Maximize Downtime: Planning for a Frugal, Relaxing Vacation

Sound Money Matters will be silent next week. I will be on vacation and decided that rather than rushing to write advance posts or find a bunch of guest posts, I’d simply let the blog have a vacation, too. Of course, that also means that I’ve been in a vacation planning rush so that I can “maximize my downtime,” as it were. Here are my tips for a frugal, relaxing vacation.

Keep a Standard Packing List

Before every trip, I make a list of what I need to pack. After a recent trip, I took that list and typed it up into a Word document. That is now my master packing list that I can update for each particular trip. It saves me at least half an hour and because I created it over time as I thought of things, I know it’s complete. No more leaping out of bed the night before the trip when I realize I forgot to pack my allergy meds!

Research Activities and Restaurants Ahead of Time

Obviously, you should leave some of your time for relaxing or spontaneous activities, but it does help to do some preliminary research on the options and plan a loose itinerary. If you’re on a special diet like me, it’s especially important to research allergen-friendly restaurants ahead of time. You might even call ahead to make reservations for a few meals.

Look for Coupons in Advance

About a month before you leave, look for online coupons for activities and restaurants in your vacation spot. JD at Get Rich Slowly recommends buying an Entertainment Book for the area, which will come in handy if you can manage to mostly eat at locations that offer Entertainment Book coupons.

“Plan” to Relax

For some trips, I plan a full itinerary. For example, our Irish honeymoon involved driving across the country, so most of our trip had to be planned in advance. However, when we went to Belize, we had a few ideas for what we wanted to do and also “planned” to spend a day on the resort property. That morning, we wandered around the property’s wild areas, went horseback riding, then my husband went into town to buy some Christmas presents while I got a massage. He returned to pick me up, then we went into town for dinner and to finish up our shopping. Since we weren’t overly scheduled, we actually returned home relaxed, even though there were a couple days when we had to get up at six a.m. for day trips.

Don’t Check Email!

My upcoming trip is sort of a working vacation at a conference I’m attending for a personal interest, so I will probably check my email once a day, but I didn’t check email when I was in Belize. I didn’t even give anyone at work the name or info for the resort. My husband gave the info to his office, but we realized at the end of the trip that the room was under my name and they had no record of his name (we don’t share a last name). So, he was effectively out of touch. You know what happened? Nothing. We returned home to discover that no crises had occurred. So, no matter how important you think you are, your clients, employees, employers, etc., can do without you for a week or two. Really. Heck, the governor of a whole state managed to skip town without leaving contact info and his state got by just fine (except for the ensuing scandal.)

Just a little advance planning and a commitment to relaxing (an oxymoron, I know, but it’s something we Americans aren’t good at), you can have a frugal, relaxing vacation and come home ready to return to the office.

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