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Holidays On A Budget

Holidays On A Budget

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and everyone is hurriedly working on purchasing gifts, planning celebrations and making travel arrangements. If you try to add staying on a budget to this list, your stress level could be quickly increasing as each day is marked off the calendar. InTown Suites is here to help as an expert in budget-friendly tips. From planning a holiday road trip to keeping your kids entertained during the holiday break, we’ve covered all the bases on enjoying the holidays on a budget.

First, let’s take care of your last-minute holiday shopping. Once your shopping is done, here are 12 ways to enjoy some quality time with your kids while they’re home on winter break. Lastly, if you’re planning to travel this holiday season, check out these holiday travel tips and budget-friendly tricks.

A mom stressed with last minute holiday shopping
Last-Minute Holiday Shopping Tips

With Christmas day right around the corner, you may be wondering how you will find enough money in your budget to purchase those final holiday items on your list. Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are great, but what if those shopping days have passed? Fear not! You still have plenty of time to get something special for your friends and loved ones while also sticking to a budget. Here are just a few tips for staying on track while completing your last-minute shopping:

1| Set A Budget.

Between blowout sales and end-of-year clear-outs, there are plenty of ways to save money this holiday season, but if you’re not careful, things can quickly get out of hand. The best way to stay on budget is to physically lay out your budget for the upcoming month(s). Plan out your housing and personal expenses first. Rack your mind to detail everything you’ll need to buy including party supplies, travel items and last-minute buys. Some of these tiny expenditures are easy to forget, so do your best to anticipate these purchases.

Next, try to squeeze a little more out of your budget by cutting costs in other areas. You could organize a potluck for your holiday dinner to minizine your costs, or go shopping in a friend’s closet for the formal wear you’ll need for this year’s Christmas party. Once you’ve taken into account the cost of living and random holiday expenditures, you’ll have a clear picture of your gift-giving budget. Keep this budget in a place you can track it, like a day planner, spreadsheet or even a budgeting app like Daily Budget.

Lastly, decide whether you plan to use cash or incorporate credit. Remember, it can be easy to go overboard with plastic and don’t want to be paying for the holidays well into the New Year. Dealing in cash or setting up an account with precisely the amount needed for holiday gifts can go a long way with tacking what you’re spending.

2| Make A List And Check It Twice.

Now that you’ve established just how much money you have to spend on gifts, make a list of exactly who you will be buying for. If you already have gifts in mind for certain people, write down the associated cost and work back with the remaining budget to set a dollar amount for the rest of your list.

Looking at the list, consider a few more ways you can save while still spreading holiday cheer. Perhaps part of your list includes extended family or a group of friends spread across the country. Why not suggest a Secret Santa, Yankee Swap or Traveling Gift Box to cut down on the number of gifts?

Of course, things under the tree aren’t what matter this time of year. Why not trade a few physical gifts for a memorable experience. Plan a winter trip, group outing or fancy dinner to spend some extra quality time with family and friends. You can collectively save on these outings by checking out couponing sites like Groupon for discounts. Save on a holiday vacation by booking a stay at InTown Suites. We have over 180 locations across the country with affordable rates and wonderful amenities.

3| Do It Yourself.

It can be hard to justify spending your already stretched budget on gifts for teachers, acquaintances and distant cousins that you hardly know. Even close friends and family can be hard to buy for, and you’d hate to purchase something they may never use. Save some money and give from the heart with something made by your own two hands.

Coming off the fall harvest season, it’s the perfect time to give out your homemade pickles, remaining jars of canned jams and jellies or even something decadent like salted caramel sauce. Your recipients will love receiving something homemade you can’t find in stores. No one will give you side-eye for gifting a tasty treat like cookies, peppermint bark or candied nuts. Dress these items in thoughtful packaging like jars, tins, gift boxes and ribbons. These types of packages can be purchased cheaply at a dollar store and add a little extra flair to your homemade gifts.

Of course, homemade gifts don’t have to come from the kitchen. Hand-poured candles, a custom wood-burned cutting board or handcrafted ornaments are all great options for low-budget gift giving. Plus, items like soaking salts, soaps and bath bombs can all easily be made by even the most novice crafter with a quick Pinterest search.

4| Jump Online.

Cyber Monday may have left you fearing the keyboard, but online is really the place to be if you’re looking for deals this holiday season. Many stores offer the same deals online and sometimes the deals are even better. Review your list and sign up for emails with the online retailers offering the gifts you need. Stay on the lookout for sales and specials and easily purchase your gifts when the price is right.

