Food & Drink

Saving Centsably: Vacation planning leads to savings

In just a few days, our family will leave on our first trip to Washington, D.C. Although my husband and I both visited the capitol when we were children, we never have visited Washington as adults or with children.

While there are so many free opportunities in Washington to discover and explore, the cost of lodging can be steep. As I began planning the trip, I examined this cost and the food costs. I figured that staying close to downtown would cost us more money, but would help us save money on food and transportation costs during the visit.

I searched through many hotel listings but because our family is so large, two rooms were required. Essentially, this doubled the reasonable charges for lodging. I looked into suites, which would allow larger families to stay with only one charge for the room, but did not find any that suited our needs for proximity to Washington.

At one point I even changed gears and began searching for places to stay that were farther away from the city.

I knew this would increase our transportation costs and the costs for food. Instead of being close enough to eat meals at our “home” for the week, we would be purchasing two meals per day.

This might not seem like much, but two meals per day, when multiplied by five days in the city and then by six people totals 60 meals. While our family is not dead-set on organic food and fancy meals, we do try to eat in a healthy manner. Eating McDonalds for five days straight is not in the picture.

The average simple sit-down meal in a restaurant is about $10-$15 per person in Washington, D.C., according to several tourist-based websites. If I looked at a $12-per-person per meal average, our family could spend about $750 on food in five days.

For this reason alone, it became really important for me to find a lodging location (even if it cost a bit more) that would help us drastically reduce our food costs.

I began searching websites such as and Vacation Rental by Owner. I found several options f

or our family. I learned about these websites and how important it is to read reviews and examine the maps of the locations very carefully.

I almost booked a residence for our family for the week based upon cost and reviews and its location on the map, although the map placed the residence in the wrong place.

The map placed the residence just across the street from the White House. While that would be an ideal location for a family to stay (proximity-wise), those park benches might not offer the comfort-level I would be paying for.

I contacted the property owner after spotting the discrepancy and he stated that he was aware of the mistake.

Make sure, if you use these services, that you use all the tools possible to ensure you are booking a vacation where you think you are!

In the end, I booked a basement apartment that was advertised to have enough sleeping space for six, a small kitchen, adequate bathrooms, parking, and a side entrance for less than it would cost our family to for two hotel rooms for the same vacation period.

Although I had contacted about five or six owners personally, I thought my search was at an end. I was satisfied with the rate and the location (and even the safety of the area).

But, once I booked the apartment, the owner contacted me to say she thought my family was too large for her space, and I found myself back at square one, having turned down an owner with three apartments in a high-rise condominium overlooking the Capitol.

So how did this work out? Be sure to read next week to find out how I maximized my savings on this major vacation for our family.