Thrifty Thursday: Our first vacation on the Dave Ramsey plan

I guess if we were COMPLETELY following the Dave Ramsey plan, we wouldn’t have gone on vacation at all because we’re only on “Baby Step 2” which is the debt snowball phase, but I have great memories of family vacations growing up and I think it’s important to have those same experiences with my kids. Plus, we have season passes to Sea World that we had purchased prior to starting our Dave Ramsey plan and I couldn’t let them go to waste!

In addition to the fun that we had together as a family, one of the great things about this trip was that we paid for it entirely using cash and we managed to come home with $140 in cash!! In the past, when we have gone on vacations, we had a great time, but we would come home knowing that we had overspent and dreading that credit card bill. This time around, the only thing we were dreading was having to catch up on laundry.

Here are a few tips for helping you stay within your budget on a vacation:

*Check out Ebates – I’ve been an Ebates user for over a year now, but I didn’t realize that you could also book hotels through the site until recently. They have links for a number of popular hotel chains including Best Western, Choice Hotels, Holiday Inn, Marriott, and Wyndham Hotels and the cash back is typically between 1-3%. They also have links for a number of popular discount travel services such as Priceline, Orbitz, Hotwire, and as well as links for a number of airlines such as Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines.

*Invest in gift cards – We bought gift cards to pay for our hotel from a local grocery store and earned discounted gas for doing so. You can also earn gift cards for air travel from Swagbucks (Delta and US Airways miles and Southwest Airlines gift cards). In addition, check out and to earn gift cards for popular restaurants. We used a number of gift cards that I had earned from various websites to help offset the cost of meals.

*When choosing a hotel, look for locations that offer a free breakfast or have kitchens in the room. This also helps to cut down on out of pocket expenses for food. If your room has a kitchen, visit a local grocery store and at least prepare basics like breakfast and sandwiches on your own to save money.

*Take your own snacks. We have young kids, so snacks were a must have. We took a cooler with fruits and vegetables and our room had a small refrigerator. We also had crackers and other snack items. If you are visiting an amusement park or other attractions, check on their policies beforehand to see what kind of food you can take in with you. I took fruit, crackers, and juice boxes (for some reason at Sea World, you’re not supposed to take the straws in) in a backpack to keep the kids going until we left for lunch.

*Consider season passes or city passes to maximize savings. Check out this article here for more information.

For more ideas about how to have summer fun on a budget, check out these articles here.