Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Traveling on a Budget

So, this week I'll be posting from San Diego! I'm attending and presenting at a conference (Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education), and Benny is along for the ride and food. :) In typical McFalls family fashion, each day will be planned according to meals, not times, and we'll take in the sights as close to the local way as possible. But first, how we got here and are making it happen on a budget...

Continuing your education is a fantastic way to see more of the world, if you take advantage of opportunities as they come along. I've been able to see two countries and several parts of the US this way, mostly on someone else's dime. I am a huge advocate of applying for grants, especially for professional development. Since the state and local travel budgets are pretty non-existent this year, I've been fortunate to be awarded some grants that paid my way for this trip. Through ASU, I've been a part of a National Science Foundation grant that has allowed me to work with technology and middle schoolers, two things I love to do. This grant, along with the Leadership and Educational Services Department, paid for $1000 of my trip, since I'm presenting for both the NSF grand and the LES Department here at the conference. This money paid for most of my plane ticket and hotel room. I also applied for a Graduate Studies Grant, which was funded to the tune of $275, which will help to pay for the rest of my room. The county was willing to fund my registration to the conference, and PTO paid for my sub for the week. So, the only out of pocket expenses we have are Benny's plane ticket and food for the week. If you're considering professional travel, it often doesn't cost much more to take your family, if you plan well.

After doing a bit of research, we found a AAA deal on the conference hotel that would save us on food. Through this deal, we paid a bit more for the room (about $10 a night--but remember, this is being reimbursed), but it gave us a $50/day hotel credit that we can use toward any amenities at the hotel, including restaurants and room service. So, we've planned to get breakfast each day (a big breakfast), which will give us the energy to get through the day so that we have to spend less for lunch and dinner. The AAA deal also scored us an upgraded room with a king sized bed and a view of the bay. (Check out the photos below! Beautiful!) So, when you're planning your trip, ask about discounts and member deals, you may find that being an educator or auto club member will get you much more than just a few bucks off or roadside assistance.

When we arrived after a long day of traveling (no, air travel is not very green, but there are things you can do to offset this during your trip), we took the hotel shuttle from the airport to the hotel (free, although we did offer a tip for luggage assistance), and checked into the hotel. We found our room nicely furnished and several amenities, such as coffee, tea, and toiletries. We also read all of the hotel literature, as this contained the restaurant menus and information about housekeeping. (We also realized that this was the first time we'd ever stayed in a hotel together (and we've been married for almost four years)! Our vacations in the past have always been house swaps or camping trips, in keeping with our budget.) In an effort to save water and electricity, many hotels are providing guests the option of denying housekeeping for part or all of their stay. We read this information carefully and found that our hotel rewards this with a $5 coupon good at hotel restaurants for each day you do this. Woohoo.. more free food! So, if we stockpile these for a few days, we'll have the funds to have dessert and coffee/drinks one evening after a day of sightseeing. Lesson number three, read the hotel literature, as there are often deals to be found.

We started planning out our sight seeing adventures last night and this morning. We picked up some local travel literature in the lobby, which contained local maps, as well as coupons. So, we found a few restaurants that offer discounts when you mention an add or had a coupon. We also found the concierge desk folks to be extremely helpful, especially in figuring out the local transportation. One way to offset the carbon-based fuels we burned in our flight is to make use of local transportation and walking. By using public transit, we're using less fuel per person than taking a cab (although there may be times when this is necessary). So, while I was in my sessions this morning, Benny mapped out our route for the evening for walking and finding dinner and entertainment.

Traveling can be expensive, but if you plan well, you'll be able to stick to your budget and enjoy your vacation even more by experiencing the city as locals do! So, remember to:

1) Apply for grants if your travel is professional. Why pay yourself if someone else will pick up the tab?! :)
2) Take advantage of member discounts or deals that apply. You may get an upgrade, hotel credit, or other bonus option!
3) Look for green opportunities within your hotel (declining housekeeping, opting for compostable to-go containers, etc.), which may also benefit your budget.
4) Take advantage of tourist publications, such as sightseeing brochures, etc. which may contain coupons or discount offers.
5) Do a little research and don't be afraid to ask the folks at the front desk for assistance. They are in the business of hospitality and are there to help you!
6) Check out the public transit system; it's often more affordable than a cab and offers you a view of the city that many tourists don't get.
7) Always order water (when it's from the tap), unless you get a deal on a drink. It's usually free, and keeps you more hydrated than other options.
8) Plan for a big breakfast that's packed with protein and carbs (of the good, whole-grain variety) to keep you going throughout the day.

I'll post more tips and travel tricks tomorrow to make your vacationing budget-friendly and fun! How do you keep your travel under budget and fun-filled? I'd love to hear from you!

Sharin' the green love and savings!


  1. Yay for fun trips! I hope y'all have a great time and take lots of pictures. Have a great time!

  2. Okay, so obviously I'm a little behind on my blogging. Note to self, go back to where you left off to start reading instead of reading the first post you come to-then I would have known you were working on your masters! :)