If you are unsure who has the best prices on the items you need, do a simple Google search and you’ll quickly see who is selling each item for less. This will also give you leverage at retailers like Walmart that price match. Also consider plug-in desktop apps like Honey that generate coupon codes for online stores, or phone apps like Flipp that help you locate coupons and rebates at large retailers near you.

One thing that stops a lot of people from relying on online shopping during the holiday season is shipping costs and delivery time. Luckily, many online retailers such as Amazon, Apple, Macy’s, and Barnes & Noble offer free shipping on last-minute purchases starting in mid-December. The best part? Many of these retailers also provide guaranteed, expedited delivery before the 20th, taking the anxiety out of online shopping.

Last-minute holiday shopping doesn’t need to be limiting, and you can stay on budget with a solid plan in place. Shop savvy this holiday season and cross everyone off your list without breaking the bank.

Desserts decorated in Christmas themes

Fun Holiday Activities For Kids

If you’re a parent, you know those two weeks around the Winter Holidays, when the kids are home from school, can be both a joy and a curse. Between seasonal travel, large family gatherings and all the planning, keeping your kids occupied can be exhausting. To help your kids enjoy the time off while staying out of your hair, we have a festive list of holiday activities your kids are sure to enjoy:

1| It’s Time To Get Cooking.

Take some time to flip through a cookbook, Pinterest or your favorite recipe website to find something fun and festive to make with your junior chefs. This is a great task if you have a small group over for a playdate. We recommend checking out these holiday-themed recipes, appropriate for all ages and skill levels.

2| Design And Decorate For The Season.

Giving your kids the freedom to decorate their own rooms is a great way to flex their creativity and get them excited for the days ahead. Let them pick out lights, decorate their own mini tree or go crazy with decals. This is also a great opportunity to craft some of their own homemade decorations.

3| Make A Mess ー It’s Okay!

Homemade slime is nothing new, but there’s no denying its power to keep small hands occupied for hours on end. Use this base recipe, along with a few add-ins (like glitter, confetti, small decorations or toys) to let each little artist boast their own creative flair. We love these holiday-inspired ideas.

4| Learn A Little. Craft A Lot!

With colder weather fast upon us, it’s the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about migratory birds while setting up some feeders for those that’ll be sticking around for the winter. We love this list with kid-friendly recipes and feeders for a variety of species. Most of these DIY projects use items you can easily find around the house.

5| Plan A Merry Movie Marathon.

‘Tis the season for curling up on the couch and watching endless hours of holiday specials together. Check out this roundup of Christmas favorites for some inspiration. Pair your holiday movies with some of these amazing holiday movie-inspired treats.

6| Take A Camping Trip Indoors.

Camping is not just for the outdoors anymore. When it’s too cold or snowy to get out and play, plan a cozy slumber party in the living room complete with blanket forts, twinkling lights and festive stories to tell. Really kick it up a notch with an indoor s’mores bar — under parental supervision, of course.

7| Create A Christmas Competition.

Grab a few gingerbread house kits and see who can create the most original theme or design element, like these ice cream cone Christmas trees. Break out the board games and cards for an epic family night with prizes like chocolate coins, cookies and other festive treats.

8| Spread Some Holiday Cheer.

This winter break is a great time to teach your kids about the importance of volunteering. Help them sort through their old toys or clothes and drop them off at a donation station. Let them pick out a gift to give to someone less fortunate. You can even encourage them to commit to one selfless act of kindness a day, like helping out an elderly neighbor or making a special picture for a sick friend. Check out this article for ideas on how to volunteer with your kids.

9| Start A Book Club.

Create a holiday reading list with your kids to encourage their love of books and keep their minds active over the holiday break. Buying a few new books, reading together and scheduling some time to talk about what they’re reading are all great ways to make the activity fun and interactive. Check out the American Library Association’s list of notable children’s books with a selection of books for each age group.

10| Swap Playdates With Friends.

You’re not alone in wanting to keep your kids occupied this holiday break. Partner up with your friends or parents of your children’s friends to see if anyone would like to take turns hosting a playdate. This will give each of you the opportunity to take a break from entertaining the little ones so you can wrap gifts, plan dinner or finish up any last-minute holiday shopping.

11| Enjoy The Great Outdoors.

Regardless of whether your winter includes palm trees or snow, make sure to get the kids outside for some fresh air and physical activity. Ice skating, visiting a local farm and snow painting are all great ways to experience the great outdoors sans boredom.

