Staycations Are Key to Summer Fun on a Budget

Summer is here, and for most, that means vacation time! Many people travel out of town, or even out of the country, but if you’re on a budget, indulging in a “staycation” may be just the thing for you. In case you’re wondering, a staycation is when you stay in your own city or state and take day trips to local attractions. Here in Florida, there are so many activities to choose from the possibilities are endless. And you can do it all without breaking the bank. We’ve put together a few ideas for you to get your staycation started.

Stop by the beach. Florida is known for its beaches. What would summer be without a trip to one of our sandy shorelines?  If you don’t know where to start, make a game out of it. Make a list of all the beaches in the state you want to visit and assign them a number. Put all of the numbers in a hat, shake it up and pull one out. Whichever beach was assigned that number is your next staycation spot. “Sea” you later!

Visit one of Florida’s many state or national parks. They are filled with tremendous beauty, adventures and new discoveries. Best of all— they’re affordable! Entrance fees to most Florida state and national parks are less than $10. There are about 11 national parks, 160 state parks, and a number of preservation and recreation areas for you to choose from. So you might want to do a little advance planning. Besides the awesome sights, national and state parks are an awesome place to picnic or even camp overnight. So pack up your tents, gather ingredients for s’mores and head out to enjoy nature. Click here to find a park near you!

Get discounted tickets to amusement parks. Most Orlando area theme parks have Florida resident discounts as well as promotions where you pay for one day and get in free the rest of the year! Take advantage of the Florida resident discount to enhance your staycation, and continue the fun for the rest of the year. Click here for a list of Florida resident discounts from Visit Orlando. An added bonus – as an Insight Credit Union member you get discounted tickets to Legoland. Cool, right?!

Catch up on some reading. Find a cute little park, coffee shop or bookstore and let yourself get lost in a good book. This can help with relaxation and transport your mind to another place. You can even take a book to that beach you decided to go to.

Attend a local sporting event. Whether it’s baseball, soccer, golf, bull riding or wrestling, Central Florida has plenty of sporting event options to take advantage of. Get the family out for a fun-filled evening to one of the many Florida Collegiate Summer League baseball games. If you are more of a soccer fan, be sure to check out an Orlando City soccer game! For other exciting sporting events this summer, check out the list that Visit Orlando has compiled for more details.

Visit local museums. History and art museums can be found all over Florida. They may even be a museum celebrating the history of your own city. This is a great activity for both adults and children. You can have fun and learn something all at the same time. Botanical gardens, zoos, and farms that let you pick your own fruit are also great ideas for some summertime fun, not to mention they’re a hit with the little ones.

We hope these ideas can help you maximize your staycation without maxing out your budget! Do you have a favorite staycation spot? We would love to hear more about it! Share with us in the comments below.

 

*This is an updated version of a post originally published on July 28, 2014.

3 Tips to Improve Your Cruise

cruise_shipPlanning a cruise? Sheri Mruz, owner of Directions Luxury Travel in Ocala, Florida, has some great tips to help you get the most out of your cruise vacation. Here’s what she had to say:

Book as far in advance as possible. You will have the best selection on room type, location and dining options. If you book your cruise and later find a lower fare or new promotion, most cruise lines will honor the lower fare as long as you haven’t made your final payment.

Driving to the port? Book a one night pre-cruise hotel stay that has a Park-N-Cruise package. The typical package includes 7 to 10 nights of parking plus shuttle service to the port and back again. The cost is normally the same as what you would pay to just park your car at the port. This way you get there with time to spare. No worries about missing the ship!

If you like to take excursions off the ship, consider ShoreTrips.com. They specialize in excursions for cruise guests and have a guarantee to get all passengers back to the ship on time. ShoreTrips is a highly reputable company offering smaller sized tour groups and wonderful guides.

Money-Saving Travel Tips

SummerPiggyBankTraveling doesn’t have to cost a fortune! Save money on your vacation with these great tips from Sheri Mruz, owner of Directions Luxury Travel in Ocala, Florida.

