading while my kids splashed. When it was time for lunch, I got up and called the kids in, saying “Let’s go get our sandwiches!”.

Other mom sitting nearby: “Oh, where are you going for your sandwich?”
Me: “Oh, back to our room, I packed everything for lunch!”.
Her: “Smart.”

We had four or five meals that way, so I figure I saved between $150-200 just on lunch, if not more.

We ate supper at the cheapest place on the resort, and whatever was leftover came back to our room fridge and became part of lunch. We also took advantage of the resort’s very liberal policy on removal of breakfast food from the buffet to supplement our snacks/lunch (I mean, they brought me the takeaway box and told me to help myself—I’m not going to turn that down!). We ate really well on a strict budget and I didn’t feel guilty having a glass of wine (though I packed some of that in too—I mean, even a “cheap” glass at $9 is killer to me!).

Next up—last-minute travel home to attend my grandmother’s funeral. I flew American. Do your research folks, because some airlines are now charging for CARRY-ON bags. As in, you are not allowed to bring a carry-on and put it in the overhead bin or you will be charged $25 or more. You are allowed ONE personal item.

Well, I already felt like I’d donated a damn kidney for my ticket in steerage, so I wasn’t about to give American another dime of my hard-earned money. So—I packed in a backpack, rolling my clothes and wearing layers:  tank top, T-shirt, cardigan and jacket. Yeah, it was a little hot in DC, but at my destination, I just stripped off a few layers and put them in a shopping bag. I carried just a small purse that fit on top of my clothes and I even managed to get my laptop and Kindle into the bag.

My point is this: we pay a lot to travel. And we should strive to travel. There is nothing more wonderful than leaving everyday life behind and trying something new. There is nothing more wonderful than making memories and starting traditions. BUT—do your planning in advance. Try to find that hotel with a kitchenette. If you can’t pack in the food, meal plan and do a quick grocery shop. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of trying new/local foods, but cut it to one meal a day—it will be looked forward to and remembered even more if you make it a once a day event, anyway.

Check on your hotel to find out about any hidden fees—do they have a fee to park? Fee for Wi-Fi? Fee to use their spa facilities or gym? What kind of amenities does the hotel offer? Make friends with the concierge and he/she can direct you on fantastic, sometimes free adventures wherever you are. Check on airline fees and baggage policies—the last thing you want to find out after you’ve packed and arrived at the airport is that you’re going to wind up coughing up $25 or more per bag or paying for bags that over the airline’s weight limit.  Don’t overpack–travel is the best time to try out a capsule wardrobe.  Think about it–on vacation, isn’t it always easier to get dressed?  Yep, it’s because you have limited choices!

A ounce of prep is worth a pound of…money? I don’t know, but I guarantee you’ll have a happier vacation feeling great that you saved some money!