12| Light Up The Night.

Turn an already fun activity into a family game by planning a Christmas light scavenger hunt. Print off this free festive scavenger hunt list and walk or drive around the brilliantly lit neighborhoods in your area. Drum up participation from your older children by offering a prize to the person who can locate the most items.

Here at InTown Suites, we’re all about making life easier for you, no matter what the season. Whether you’re home for the holidays, visiting family, or staying at one of our extended stay accommodations, we wish you a relaxing and stress-free holiday season.

kids sitting in back seat on holiday road trip
Holiday Travel Tips For A Family Road Trip

If you and your family will be taking a road trip this holiday season, you may be worried about spending long hours in a cramped car. Worry not! Your friends at InTown Suites have rounded up a few important holiday travel tips to help you survive the journey and have fun along the way:

1| Bring Snacks.

We’re all familiar with the term ‘hangry’ – and while it may seem silly, most of us know its effects all too well! Avoid the crankiness that comes from hunger and prepare for your trip with a supply of food and drinks to keep you and your family fueled during the drive. Need some inspiration? Here are 9 healthy snack ideas and where to find them while on the road.

2| Plan Your Route, And Have A Backup.

Driving around the holidays can be stressful with heavy traffic and busy highways, but knowing your route ahead of time allows you to map out your stops and stay prepared. We also recommend having a backup route planned just in case. By having a few alternative routes at the ready, you can avoid the holiday rush and any delays that may occur during your family road trip.

*Pro Tip: Download or print out your directions before leaving the house. You don’t want to lose service in a rural area with no clue of how to get back to the highway.

3| Deal With Gifts Beforehand.

Lugging gifts around is never pleasant. They can take up a lot of space in your car and some could be easily damaged in transit. Instead of trying to pack them in your luggage or the back of the car, simply ship gifts to their destination ahead of time. You’ll thank yourself later. If you must bring gifts with you, try to only travel with small, light gifts.

Check out these gift ideas for frequent travelers.

4| Take A Moment To Tune Out.

We get it – sometimes, you just need a break from the noise during a road trip. Make sure you’re equipped with a few essentials to help you tune out for a few moments and embrace your inner zen. From noise-canceling headphones to playlists chock full of your favorite lighthearted tunes, take a few minutes to reset. You can also try the Calm app; it’s free to download and offers meditations, relaxing music and more.

5| Make Sure The Car Is Up To Snuff.

Holidays can be stressful enough without having to worry about your car breaking down or a flat tire. Before you’re ready to hit the road this holiday season, be sure to run through this helpful pre-road trip checklist to help ensure smooth sailing when you depart. Also, don’t forget to pack your car with these essential items, just in case.

6| Be flexible.

When you’re traveling at such a busy time of the year, you must expect the unexpected. Whether that be delays, adverse weather or any other number of things that could impact your travel schedule, you have to expect and be okay with changes in plans. It’s all part of the experience!

7| Use The Many Tools At Your Disposal.

Just because you’re kicking it “old school” by hitting the road, doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate a little bit of modern technology to enhance the experience ー in fact, we think you should! With everything from getting directions to finding “out-of-the-vox” attractions along the way, here are the 10 best travel apps for your holiday trip.

What’s our favorite? Gasbuddy is essential for road trips. The app can show you what gas stations are close and where to find the cheapest gas. You can also earn “GasBack” from qualified purchases.

8| Save Time And Don’t Forget Anything!

The best way to save you time and avoid forgetting the essentials is to pack up the car the night before. On the morning of, you can easily grab the kids’ toy bag along with your cooler and head to the car. We also recommend gassing up the car the night before. This is a big time-saver!

Looking for affordable accommodations along your holiday road trip? InTown Suites has affordable rates at over 180 locations. Let us be your home away from home during your next great adventure.

people at the airport during the holidays

Budget Travel Tips For The Holidays

Traveling can be stressful for you and your wallet during the holiday season with baggage fees, unexpected delays and the cost of airport food. We’ve put together this list of budget-friendly travel tips to help make your holiday travels as smooth as possible. These travel tips and tricks will not only lighten the load on your wallet but also lower the level of your stress.

1| Put Your Health First!

Health & safety must be put first this holiday season – for you and your loved ones. The CDC has a full list of guidelines for holiday travel including wearing a face mask and washing your hands frequently. Before setting out on your journey, it’s also a good idea to check the current regulations and mandates that are in place in the destination you’re traveling to. It is also recommended that you have a COVID test before and after traveling. Most of all, if you are feeling unwell, please stay at home!

