Taking Vacations on the Cheap: Piggy Back on Your Spouse’s Business Trip

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The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Melissa Batai. Melissa is a freelance writer who covers topics ranging from personal finance to business to organics to food.  She blogs at Mom’s Plans, where she shares her family’s journey to healthier living and paying down debt.

When you are living like no one else so later you can live like no one else (as Dave Ramsey is fond of saying), there isn’t much room in the budget for a vacationStill, if you’ll be repaying your debt for longer than a year or two, foregoing all vacations can be difficult.

We are 1.5 years into our debt repayment and likely have at least another two years.  While we are paying down debt, our children are getting older, and we’d like to take them to see other areas of the country.  Luckily, we’ve found an excellent way to do just that, by piggy backing a family vacation on either my husband’s or my conference attendance.

My husband is in a post-doc position, so being visible at conferences through presentations is vital to his career growth.  His employer pays for his transportation, hotel, food, and conference ticket.  We, as a family, have tagged along several times for a minimal price.

Places We Have Been

By far, our favorite location was Washington, D.C.  Almost all of our expenses were covered–hotel, mileage for our car ride there and back, my husband’s food, and conference admission.  The kids and I had all day to visit different national monuments and museums.  Many tourist attractions in Washington, D.C. are free, so we paid very little out of pocket.

We have also been to Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, Columbus, OH, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Montreal.  This year, his conferences are in Memphis and Boston. 

My son is 8 and a history nut, so we’re excited about taking him both places.  In Memphis, we plan to visit the National Civil Rights Museum and Graceland.  We’re not sure what we’ll visit in Boston since that conference isn’t until the fall, but traveling there will be exciting as it is a city rich in history and none of us have been there before.

Note from Jacob: If your husband ever is heading to Richmond, Virginia (near where I live in Charlottesville) for a conference, there is a lot of Civil War/Confederacy history there that your son might like! 🙂

How Much We Spend

Typically, for each vacation, we spend less than $200 as a family.  We have a few tactics for keeping the cost low:

1.  Stay in a hotel that has a refrigerator and microwave, at least.  Before we go on a trip, I make several meals in advance and freeze them.  Then, we fill our cooler with the freezer meals as well as sandwich supplies and homemade snacks such as granola bars and muffins.  Once we reach our destination, we buy some vegetables that are microwavable and fruit.  We always eat at the hotel, which makes our food costs no more expensive than they’d be if we were eating at home.

Note from Jacob: This really works wonders! I use this tactic when I am traveling for running races. Not only is being able to eat in your hotel room cheaper, but I can also get more of the targeted types of pre-race food that I want as well! 

2.  Visit free attractions.  Whenever possible, we visit free attractions.  This is easy in a place like Washington, D.C., but it proved to be a bit more difficult in Raleigh, for instance.  There were some things we would have enjoyed doing in Raleigh, but we just had to pass because we couldn’t afford the expensive tickets.  In Memphis, we will likely spend money on Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum.  After that, we will try to find free things to do for fun.

3.  Pack food for the car ride.  We pack sandwiches and snacks for the car ride as well as lots of water so we don’t need to stop to eat.  Not only is stopping at a restaurant to eat time consuming when traveling, it’s also expensive.

Tagging along on my husband’s conferences only works for those conferences which are in driving distance.  Still, using this technique, we’ve been able to visit some interesting places at a fraction of the price the vacation would have cost. 

We’ve enjoyed this method of vacationing so much, even when we are out of debt, we’ll likely use this as our main method of vacationing.

How about you all? Have you ever accompanied a spouse on a business trip for a vacation?  What techniques do you use to save money?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

    ***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/ianloic/3725569230/sizes/l/in/photostream/


    1. Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence says:

      My boyfriend used to come over when I attended trade shows, but unlike a conference the hours were long, often with a dinner at night. We usually managed to stay over the weekend though, and have a bit more time to explore.
      My recent post Frugal recipe: Dough-less vegetable quiche

    2. Years back I was on a temporary assignment down in Panama City, FL. I was allowed to travel home every week or if I wanted, I could stay down there and fly someone else down there. Obviously the weather and beaches were great, so I flew people down there a couple of times, which was a great way to 'vacation'.
      My recent post A New Car Is Little More Than A Drag On Your Net Worth

    3. W usually comes on my business trips with me. Not anymore though now that he has a more time consuming job.

    4. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

      This can be a great way to vacation and do so rather frugally. My wife may come along to FINCON for much of the same reason as it can be a business expense. Even when we go on a “normal” vacation we use many of these tips to help keep the cost down.
      My recent post You Bought That at Walmart?!

    5. MakingSenseofCents–Yes, when I worked full-time outside the home travel was a bit trickier, but now that I'm self-employed, traveling around a conference is easier.
      My recent post How We Get Our Kids to Eat Healthy Foods

    6. My brother and his wife often come visit us whenever he has a business trip to Chicago. It's a very convenient if one of your relatives lives near a big city, because your company is paying for you to go visit your loved ones. You can't ever go wrong with tagging along on a business trip!
      My recent post Easy Fundraising Ideas For Everone

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