Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Francisco Collazo
Since this time last week, we’ve been traveling around Puerto Rico on several work assignments. Covering a lot of ground with two kids during the island’s high season is no small feat, especially on a tight budget.
Mariel on the beach in Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Here are some of the ways we’ve been stretching our dollars:
1. We bought one-way tickets.
Given that we were traveling to the Caribbean over a holiday, flights were going to be a big-ticket item for this trip, so we compared round-trip and one-way ticket prices. Though there was a wild-card element about the cost of the return flight, our gamble paid off and our tickets ended up being about $400 cheaper than they would have had we bought round-trip tickets. Remember that flight prices tend to be lower on Tuesdays, so try to book on that day. (And if you have kids and you’re booking through Expedia, use Upromise.com as your launch pad so you can get 6% back on your purchase; the funds are funneled to your child’s 529 savings account. I’ve written a more comprehensive piece about that here.)
2. We packed our own car seats.
The average daily rate a rental car company charges for car seats is $11 each. That’s $22 a day for two kids. Multiply by seven days and you get $154. Yes, they’re cumbersome when you’re getting them to and through the airport, but otherwise, but bringing your own car seats will save you money. They’ll save you time, too; since you already know how to install your own car seats, you won’t have to figure out another system.
3. We brought our own snacks.
Plane snacks and car snacks for road trips; these will help you contain costs and keep you healthier. We like to pack fruit and granola bars, mixed nuts, cheese sticks, crackers, and apple sauce. We also pack instant oatmeal, an inexpensive and fast breakfast. All of these pack well and take up little space in luggage.
4. We do our own laundry.
Well, I shouldn’t say “we”; the truth is, Francisco is the one doing the washing. Each night, he takes about 20 minutes to wash our clothes in the sink or bathtub. He’ll hang them up to dry in the room; if they’re still damp in the morning, we’ll lay them out in the back of the car to sun dry.
5. We eat brunch rather than breakfast and lunch.
Three meals for four people every day can be a big line item on the travel budget, especially if you like eating well. We’re not into deprivation at all, but by the time we’re awake and have both kids dressed and ready to go, it’s usually time for brunch anyway, so we take advantage and eat a larger meal in that period between breakfast and lunch. It usually holds us until dinner.
Family portrait in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
6. We don’t order alcohol.
The average price of a cocktail here is $16. If two adults have just one drink, they’ve already exceeded the cost of an entree. If we want to drink, we buy a bottle of wine and uncork it in our hotel room before or after dinner.
7. We don’t pay for WiFi.
We stay at properties where WiFi is included. $12-25 a day for WiFi is an easy way for a hotel to make an extra buck, but not at our expense.
8. We don’t put down a credit or debit card for “incidentals.”
Like being charged for WiFi, being asked for a credit or debit card to cover “incidentals” is a practice that I find really annoying, especially because the hold on your card ties up funds you’d otherwise have at your disposal, and it can take up to a week or longer for the hold to be released. I’ve been refusing to put down a card for incidentals (which we never use anyway) and if I’m met with protest, I’ll put down cash instead and make sure it’s returned upon check-out.
What are ways you save money when traveling? Share your tips in the comments.