*Pro Tip: Look into TSA PreCheck. You can save time and reduce stress by skipping the TSA line and not having to remove shoes, belts, liquids or coats from your bag and person. The application only takes about 5 minutes online. Be sure you allow for 2-3 weeks before your holiday trip to receive the approval information. This membership is valid for 5 years so it’s well worth the spend!

2| Download Apps Ahead of Time.

In a day and age where technology is at its prime, what better way to use technology to your advantage and reduce stress during your travels! Check to see if your overnight accommodations have an app so you can easily check in and reduce contact with others. Two other great apps to use when flying are FlightAware and Timeshifter.

  • FlightAware is essential for keeping up with your flight once booked. You can track your flight in real-time, seeing any delays that are taking place. You can also keep up with your layovers and gate numbers in one simple location.
  • If your holiday travels will include crossing time zones, Timeshifter is an app that helps you avoid the ever-common jet lag. Using neuroscience research, the app provides tips on when to sleep, when to stay awake and even when a cup of coffee might be needed.

3| Easy Savings On Flights.

Purchasing airlines tickets is a tricky game. Depending on how far in advance you purchase your tickets can make a big difference in price. One surefire way to save money is by booking your flight at the airport. With a quick drive to the airport, you can avoid many of the fees that are incurred when booking online. It can save up to $40 dollars per ticket!

4| Save Money On Meals.

Another way to save money at the airport is by packing your own travel snacks. Most airports are full of eateries but these convenient meals come at a cost. We recommend packing up your snacks/meals and bringing them along for the trip. You can also bring an empty water bottle to fill up at the airport’s refill stations for FREE. Besides saving money, this will reduce contact with others at the airport.

5| Make Use Of A Carry-On.

Many airlines still offer a free carry-on with your flight. You’ll save big bucks by using a large backpack or tote for your travels and avoiding the excessive baggage fees. By making use of a free carry-on, you’ll also save time by skipping the crowded luggage carousels.

Wondering how you will fit everything for your trip in a carry-on? Here are a couple of packing tips:

  • Roll your clothes. You can then easily place each day’s outfit into a ziptop bag and press out the air. You’ll find you can fit twice as much into your backpack using this method.
  • Skip the toiletries. You’ll save even more space in your bag by purchasing your toiletries once you arrive at your destination. You can also avoid any issues with TSA’s liquid rules.

6| Avoid Peak Travel Days.

While it may be ideal to fly the day before or after a holiday, these days normally have the most expensive price tags. By staying flexible, you can save yourself even more on airline flights.

Try using the Hopper app to easily find flights and keep an eye on prices. The app will notify you when rates go up or down and give you insights into the best possible time to purchase.

7| Make A List & Don’t Forget!

We want to help make sure you don’t forget anything on your trip! These small purchases can quickly make a dent in your travel budget. Here are some of the commonly forgotten items to check off your packing list before you leave:

  • Neck pillow and blanket
  • Earbuds, headphones, and/or earplugs
  • Chargers for each device
  • Masks and gloves
  • Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes

8| If It’s Large – Ship It!

Avoid extra baggage fees and costs by shipping your gifts in advance. You will not only make more room in your luggage for the essentials but also save yourself the stress of trying to transport all of your holiday gifts. Be sure to get your packages to the post at least a week or two before you arrive and have a designated friend or family member to ship to. You’ll save big bucks on checked bags and avoid any worries of losing your gifts!

9| Save Money & Sleep Well.

Not to toot our own horn too loud, but InTown Suites is a great and inexpensive option when it comes to affordable lodging during the holiday season. We have properties all over the country offering low weekly rates that are typically lower than standard hotels in the area, even if you only plan on staying a few nights!

All of our suites boast full, in-room kitchens that include full-sized refrigerators, two-burner stove-tops and microwaves. By staying in and making your own meals, you save your holiday funds to be spent on fun attractions and activities. Here are some delicious holiday recipes you can easily make in your suite!

This is just one of the convenient and money-saving amenities that we offer. Find the InTown Suites nearest your holiday vacation destination!

Don’t let stress ruin your holiday season. We hope these tips and tricks will help you stay on budget and better enjoy your time with friends and family. As always, InTown Suites is open and available for short-term holiday vacations, temporary housing and long-term rentals.

From InTown Suites, stay safe and happy holidays!