I decided that swimming with manatees was something I wanted to do in Florida with my family.  I thought about this on Christmas day and I wanted to leave within 24 hours.  Spontaneous trips can be extremely expensive!  However, trips planned 12 months in advance or trips planned 1 day in advance can be more affordable if you know alternative accommodation options.

We’ve all heard about AirBNB, Homeaway or VRBO, but have you ever stayed in a rented apartment?  When we decided to go to Florida, I popped on AirBNB and found a tiny studio apartment in the general area we wanted to visit for $44 per night.

$44 AirBNB

I love staying in apartments because I can prepare my own food and there are often activities that you can’t find in a hotel.  In Florida, we stayed on a farm and the owner had campfires at night.  It was nice and relaxing after a full day of activities and my kids really enjoyed playing with the farm animals.  We fixed breakfast in the morning, packed picnics to eat for lunch and got take-out a couple of nights for dinner.  We got a comfortable accommodation for super cheap and then we saved even more money by being careful with our meals and using the kitchen.  More money saved on meals, means more traveling for us.

Priceline is another good option, especially if you are staying somewhere for just 1 night and don’t want to mess with apartment booking fees and cleaning fees.  We always bid on rooms with Priceline.  I give a very low offer for the room and I often get it for so much less than the same hotel is listed on other sites.  We always bid on 3 star rooms and get them for around $60 – $70/night.  I’m sure that 2 star rooms would be even cheaper.  When you submit your bid, you will get a response within a few minutes and often times it’s instantaneous.  If your bid is rejected, start over with a bid that is increased by about $10.  You will have to put your information in again, but it’s worth it to save so much money!

Our little camper

We also do a lot of camping!  I have spent entire Summers pulling my little pop-up camper around the United States and have loved every second of it.  We tent camp when it doesn’t make sense to bring our camper somewhere.  I really enjoy camping because unlike staying in a hotel, I can send my kids off to play without my direct supervision.  If I stay in a hotel, I certainly can’t sit in my bed reading while they go play in the parking lot.  But at a campground, I can sit in my camping chair, relax and watch them bike up and down the road, or play in a stream or even just run around the woods.  I also enjoy bringing our dogs with us and 90% of the campgrounds we’ve been to allow dogs to camp with their family, so I save money on pet sitting fees.

Campsite creek play
Epic campground sunsets

I hope these tips will save you and your family money when you’re traveling.  Remember that traveling with educational goals in mind is what you’re trying to accomplish.  Experiences that will enrich your life don’t necessarily need to include fancy hotels and fancy restaurants.  Time spent having amazing adventures with your family is more important than 5 stars!