Plan Your V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N In The Wintertime!

by Katy on January 14, 2009 · 9 comments



Exotic foreign vacation, close-by camping, obligatory family visits?

It may sound a tad early, but now is the time to start thinking about your summer plans. 

Whether you do an elaborate vacation or something simpler, the key to frugal, well organized summer trips is to plan ahead.

My family’s “exotic” family vacation last year was to housesit for my sister who lives up in Seattle, while her family took a week-long Alaskan cruise. We had a free place to stay, separate bedrooms, toys for the kids and most importantly, a Seattle library card. What more can a girl want?

Because I knew ahead of time that my sister’s place would be available, I didn’t plan any other vacations. Had her plans been last minute, then we probably wouldn’t have been able to take a week off to goof around in Seattle.

This year’s vacation will probably be about as frugal-minded, as our current income is somewhat miniscule due to my husband’s career change. (It will increase significantly after he finishes his first year.)  However, this doesn’t mean we won’t be able to pull together a respectable vacation.

They key to a budget minded vacation is to either fly somewhere you can stay for free, or not go too far and stay somewhere cheap.

Our ace-in-the-hole is that our friends own a three bedroom cabin on the Oregon coast that rents out for $65 per night. It’s a bit grotty, but I’ve learned to live with that. I also have a unique situation. My mother runs three small guest cottages in town that she rents out fully furnished, with towels, dishes, fancy cable, etc. We’ve been known to spend a few nights stay-cation-ing in them. The upside is that they’re free and it’s nice to get away from the responsibilities of one’s own home. The downside is that the houses are only a few miles away from said home.

For those who don’t have mothers who rent out vacation cottages, (that, I imagine would be most everyone except my sister) I’ve heard of people who do house swaps. There are certainly official house swap sites like but it doesn’t have to be so formal. Maybe you and a friend can coordinate vacations to stay in one another’s houses.

The classic budget friendly vacation for many people is camping. If you already have the equipment, or have access to some that can be borrowed, then camping is a great option. (I camped once since becoming a parent, and it made me cry hysterically. It’s not my thing.)

I’m kind of crushing on the Great Wolf Lodge, (a swim resort) that is dab-smack halfway between Seattle and Portland. It’s not cheap, but I could split a room with my sister, and I might be able to rationalize how close it is to Portland as free ticket to spend a bit. (Or . . . maybe they want to comp The Non-Consumer Advocate and family in exchange for a bit of publicity?)

Are you starting to make your summer plans? Will this year’s vacation be a scaled back version? Please share you summer vacation plans in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Lois January 14, 2009 at 8:52 am

Hi Katy

I’ve just discovered your great blog and whole heartedly support you in encouraging people to spend as little as possible on new things.

I’m glad to see that you mentioned home exchange as a frugal way to still travel but cut out the cost of accommodation – and the possiblities of arranging this with friends. In fact, many years ago we used to home swap informally (more of a house sit I suppose) when we had my husband’s relatives stay in our house in London while we went back to my native Canada to visit my family. This worked great – our house was safer when occupied, the country relatives enjoyed a break in London – and I didn’t have to cook for them!

This experience lead to the development of my home exchange agency, Home Base Holidays, that has been operating since 1985. As well as saving money on accommodation, many of our members also swap cars, look after each other’s pets and plants – and even share memberships to local sports clubs or museums. They also save money by shopping in local markets for food and eating ‘at home’ more and packing lunches when taking day trips.

If you want to find out more about home exchange I hope you will check out my blog. And please do get in touch if you have any questions.



GLM January 14, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Try your home state’s park authority. I’ve stayed at many clean state lodges, which were cheap and CLEAN! (notice that I focus on clean sleeping places.)

They are set up for families but are still are reasonable for singles. I have not had a bad meal yet. An additional benefit is that many do not have tvs in the room!


1st Home Exchange January 14, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Your readers may be interested in learning about our home exchange website,

We have home exchange listings in 130 countries. And for people new to home exchanging, has numerous articles, tips, and videos to help them succeed in finding a swap. also includes another great way to save money. Visitors can use a flight search engine to “google” 580+ travel sites looking for the best deal on a flight. And the best part, it’s free to use!



Kristen@The Frugal Girl January 14, 2009 at 3:28 pm

We always plan ours in January too!(although we’ve been saving for it since our last one in September). We like to go to the beach(about 8 hours away by car), but we go off-season when everyone else is in school(we homeschool), which makes it very cheap(could I have used more parentheses in this comment???).


lala2074 January 14, 2009 at 4:35 pm

We are off on our first family tent camping holiday tomorrow.
Our holidays in the past have consisted of more upmarket self contained apartments in expensive locations, or not holidaying at all. Our last 10 day holiday cost $3500 including accommodation and air fares.
However, since I am having a Buy Nothing New Year, and am looking at ways of decreasing our families consumpition and exploring new ways of doing things , I have organized a camping holiday at the beach for our family- our first ever camping holiday. Accommodation will cost $200, for a week, and our petrol will cost about $100. Total $300.
This is less that 10% of the cost of our last holiday.
We are packing today, and leave early tomorrow. It is very hot here in Sydney today, more that 100 degrees Fahrenheit! So the heat will be one challenge, as we will not have any airconditioning or fans, or fridge etc.
We are all very excited about our new adventure, and at the very least will be memorable in one way or the other!


Kim Perry January 15, 2009 at 2:00 am

Last year I did a house swap holiday with a good friend of mine. It worked perfectly. As we know each other so well, it was like home-from-home. The kids all had new toys to play with for a week and I got to explore some beautiful countryside. I also had the luxury of a decent size kitchen to cook in, and she had the luxury of a decent size bedroom to sleep in!

Note to self…. must phone Tracey to organise another one this year!


Magdalena January 15, 2009 at 11:51 am

Clergy often swap rectories (parsonages) for vacations. I never have, because my last rectory was in isolated northwest New Brunswick, and it came with the responsibility of feeding ten sheep. But you might try offering a swap with clergy who would appreciate a cheap vacation near a city. Some rectories are amazing historic houses, occasionally waterfront. (My first one was.)

Roughing it is our idea of a good vacation. We will tent camp and cook over open fires at the drop of a hat. We did have a nineteen foot travel trailer, and despite being quite old, it felt like luxury. It’s possible to rent RVs, a cheap alternative to hotels if you have a family!


Caroline January 15, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Here in Australia, summer is already roasting us. In a week we will be heading off for nearly three months backpacking from Beijing to Singapore. Seeing the wonders of the world for a fraction of our usual budget is great value for money!


Rebecca January 18, 2009 at 11:28 pm

We home exchange through the website that you mention in the article. We have done both simultaneous (they are in your home while you are in theirs) exchanges, and non-simultaneous (you can host them as guests and later they do the same for you, or something similar). It has been great. We have been to places in the world that we would never have been able to afford if we were paying for accommodation. Basically, you just pay for your travel. We swap cars as well. Petrol and food costs you would have to pay at home anyway. We get to stay in large places, not small hotel rooms, usually with all mod cons. We can wash our clothes easily, so there is no need to pack huge amounts. We get to meet real locals, not just workers in the hospitality industry. We get insider’s tips on the cheapest and / or best places to shop etc. The website’s motto is “arrive like a tourist, stay like a local” and we’ve found it to be true. It has been a really positive experience for us. It has even made me more organised and less cluttered! Another upside is that we have remained in friendly contact with all our exchange partners.


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