For airfare, I strongly recommend using Kayak.com as a search tool. It has great filter features and helps you find the routing, carriers, number of layovers and costs that you want. It is not a purchasing site but will direct you to the best place to purchase your flights. Kayak even has a fare history chart, a flexible date of travel search feature and allows you to sign up for alerts to let you know when flights go on sale. Whenever possible, purchase the actual tickets directly through the carrier website. This allows for clearer communication between you and the carrier and less hassle if/when you need to make changes or ask questions about your flights.

While touring a city, take the bus. Bus transportation is so common in the cities and so inexpensive in comparison to other options. If the city you are visiting offers a Hop On – Hop Off tour option, BUY IT! This is such a wonderful way to get the lay of the land and then go back and make stops at the areas that interest you most. Many cities, New York City and Chicago included, have package deals that include entrance to many attractions as well. These are packed with value. Check out citypass.com and grayline.com for more information.

If you know for sure that you will be visiting an attraction, check out their website before your trip to see if they offer online discounts. Just be sure you are not locked in to a specific date or time frame.

Travel Tips from a Travel Agent (Part 2)

Couple on a beachTraveling abroad this summer? Here are some awesome tips from Sheri Mruz, owner of Directions Luxury Travel in Ocala, Florida, to help you get the most out of your vacation!

SHOP SMART

How important are souvenirs? Nearly everything sold at the shops and kiosks in high tourism areas is made in Taiwan or China. Check and you’ll see. Focus on authentic items made by locals. Local artwork is always a great idea, especially if it’s easy to pack and doesn’t take up much space in your luggage.

Take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. These are the best souvenirs as they preserve your memories of the trip and the sights you so enjoyed.

BE INVOLVED & PRESENT IN YOUR ADVENTURE

Sure, I just told you to take a lot of pictures. But you should also sit back and relax a bit. Take in your surroundings and live in the moment. Experience where you are, what you are seeing, hearing and smelling. Don’t just see everything through a lens.

Meet some locals. Visit some of the shops and restaurants that are off the beaten path.  Ask the proprietors where they go when they have a chance to shop and go out to eat. Do they have a favorite market or park? Enjoy the culture & learn something about the people.

Travel Tips from a Travel Agent (Part 1)

VacationTraveling abroad this summer? We asked Sheri Mruz, owner of Directions Luxury Travel in Ocala, Florida, for some helpful tips to keep you stress-free while you explore the world. Here’s what she had to say:

BE PREPARED

Be sure to make copies of your passport to have on hand in case you lose yours. It will help with replacement. Taking along extra passport photos from CVS or Walgreens isn’t a bad idea either.

Set up an international data and calling plan in advance of your trip. This will help you avoid unforeseen expenses that can quickly get out of control if you don’t have a plan in place.

Call your credit card company to advise them that you will be traveling. Find out if you will incur foreign transaction fees on your purchases. Also, ask them to let you know who their partner banks are abroad so you can withdraw local currency at an ATM without a fee.

Carry cash. Cash is king and always works, even during government shut downs or simple power outages. Carry it in a safe place like a Running Buddy magnetic pouch or money belt.  Avoid bags or fanny packs. These are magnets for thieves.

If you want to reduce your chances of getting sick while traveling, wash your hands often, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and use hand sanitizer.

PACK SMART

Pack your own medicine bag with small packages of pain reliever, cold medicine, anti-diarrheal, allergy medication, etc.  This will save you a bundle should you find yourself in need. It saves you the time of finding a pharmacy as well.

Pack light. I highly recommend a lightweight suitcase.  With strict limitations set by the airlines, every ounce counts. A lightweight suitcase can give you up to 8 additional pounds. There are wonderful products on the market now so do some shopping and find one that suits you.

If possible, don’t check luggage. I know it can be hard for many people, but try to fit all your belongings in a carry on suitcase plus the bag you can stow under the seat in front of you.  You can avoid the whole lost luggage ordeal and reduce your time at the airport.

One last item to pack, earplugs. Bring earplugs – you will be so happy you did.

Stay tuned for more tips from Sheri about shopping smart and getting the most out of your vacation experience!