How to Plan a Cheap Vacation

Three years ago, my friends Judith and Joc quit their corporate jobs and decided to move to the southwest of France. This was an enormous decision to make considering they had two small children and they didn’t know anyone in France. In Loire Valley, not far from Cognac and Bordeaux, they purchased a dilapidated farm and renovated it into a countryside inn with private cottages that have fully-equipped kitchens and in the main building, they have created a bed and breakfast which have guest rooms and common areas with the same lovely charm of French country.

They have done an incredible job with creating an intimate atmosphere where their guests come to spend their vacations again and again. They have eloquently named their bed and breakfast, Domaine de la Porte (The House of Doors). Each cottage and guest room has been meticulously decorated. Breakfast and dinner are served family-style for good reason; my friends want you to feel welcome in their home and part of the family. Their approach has been tremendously successful, so much so that they are now attracting family reunions, destination weddings, and even off-site business meetings.

I had the luxury of spending six weeks with my friends this past spring and what I discovered was a gem of an idea. Thanks to Judith and Joc, I can provide you a terrific idea of how you can spend a vacation for free or nearly no-cost. As you can imagine, running a bed and breakfast requires a lot of money to get started and to keep it running!

Each week during my visit new people arrived. Most were paying guests; others though were guests that earned their vacation through bartering. This cheap vacationing idea was of great interest to me.

The intricate gardens with every local flower in place was designed and implemented by a professional landscape architect. How could they afford this gorgeous setting I wondered? When I asked my girlfriend, she let me in on their secret of bartering. The professional landscaper spent a week creating the gardens at this beautiful establishment in exchange for a week vacation at some later date.

The website photographs and the event photography for weddings, vow renewals, and family reunions were professionally done too by a professional photographer who exchanged his services for vacation time.

As I dug deeper, I discovered my friends had really leveraged this bartering concept and exchanged vacations for the following services:

1. Local vineyards provide wine
2. Computer network specialist
3. Bicycle repairman maintains their fleet of bicycles
4. Housekeeping and serving waiters
5. Electrician
6. Construction workers
7. Interior designer
8. Laundry services
9. Website design
10. Musicians
11. Landscaper
12. Auto mechanic

I’m sure that the list goes on and on, but in my brief stay these are the bartering arrangements I have witnessed. With a little imagination, you and your family can create a very cheap vacation package by finding an innkeeper willing to barter.

Where have you always wanted to visit but didn’t think you could afford?
o The Florida keys?
o The French countryside?
o The British Isles?
o The Rocky Mountains?
o Australia? Brazil? Thailand?

Choose your desired vacation spot and make a few calls to the local private bed and breakfast establishments. Explain your interest in bartering your service in exchange to travel to their bed and breakfast. You may be surprised to find out that the owners of this fine establishment would welcome your expertise in exchange for some rest and relaxation! Cheap vacations can be yours with a little creative planning.

What a terrific way to see the world on the cheap!

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