American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Saving Money on a Sharecation
Since last June, I've been interviewed at least twice about budget-friendly U.S. travel, specifically the increasingly popular, economical trend of “sharecations” – that is, friends and families taking vacations together. For MetroParent magazine, Kristen J. Gough was specifically focusing on sharecations in northern Michigan, and she wanted to know if I had any tips about dividing up costs, choosing accommodations, juggling activities, and maintaining a civil friendship. Katrina Brown Hunt, meanwhile, was working on a Travel+Leisure article about the country's most affordable cities, plus ways to minimize the expense of visiting pricier places like New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. In both cases, I realized that taking group vacations with like-minded friends or other families can not only reward you with special memories and potentially deeper friendships but also help to reduce costs – and given our current economic climate, that's definitely not a bad thing.
So, if you're hoping to take a vacation this year that won't break the bank, a sharecation may be just the thing for you. If so, here are six helpful tips:
1. While separate hotel rooms can be a good choice for those who prefer a little space from their traveling companions (and relish the fact that someone else is responsible for daily housekeeping), cottages with fully-equipped kitchens or suites that include a kitchenette are usually a better option for budget-minded group travel. That way, you're not only saving money on lodging costs but also on meals, which can add up quickly in restaurants. Sharing at least one meal daily (perhaps breakfast or lunch) can help to reduce food costs, while taking turns with the cooking duties can minimize aggravation.
2. If you're traveling with another family, you should also take turns watching the kids, so that the adults can all slip away at various times to do their own exploring. For instance, one set of parents can take all the kids to a beach, a state park, or another outdoor attraction while the other parents escape to a museum, a winery, or another adult-oriented locale. Later, the parents can swap duties, and while one set takes the kids to a movie, an amusement park, or an equally kid-friendly place, the adults who had daytime babysitting duties can enjoy a kid-free night on the town. In this way, traveling with another family might help parents feel as though they're taking a mini-vacation without actually leaving the kids at home.
3. Whether traveling with friends or another family, it's important to discuss the financial logistics beforehand. For instance, you need to determine a budget that appeals to everyone, so that no one feels blindsided afterward. Likewise, you need to decide how the actual costs will be split, especially if one family has more members than the other. As Kristen wrote in her article, “If you're sharing a cottage, figure out if one family is going to have to pay the bill and the other family or families will reimburse for their share. Or, as an alternative arrangement, the family that doesn't pay for lodging could cover food expenses.”
4. Before the trip, you should also discuss potential activities – both those you plan to do as a group and those you intend to pursue alone or in smaller groupings – so that everyone can plan accordingly. As a side note, periodic separations can be healthy, especially if you're all staying in the same cottage.
5. If planning to travel with another family, you should also discuss the matter of discipline beforehand, just to make sure that everyone's on the same page when it comes to correcting and corralling the kids.
6. Another suggestion is to do smaller group activities, such as an overnight camping trip, before taking a lengthy vacation with another family. According to Kristen, “Traveling together can give you a chance to see a whole other side of people. Sometimes, it's a peek at their adventurous spirit, but you might also see their tired, cranky side, too. Remember that you may be sharing a confined space together. You'll want to make sure that all of the people – and personalities – mesh well together.”
If you're still on the fence about taking a sharecation – or you'd just like to learn about others' experiences – consider watching the new PBS reality show Getting Away Together, which highlights, as the website indicates, “the rapidly growing trend of sharing a vacation with friends and family. From girlfriend getaways to family reunions and milestone celebrations, the series shows diverse groups of real travelers vacationing together in some of the most fascinating destinations and staying at spectacular vacation rental properties across America.”
So, have you ever experienced a sharecation? If so, what were the positive and negative aspects of the trip? And, more importantly, was everyone still on speaking terms at the end of it?
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo © 2012 Daniel Martone / Text © 2012 Laura Martone