My family typically plans one large trip in May to Walt Disney World, and then a smaller road trip later in the summer.  However, this year, two weeks after our Disney World trip, we made the last minute decision to accompany my parents and my sister’s family on a road trip to New Hampshire.  My sister’s family lives cross-country, so we couldn’t miss the opportunity to share a vacation together.As the Traveling Finance Mom, I always budget for our vacations well in advance.  However, this trip was completely not budgeted for, so we were really looking for a way to make the trip as cheap as possible.  Here are some tips we followed to make sure this vacation didn’t bust our budget:

Get the Cheapest Gas as Possible

When you drive for your vacation, the largest travel expense you’ll face is likely to be gas.  I like to use the gas price indicator on MSN Autos to find out where I’m likely to get the cheapest gas.  If it’s close to home, I try to make sure my gas tank is full before setting off.

Use Priceline or Hotwire to get a Discount on Your Hotel

This trip was on Memorial Day weekend, so I wasn’t sure we’d get a great discount on our hotel.  But I was wrong!  Using Priceline.com, I actually was able to get a fare of $64 a night for a 3 1/2 star hotel in an amazing location!  The cheapest price I could find online before using Priceline was an average of $100 per night, so the Priceline rate represented significant savings.

Do Some Research to See What Activity Discounts Exist

As the former employee of a tourist attraction (the Breakers Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island), I know from experience that unpublicized discounted rates exist.  If you have a AAA card, check with them to see if they offer discounted tickets to any locations you are visiting.  Even if they don’t, ask about discounts at the front gate.  I’ve seen discounts for people who own a library card, AARP members, and teacher’s union members.

Be Strategic with Your Meal Choices

We tried to eat one or two smaller meals per day – usually breakfast and dinner.  This really limited the amount of money we spent on food.  My parents had rented a condo, so we also were able to eat meals prepared in their kitchen.Using these tips, we were able to have a great trip without hurting our family budget.Jodi Grundig reviews products for moms, babies, and children on Mom’s Favorite Stuff, and writes about her life at Multitasking Mommy.