HOW TO VACATION FOR FREE (OR ALMOST FREE)

One of the most common things I hear from my Mama friends is, “I need a vacation!” And you know what? They do! I do! YOU do! Let’s face it. We push ourselves waaaay too hard. We need breaks to reset ourselves. Unfortunately, it’s usually the women who need vacations the most that think they can’t afford them. So today, I’m sharing some of my best tips with you to help you vacation for practically nothing.

Let’s look at my last big vacation, a trip to Las Vegas for my husband’s 30th birthday. I used the following tips and tricks to score:
Free Airfare to Las Vegas
Free Hotel for Four Days/Three Nights on the Vegas Strip
Free Meals while in Vegas
Free Cirque du Solei & High Roller Tickets

Now THAT is how you vacation my friends.

Vegas may not be your destination of choice, but you can still use these suggestions to help you travel for next to nothing:

Say YES to Freebies – Say NO to Timeshares

One of the biggest factors in making our Vegas trip free was our willingness to sit through timeshare presentations. No, we did not buy a timeshare. We probably never will. BUT – We were more than happy to spend an hour listening to a presentation in return for some steller freebies:

Hilton Hotels gave us four days/three nights on the Vegas strip FOR FREE in exchange for hearing a timeshare presentation from them. We had four amazing hotels to choose from. We ended up in a luxury suite on the strip for nothing. Oh and they gave us a fabulous catered lunch during the presentation so we got a free meal out of it, too!

The second timeshare presentation (Presented by Windym) also was pitched over a catered lunch, giving us a second free meal. In exchange for our time, we received two free Cirque du Solei Tickets, two free tickets to the giant ferris wheel (called the High Roller), and a meal/drink voucher (our third free meal).

At both presentations we were treated like royalty. I was nervous because I’d heard that time share presentations can be stressful or pushy, but honestly, it was just a seriously fun experience! It was very easy for us to say no to the purchase. For the short time we spent in the two presentations, our overall payoff was so incredibly worth it. Free meals, free activities, free hotel? Yes please!!

My Husband hiking the Grand Canyon on his 30th Birthday,  following our Vegas trip

We chose to do Vegas for that trip, but truly most major vacation destinations will have timeshare presentations you can sign up for. I’d suggest liming yourself to the ones that have the biggest payoff, and attending no more than one or two so you’re not spending too much of your vacation hearing a presentation.

Getting There

Now let’s talk about airfare. Sometimes the ticket costs alone can prevent you from traveling. But they don’t need to. My favorite way to fly is for free. For our Vegas trip I cashed in on my free airline miles from my credit card. Just by signing up for the card I got two free flights, and every year since signing up I have earned at least four free flights per year, sometimes more. *I need to place a huge caveat here that if you are not responsible with credit card debt, or don’t currently live within your means, then DO NOT do this just for the flights. This is ONLY a great option for free flights if you live within your means AND if you are able to pay your credit card off every month.*

If an airline credit card isn’t your thing, don’t despair! You can still fly for cheap. You have airlines like Southwest that offer flights for as low as $29 (I’ve taken advantage of that deal a few times now and it’s awesome!) or Spirit Airline has $9 fares (this are very hard to come by but they do exist). You can also use websites like Priceline where you can name your own price and save up to 60% (I’ve saved big money that way).

Another fun travel option is a car rental. When my husband got a big promotion one year we rented a sports car for a weekend trip to celebrate. He loved it! He told me afterwards that driving to our vacation spot was as much fun for him as the vacation itself. Enterprise has $10/day specials and I know others do as well. Save the miles on your car and treat yourself to an affordable travel splurge!

Staying There

Time to talk hotels. One of the first things I look for in hotels is a free buffet for breakfast. Why? Because I know I’m going to grab a few slices of toast, some ham/bacon/eggs/etc., and make sandwiches to-go. My hotel has just given me a free breakfast AND a free lunch or dinner. Food is one area where costs can creep up unexpectedly so you can’t underestimate the value of this tip.

Another big hotel tip I use is “double-dipping”. Most hotels will let you sign up to earn rewards points for free. I like to use third party booking sites that gives me free nights after a few stays. Hotels.com, for example, gives me a free night away after every 10 hotel stays I frequently book through them. Yay for free nights! After I book, I also sign up for the rewards program at the hotel itself (Radisson and Hilton are my favorites). Now I’m also earning free nights from the hotel ON THE SAME STAY. I do this for work travel and personal travel so my free nights add up even faster. I love getting double the rewards for the same vacation. At least once a year my family is able to cash in on a free stay somewhere thanks to this trick.

Other hotel savings options include:

  •  Staying with a friend or family member
  •  Listening to a timeshare presentation for a free stay
  •  Using websites like Priceline to name your own price
  •  Renting someone’s house or apartment on AirBnB (I have gotten some super cheap, seriously fun stays this way).

I can’t talk hotels without at least mentioning camping. Camping is a favorite vacation of ours and we tend to go a lot when the weather is nice. Camping is about as cheap as you can get: pack your own food, grab your own tent, and enjoy the great outdoors with your family.

I’ve been to 49 countries, and nearly every US State, so I like to think of myself as a bit of a travel junkie. Trust me when I say I couldn’t do all that if I was paying normal vacation prices. I budget like crazy and shop all the deals to be able to afford vacations without debt. I love sharing how I do it so others can travel too! If you would like to see more tips, leave me a comment and let me know.

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4 Responses to HOW TO VACATION FOR FREE (OR ALMOST FREE)

  1. Brooke March 7, 2017 at 7:17 am #

    Some really great tips! We love doing Airbnb and have stayed in some fun spots in a great location.

    Also, camping is the best! I’m so looking forward to that soon.

  2. Kim March 7, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    Love these tips! I’d love to know your credit card recs that give you two free nights!

    I’ve honestly never looked into timeshare presentations but those are awesome deals. Worth exploring! We are taking a road trip out west this summer and need all the budget tips we can get.

    • Kathryn Bailey March 7, 2017 at 9:35 am #

      I use my credit card for free flights (United) but here are seven that will earn you free hotel stays:

      http://thepointsguy.com/guide/best-hotel-credit-cards/

      As I said in the article, rewards cards are only a good idea if you live within your means and pay your bills each month.

  3. Shannon March 9, 2017 at 8:28 am #

    Great read. We have done time share presentations. The Disney one gives you extra fast passes so we checked it out while there and the kids enjoyed fun while we r aced and toured the properties. Another great site for flights I just found is kiwi.com just got a flight for London for $360 round trip!

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