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Part of going on vacation involves sticking to a budget.  I’m a pretty cheap frugal guy anyways, and I do try to be a bit more relaxed on vacation and not count ALL of my pennies.

Still, the temptation to spend money is (at least for me) a lot harder on vacation, since the routine is different and often you are without the things that you have at home that make it easier to save money.

Several years ago, we were operating on an entirely cash budget, which does make it easier to stick to a budget.  If you have the cash, then you can spend it.  If you don’t have the cash, then there’s no way to spend the money!  I like credit cards for the points and miles, but it does make it a TON easier to spend money, since you just swipe the card and the money falls off of the magic tree.

Used with a CC license from Flickr

So, the following is a report of our expenditures from our 3-day 2-night trip to Indianapolis and Dayton.  I include it here for a few reasons.  First, it’s a nice way for me to keep track of how much these “free” vacations are costing, as well as to look for ways that we could improve things for next time.  I don’t feel that we need to cut all extra and fun things (it is a vacation after all and the perfect time to splurge), but like I always tell people about budgeting, the point of a budget is to not spend money on things that aren’t important to you, so that you’ll have money to spend when it’s something that IS important.

So, here is the breakdown:


  • Best Western Suites, Day 1 Room 1 – $70.17 (I paid $70.17 out of pocket and am expecting a $100 Best Western gift card as part of the Best Rate Guarantee)
  • Best Western Suites, Day 1 Room 2 – 12,000 Best Western points
  • Homewood Suites, Day 2 – 30,000 Hilton HHonors points


  • Little Caesars, Thursday dinner – $16.35
  • Chick-Fil-A, Friday lunch – $22.30
  • Subway, Friday lunch – $5.34
  • Aldi, Friday dinner – $9.54 (at a Homewood Suites, we had a full kitchen so we decided to go buy food to make quesadillas rather than going out to eat.  Included in this is also some taco sauce, cheese and such that we ended up taking the majority of home.  For purposes of this budget report I’ll ignore that savings)
  • Meijer, Friday dinner – $4.39 (Aldi was out of cheese and taco sauce) 🙁
  • McDonalds – Friday snack – $10.32 – This was one area that we could have definitely done better.  I had it in my mind to get hot fudge sundaes for everyone, but in hindsight, since we were already going out to the store, I should have just bought ice cream and chocolate syrup there, which would have been just as good and cheaper.


  • Parking – $2.00 – for the downtown parking garage where we met my aunt for lunch on Friday
  • Gas – $51.60. I figured this as 344 total miles for our route divided by 20 miles / gallon (about what our van gets on the highway) times $3 / gal (more or less the prevailing price for gas here).  You can see here why we tend to focus on smaller, shorter trips, since it would be pretty much impossible to transport 8 people this cheaply on an airplane.

Total cost

Adding that all up, the total cost was $192.01, with a $100 gift card expected to come in the mail within 2-3 weeks.  We also spent 12,000 Best Western points and 30,000 HHonors points, but an “all-inclusive” 3 day 2 night vacation for 8 for under $100 is not bad, if I do say so myself!!

I don’t mention this to brag (oh, okay, maybe a LITTLE bit), but more to just share what is possible using miles and points.  You don’t have to go to an exotic location to make good family memories, and you don’t have to break the bank to do so.

What about you?  Where are you planning your next vacation?

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