Sometimes the most stressful part of vacation is figuring out where you will stay. There are many options:

  •    * Do you know someone in the area?
  •    * Have you stockpiled hotel points that you can redeem?
  •    * Are you a type that will bring everything that you own and need to spread out?

Those are the basic scenarios and we all fall into one of these when considering our accomidations.

For me, when planning an upcoming trip to Florida, I teetered between hotel and condo for some time. We stay in condos frequently and I do love them, but they are more expensive upfront. When traveling for 8 days, you can believe that I will be counting every penny and looking for options to save my dimes all along the way.

Hotels are a great value (especially if you have points to redeem), but for me – in the end – the cost of food for lunch and dinner sealed the deal on getting a condo. [That was assuming that I would eat breakfast and snacks in the room, and eat out for each lunch and dinner.]

The reason that I chose a condo was purely for the kitchen. We won’t eat out every night – when we stay in a condo we never do. As much as I love to eat out, after about the fourth round, I’m dying and feel as though I’m going to kill over from a heart attack any second irregardless of what it is that I’ve been eating!

* Side note: My husband and I took a road trip 2 weeks ago for a wedding. We drove and took the kids with us. We were good and packed snacks for the car (as in this post). Still with the added cost of eating out three meals in a day, in a matter of 36 hours, it cost us over $400. We weren’t eating at the Ritz or at Perry’s. It was $400 worth of $21 at Chick-Fil-A, $23 at Subway, $19 at Bubba’s BBQ, etc. I could not believe how quickly it added up and that was only for 3 days of meals!

If you decide to go the condo route, I’ve had great luck using Vacation Rentals by Owner. (I’m not paid by them, just a happy customer!) They have lots of options and many times, you can communicate with the actual owner of the unit you are interested in! That, my friends, is your ticket to saving money.

Here’s your list to remember:

If you are staying longer than 1 week, ask for a discount. Owners need their units rented to make money. Staying longer than 7 days is a dream … ask for at least a 10% discount on any additional weeks.

Negotiate extras like free beach chair rental, umbrella rental, or parking. Anything that you would pay for above and beyond the cost of the unit, ask for a discount. If you are staying during a prime week like 4th of July, Memorial Day, or Labor Day – it’s unlikely, but if you are in an off period (fall, early spring, etc.), you might just get it!

Make a meal plan for the week. Plan when you will eat in and when you will eat out. Plan your beach/pool snacks too!  If you are driving, shop ahead of time (start in your own pantry!). Food is often more expensive in resort towns. If you don’t want to bring everything, at least bring your spices, sugar, etc. – items that are expensive and that you might not use often! If you are flying, bring your list to the store and stick to it 🙂

Above all, have fun …

… and remember, there’s no cents in paying full price!

* This post is part of a weekly segment on KSBJ Christian Radio. For more on segments featuring Stephanie Click, the Texas Money Mom, click here.