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We’re back from one of the more relaxing family vacations we’ve taken, and I’m so happy to be sharing another 5 Ways post with my favorite readers!

I spent the entire vacation reminding my family (and, let’s be honest, myself!) that this was a #yearofno style vacation.  We’d already paid for the rental van and the vacation house (which we split with two other families to make it one of the most affordable stays possible for a family of 7).  That left us with travel, hotel stays both ways (an 11 hour drive with 5 kids is too much for one day for us!), food, and fun to cover.  I had cash ready to cover those expenses, and when it was gone, it was gone.

You might expect that to be stressful, but it was actually quite the opposite!  We were more content this time, with less pressure to fit everything in to a one week trip.  We ate out less, and that meant less guilt and more appreciation for the fresh seafood we were able to get.

If you can find a way to swing a family vacation, do it!  If you’re in debt, take this fun little quiz to see if you ought to take a vacation before you have it all paid off.

The 5 Ways We’ve Saved Money This Week

For lots of other tips on saving money, read through the whole series!

Lots of money saving tips every week on Friday!  This week's tips are about saving on travel with the family.

Van Rental

We found a much cheaper way to rent a van this time, and managed to save hundreds of dollars.  For one thing, we chose to pick up the van the morning we left.  In the past, we’ve picked up the van a day early to load it and leave earlier the following morning.  This time, we chose to have everything packed and ready to go and just left a bit later.

I’ll admit, not having a baby sure helped us to be more efficient this trip!

My feeling on renting a car for longer trips is that it extends the life of our vehicles, and is well worth the extra money.  I could easily have justified buying a new van this year.  After all, our old rust bucket is paid off and has over 150,000 miles on it.  Buying a new van would have saved us the cost of renting since we could have just driven it instead.

But #presson Jamie realizes that those justifications are silly.  By spending a few hundred on a rental van, I’m saving wear and tear on my own vehicle.  I’m also saving thousands by NOT buying something new (not to mention insurance costs).

Look for more on this topic coming up soon!

Money saving tips for travel

Dollar Store Cards

I don’t buy too many cards these days.  It seems silly to spend $3 or $4 just to let the person know who the gift is from.  But when I do buy a card, it’s because I’ve decided to simplify by giving cash or gift cards.

And when you stuff cash in there, people don’t generally care much what the card says anyway.  So why not grab one from the dollar store and save?!  In fact, you could probably pick up a couple to keep on hand for birthdays and events that sneak up on you.

Even better is having the kids make one.  (But those aren’t as easy to mail.)

Flip Books

While I was at the dollar store, I found some small notepads.  There were 5 to a pack for just $1.

My kids had picked up a few flip books in gift shops while we were on vacation.  I promised them that we could just make our own (rather than spend $3 each on those…although they were very neat!).

Instead of $3 apiece for all 5 kids, I got one pack of notepads for $1.  Plus it gave us something fun to do!

(You can find 101 Cheap But Fun Things to Do As A Family here!)

101 Cheap But Fun Things To Do As A Family

Hotel Breakfast

We shopped Hotels.com to find the best deal on a room that offered free breakfast to our crew.  We love a place with a nice breakfast bar.  That fills everyone up and saves us from an early lunch when we’d rather be on the road.

Save $5 at Hotels.com when you spend $50+ with code 5OFF50US. Book by 6/30/17. Travel by 9/30/17.

State Parks

Sometimes a rest stop works for helping the family stretch after a long time in the car.  But they aren’t always available…or they don’t offer enough room for little ones to run around like they need to.

We enjoy finding state or national parks that aren’t far from the highway.  Many of them have playgrounds or at least a path we can hike along and enjoy some fresh air and play.  It’s also nice to avoid the temptation of gift shops and vending machines.

Those are the 5 ways we saved money this week!

Ending each week by reflecting on your savings is a great motivator.  But  you can begin each week with money saving tips, too!  Each Monday, I send a newsletter with even more tips for saving money and simplifying life.  If that sounds like a good way to start your week, sign up here.  No spam or sold emails from me, ever!

How did you save this week?