This post is sponsored by SoCalGas to raise awareness about solar water heating. The content and opinions expressed here are my own. Read through the post for some great eco-friendly and wallet-friendly vacation tips too!
My husband and I try to live a relatively green and eco-friendly lifestyle. We eat mostly organic or local when possible, bring our own bags to the grocery store, use chemical-free cleaning products, make our own compost, etc. With a large family, it’s important to us to try and reduce our waste as much as possible. But there’s always more we can do, and recently I learned about solar water heating through SoCalGas.
And we don’t stop at being green at home, we try to do it wherever we go, including vacation! We try to go on a real family vacation at least twice a year, with small weekend trips every few months. My husband and I both really love to travel, and we kind of hope to instill that same adventurous spirit in our kids too. It sounds expensive to some people, especially since we’re a family of six, but we’ve managed to figure out how to travel on a pretty tight budget. In fact, in the past we’ve even run out of money mid-vacation thanks to expensive emergencies but we still came out of it having had a great time. Here are my top 5 tips on how to have a cheap and eco-friendly family vacation:
1. Look locally – Reduce the amount of gas and resources your family uses by staying close to home. You can “staycation” in your own city, or look at destinations within a few hours’ drive from where you live. Sometimes I’m amazed at how many interesting places are just a short drive from me – and in the ten plus years we’ve lived here we’ve never bothered to check them out! Staying local also saves you money on travel expenses, filling a gas tank once or twice is nothing compared to buying plane tickets for the whole family.
2. Bring your own food – We always pack more than enough food to bring with us so that we don’t have to rely on finding grocery stores or buying expensive meals of fast food during our road trips. Not only is avoiding fast food a great way to save money, but it also means less plastic/paper/styrofoam in the landfills. We do like to eat in restaurants occasionally, but we choose local dine-in places that we wouldn’t normally get to have at home.
When you’re going to be cooking on vacation, it’s definitely better to do your grocery shopping and meal prep ahead of time at home. I can usually shop from my pantry and fill in any needs at my grocery store for an entire weekend of camping for way less than it would cost for the family to eat one meal in restaurant.
3. Take advantage of free attractions – I try to do a little research to find free (or super cheap) things to do on our trips, whether on our route or at our destination. But sometimes we just happen upon something cool, such as the Seven Magic Mountains public art installation outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s a little off the beaten path, but totally worth a short hike into the desert.
4. Sleep in a tent – Camping is an obvious choice when trying to save money on a vacation. You can camp for a week and spend less than you would on one night in a hotel. Some people (*ahem* me) have a tendency to run the AC very low in a hotel room, or use a ton of hot water because, why not? But when we go camping, we’re definitely more conscious of the amount of water we use, and obviously there’s not always electricity readily available.
I know not everyone is into camping. I wasn’t either at one point. But somehow I warmed up to it, and now I even look forward to doing it! I feel oddly reenergized after a camping trip, and my kids don’t stop talking about how much fun they had for weeks. There’s just something about being out in nature and not stuck in front of a screen that makes us feel so much better. I think with the right campground and the right equipment, anyone can get into it!
5. Go solar – Why are you still wasting money on batteries when you can be harnessing the power of the sun? Solar energy products have become so much more affordable and accessible lately. You can charge phones, tablets, back-up batteries, radios, cameras, lanterns and more.
I hope this post inspires you to think eco-friendly for your next trip. While the money-saving benefits are great, the amazing memories are the biggest benefit of all.
And speaking of solar, you can put it to good use at home, too! SoCalGas is trying to raise awareness about solar water heating. Their information page is chock full of interesting info regarding installation, savings, rebates, and more.