Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
It’s the height of summer, and in addition to VSU’s campus being filled with obscenely short shorts being gobbled by the rear ends of female students and exposing tanks worn by frat boys to show off their “cool” new Greek tattoos on their ribs, it is also vacation season.
Many of you (especially those with children) dread the summer because aside from kids being integrated into activities of everyday life (grocery store, post office, etc.), it also means that you will be dropping some cash on a vacation. Don’t get me wrong, just because I’m the self-proclaimed budget guru doesn’t mean I don’t like to party. Heck, my middle name is Denney and that just oozes with partying because what is better than a $4.69 grand slam? That’s right, nothing. However, just because you’re a righteous vacationer doesn’t mean you have to drain your yearly savings on overpriced amusement parks and fried food on a stick that expired like a month ago, smothered in cornbread and mustard. Yum.
There are ways to take awesome summer mini-vacations that don’t make you regret them the minute you realize you need to fill up your gas tank for the long ride of vacation shame back to the labyrinth of financial shame from wence you came. All you have to do is be as smart as me . . . Or be able to read through the incoherent rambling of an un-caffeinated budgeter writing at midnight.
1. Turner Field
For those of you in Valdosta, a family trip to the home of the Braves seems impossible. But I’m here to tell you that it can indeed be done on a budget. First, to help cut gas expenses, get a Flash Foods card. Me and the hubby both have one and it can save us up to 10 cents a gallon. Next, to survive the 3.5 hour car ride, make sure to pack sandwiches, snacks and drinks in a cooler. Sure, a pit-stop at McDonalds seems cheap, but those $1 cheeseburgers add up pretty quickly.
While food and snacks for the car ride is important, food for the baseball game is crucial. Yes, you can actually bring your own food and drink into Turner Field, just no cans or glass bottles. You cannot bring in a cooler, but you can carry everything in a bag that doesn’t exceed 16x16x8. This means popcorn, juice, bottled water, turkey sandwiches and just about anything you desire.
Okay, I know what you’re saying: “But tickets are the most expensive part!” Well, depending on your seats that can be true, but I bet you didn’t know that you can actually see a Braves game for $1. Yes, you read it right, $1. $1 skyline tickets are available at the Turner Field Ticket Office 2.5 hours before every home game. So it is actually possible to watch the Braves play the Yankees or the Cubs for just a buck.
2. The Beach
The key to doing the beach on a budget all boils down to simplicity. So many people don't want to deal with the "hassle" of packing and loading the car, but that extra little effort is definitely worth it.
Be sure to pack an easy lunch like sandwiches and pack tons of snacks like chips and fruit so you don't find yourself running to overpriced, strategically placed concession stands. By the time you buy food and drinks for two people, you've already spent about $30!
Another huge beach expense is sun block and sand toys. I don't know if you've noticed, but the prices on those products tend to almost double the closer you get to the beach.
Prior to your beach trip, hit up the dollar store for cheap sand toys and make sure you have your sunblock!
If you're going on a weekend beach vacation, the cost of a hotel can drain you, but there are ways to save money in other places. Pick up a local newspaper for coupons to local restaurants. Also, check the lobby of your hotel for coupons on special activities such as tours and boat rides.
3. Amusement Parks
First off, don't get suckered into a ticket's gate price. Plan ahead and purchase them online because not only will you get into the park quicker, you will also usually save money on admission.
For example, on Universal Studios’ website you can buy a 2 day/2 park pass for nearly $30 under the gate price. Sea World's website even has an online exclusive called "Be a Kid Again," which allows shoppers to purchase adult tickets at the kid price.
You can also save on admission at grocery stores, food chains and soda manufacturers.
Quite often during the summer these places offer theme park admission deals only for your business in exchange!
Aside from saving money on tickets, there are obvious money savers like packing your own lunch, snacks and drinks (I've said this a lot, so it must be important).
4. One-Day Adventures
When you work all the time and all you have is your weekends, long travel can make you need a vacation. If you're looking for a fun and exciting adventure for half the price, check out Groupon in the App Store or online at Groupon.com. They offer deals on zip lining, kayaking and more all in or around your designated area.
Well my dear budgeteers, I hope my advice finds you well and you have a wonderful summer! If you don't get to vacation and this article makes you bitter, chin up. Maybe next week I'll teach you how to use hairspray to remove ink stains from clothing, and that's pretty exciting.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @BudgetBrittany and like me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BrittanyDenneyMcClure