Now please keep, in mind, that when I say that we were able to do Nola for under $2000, that included the car rental, gasoline for that car rental, our hotel accommodations, lots of amazing food, and some pretty cool entertainment. I don't know about you, but this is the first trip where we've actually budgeted, followed that budget, had a blast, and returned home with money...not much...but still some. That's pretty darn amazing for a family of six.
Costs were, and still are, our biggest concern when traveling with the family. Just to fly, alone, would cost us at least $1300 for a family of six, and this refers only to travel within the U.S. So it was kind of a no-brainer that we'd take that drive when planning this year's summer trip to New Orleans. In fact, driving is our go-to method of travel, and has been for years.
In this household, it really serves as no secret that a majority of our planned vacations are centered around food. I mean, who on this earth doesn't love to enjoy a delicious meal, all while being surrounded by great vibes and homes representing each and every color in the Crayola arsenal?! So off to New Orleans we went, and on a budget of course!
For this trip in particular, we set a tentative budget of $2000. We knew that in order to stick to our budget, we had to incorporate months of strategic planning, create and follow an itinerary, and be super duper disciplined...well I, I had to be disciplined. Our budget for a 5 day (6 with travel) trip to Nola looked a little like this:
Accommodations - $600
Car Rental - $250
Gasoline - $150
Food - $100/day
Entertainment - $100/day
We also over estimated a bit on most of these expenses just so that we would give ourselves a little wiggle room. Worked like a charm! A couple of quick tips for making this budget twerk on a Sunday night are:
Plan, plan, plan! I am far from a "planning" person, however, the hubby is. So, in order to demonstrate my growth, and spare us both the unnecessary stress, I had to plan for this trip months in advance. This included researching hotel rates, car rental rates, possible itineraries, and carefully calculating fuel and travel expenses.
P.S. Don't be afraid to reserve your car rental and hotel accommodations as soon as you decide on a travel location. Most places don't require a monetary deposit, only a valid credit card to secure the reservation. However, if they do withhold a monetary deposit, most hotels and car rental companies are more than willing to refund your entire deposit to you should you decide to go an alternate route, and, as long as your cancellation follows the company's cancellation policy and guidelines.
Consider staying 20-30 miles outside of your actual destination. For this trip, we decided to stay about 20-30 miles north of the city of New Orleans. Choosing to stay outside of the big city, however close enough to access it frequently, we saved an average of $200-$300. Reason being is because most, if not all, hotels in/around the French Quarter (which is where I originally wanted to stay) charge a fee per day for parking. You do have the option to utilize parking garages nearby, however, again there's a fee. Our hotel accommodation of choice was perfect, conveniently situated next to any and every thing you can think of, including our entertainment. And did I mention...the parking was absolutely FREE!
Don't sleep on those continental breakfasts tho! While the continental breakfast at our hotel wasn't exactly 5-star, it was pretty decent, not to mention, FREE! Each day, we made it a point to get up on time so that we could eat and fuel up for the long day ahead. Not having to spend money on an early meal essentially meant that we could splurge on lunch or dinner, but only if we really wanted to. It felt pretty good knowing that at least we had that option.
Actually consider your children. This is probably the one thing that we didn't really do prior to our trip. What I mean by this is that every single one of our days in New Orleans consisted of hours spent at the pool. And while this is perfectly fine, and quite normal, I do believe that we could've chosen a vacation destination a little closer to a larger body of water. Actually considering what your children will get the most enjoyment out of will help you to make better decisions during the planning phase, and, could quite possibly save you even more money in the long run.
Research to see what free activities are taking place during your visit. We were able to enjoy some pretty amazing things during our stay, and truth is, lots of them were actually free. For example, during the planning phase of our trip, I knew that I wanted for us to experience one of Nola's many festivals. Planning our trip around The Cajun Zydeco Festival meant that admission and great music were all going to be FREE! And who doesn't like FREE entertainment?
While I absolutely miss New Orleans, I am looking forward to our next big getaway. I'm thinking perhaps Colorado or California in the Fall, or maybe even a quick stint in Havana, just the hubs and I. Whatever our next adventure will be, you can almost bet your bottom dollar that the Wrights will be doing it on a budget!