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Tips to save on summer travel
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Tips to save on summer travel

Monday, June 11, 2012 4:15:23 PM

Although a summer vacation can provide a great time away from the stresses of everyday life, staying on budget during a family getaway is often the most annoying stressor.

You've just picked up your car rental in Los Angeles and are on your way to San Francisco for a long weekend. The bags are packed, the doors are locked, all the children are accounted for. You've confirmed the hotel reservation, but that reminds you that you spent more on accommodations than you had planned. Naturally, you're now looking for ways to cut some corners and save some money. Sound familiar? If you've already used a car rental coupon to get a good deal on the minivan you secured, then you're off to a good start. Here are a couple other tips to help you and your family have an affordable and unforgettable vacation.

One costly travel expense that you can make budget friendly is food. If you've got four mouths to feed - an infant, a picky 5-year-old and two adults - it can become expensive trying to please all of these palates. Save some money and stress and plan ahead. By packing a number of snacks and picnic meals (don't forget your cooler) for the trip, you can make sure there's a food item for everyone. You can stop for lunch and dinner at parks and reserves along the way - maybe even take a detour to a spot along the Pacific Ocean - and enjoy the scenery while your children play and exhaust any energy they built up during the drive.

Although packing food for the drive can take the place of a few meals, this is a vacation after all, so budget some funds for checking out a few restaurants and eateries that cook up the local flavors and traditions.

Once you've made it to San Francisco, in addition to all of the tourist free sights and sounds, you might also want to see if there are volunteer opportunities that will allow you and your loved ones to immerse yourselves in the city's culture while also leaving a positive mark. Organizations like World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or United Planet often have farms and other community-building activities that will give the entire family a chance to interact with locals on a new level. If you're a city dweller, this experience will also give your kids a chance to enjoy a more rural way of life, as well as get a little dirty. 

One particularly alluring volunteer opportunity - or just great spot to visit - is the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Located just outside of the city in Fremont, volunteer opportunities here are open to all, and give you and your kids the chance to assist biologists with wildlife surveys or plant native seedlings.

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