Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

January 13th, 2009
Where to go when you have no dough?

Now the New Year is here, it is time to think about your vacation schedule for 2009. But if going on vacation seem like an impossibility this year because the economy, then this segment is for you. If money is the issue, then here’s a list of 5 ways you can save money, enjoy some much-needed time “on vacation” and connect with your family and friends in 2009.

Process for change and vacation solutions:

1. Look at abundance not wealth:

Sometimes it is easy to look at what others have, and not focus on all the wonderful experiences you’ve had in your life with your family and friends. If money is truly an issue for you – like you can barely make rent, but you do want to get away somewhere. Instead of taking a trip you can’t afford, take a trip down memory lane.

Take a trip down memory lane by scrapbooking past trips or create a vision board with your next trip with a piggybank next to it, where you can drop your spare change into it. Or, take out the camera and spend the day taking photos “on location.”

San Francisco and the Bay Area offer many free programs and museums that are available to the public. (I am complying the list now.) Having a library card is a great treat. You can rent books and movies at your local library. So, getting lost in literature is a great way to escape.

2. Be realistic about your finances and don’t go farther into debt just to go far away:

If you do have a little bit of money and time, then think about a themed “staycation” or quick rides on public transportation to new destinations. For example, my girlfriend wanted to go to Greece for her 40th birthday party, but she could not afford it, so we threw her a party with togas, pictures of Greece on the wall and Greek food. Even though we did not fly to Greece, we had a “Big Fat Greek Experience.”

Another low-cost family fun trip is a train ride to Truckee, Monterrey Bay, or San Diego. Pack a picnic and leave town for the day. Let the journey be the destination.

3. Share the joy with other:

House swap or get a rental with another family/couple.
You are not the only family looking for a great deal, and one of the best ways to save money is to swap houses. For example, when I lived in Half Moon Bay, we swapped with a couple who live in San Francisco. We stayed in their beautiful place for a weekend and they stay our house. And it costs us nothing!

First, ask your friends whom you trust if they want to swap, then you can try services that specialize in this. There are a few good website for home exchanges. You need to do your own research to find the perfect match for yourself and your family:
www.homeexchange.com
www.homeforswap.com
www.homelink.org

Another option is to share a rental with another family. Everyone does not need a bed – especially the kids. You can get a rental up on the coast or in the mountains and let everyone know that this is going to be a big slumber party. Pitch in for food and save a ton of cash. We did this for my cousin’s wedding. We rented 3 condos in Mexico and had 30 people coming and going. We all shared the floor and have a big family reunion. It was a blast and costs each family around $300 for the week.

4. Seek Bargains off the Beaten Path:

If you do have a bit of money to spend, and really want to visit a specific destination, but is it out of your price range, try the next city over. Stay places that are off the beaten path – instead of Tahoe, try Truckee Maybe you can’t afford a beachfront place in San Diego, but you can afford to stay inland a bit and drive the car to the beach every day. First figure out what type of experience you want to have, “I want to be warm.” Or “I want to meet lots of fun people.” Then make that – and your budget – your guiding force and not the destination. I wanted to go to Monte Carlo, but it was just too expensive, so I stayed in Nice and took the train over. It was a fraction of the cost and even more lovely!

5. Your Rainy Day is Here. Cash in Those Points and Plan:
You did not save all those points for nothing. You save them for a raining day and that day is here. A few things: if you want to use your points for international travel, each airline has a different amount of points you need to use – depending on when you want to go. This is the trick, you need to call each airline directly and find out about their point redemption rules. Make sure to check out the airports that are next to the major ones. Like Oakland instead of SFO. Also, if you travel for work and your company uses a specific hotel – like the Marriott, then you should be collecting points that you can redeem for free stays. All this takes a bit of investigation. So commit to spending a few hours to do the research.
If you plan of paying for your flights, then 45 days is the sweet spot. Look for specials at least 45 days out or if you to get away quick try websites like “lastminute.com” but be realistic about your hopeful destinations. Maybe you can’t get to Paris, but you can do Montreal. Also, you might find a great deal – like $599 for air and 7-day hotel, but it’s to Hong Kong – if you have the time and the money, then a “last minute” trip that is a fraction of the cost is worth the adventure!
Just like everything is life, the travel industry is dynamic. Things come and go and change very quickly, you just need to be a step ahead of the game. Research, requesting, and reconfirming are three actions that will save you a lot of time and money when traveling.

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