Arizona can be one hot tourist destination (see what I did there). Phoenix locals know, however, that it’s easy to beat the heat and travel as short as an hour to have the opportunity to enjoy a different climate. With the long President’s day weekend in February and Spring Breaks in March, I am already beginning to make my family’s plan for quick getaways to see new sights, enjoy delicious local restaurants, and visit new attractions.
In my experience the most expensive components of a family trip are a place to stay, meals out, and admission to must-see places. Here are my suggestions for how to balance an enjoyable trip while not breaking the bank:
Seek housing with a kitchen —
Meals out are expensive … consider if the average price is $10 per adult, $6 per kid, and round up 25% for tax and tip and you’re spending about $40 per meal (at least!). If your trip is 3 days long and we use that formula 3 times a day, you’ll be spending over $350 on meals alone, not even counting those must have gas station car ride snacks!
When booking, we look at both hotels and websites such as VRBO for rentals to compare pricing. If a place is $40-50 more a night but includes a kitchen, you’re still likely going to save a good amount of money by having the ability to eat in one or two meals a day.
Do note – that while some hotels will offer kitchenettes, I always call to confirm what appliances are included because after a recent VRBO stay in Flagstaff I realized a dishwasher is on my must-have list if we’re staying more than 2 nights! I loved the little cabin we stayed in, but seriously felt like I wasn’t on vacation because I was washing dishes by hand 3 times a day. If you can’t get a place with a dishwasher at least splurge on some paper plates and plastic utensils.
Want additional tips on saving money while eating out? Click here to see a roundup of my favorites.
Check for Reciprocity on Memberships You Already Have —
Depending on which city you choose to visit there may be public attractions like museums, zoos, or historical sites that have reciprocity agreements with similar types of attractions in the Phoenix area, and therefore, offer free or reduced cost admission to you. For example, an Arizona Science Center membership will be honored at the International Wildlife Museum in Tucson and at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.
Want more details? Click here for a full rundown of how my family has capitalized on these benefits.
Research local parks —
With a 4 year old and a 9 month old I know that a visit to the Natural History Museum will likely only provide entertainment for an hour before the need to start touching all the things kicks in. So, in addition to finding local attractions to visit, I always seek out public parks ahead of time.
You can typically get a listing of public parks and their amenities by visiting the city’s website and looking under parks and recreation. Add these places to your “Saved List” in Google Maps (click here for the how-to on that). When you get to your vacation spot be sure to casually drive by the parks without telling the kids. This allows you to look for yourself and ensure it meets the needs of your family before promising an outing and then finding out that the play structure is more suitable for giants than toddlers. Spending time at the park can provide for hours of fun at my favorite price, free!
With Prescott, Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Greer, Tucson and so much more within just a few hours of driving distance, where might you start planning a trip with these tips?