May 17, 2010

Planning a Vacation

No matter what our financial situation has been throughout our married life, we have always taken a vacation.  Vacations have ranged from driving to visit family throughout the U.S., to tent camping at a state park and cooking our meals at a campsite, to driving to a vacation spot and staying at hotels and eating every meal at a restaurant.  Of course, each vacation was planned on what we could afford to spend at the time.

What have I learned?  It is important to get away for a week as a family.  The memories of those vacations are priceless and when I look at the pictures from all of those vacations, I have never been sorry that we spent the money and went. 

We have never taken a vacation that we couldn't afford.  One time we only had around $300 for a vacation.  That was the year we bought a cheap tent and went camping for a few days with some family members.  We shared in the cooking and honestly we had a great time.  I had never tent camped before I met my husband but when our kids were young it was a way for us to take a vacation without spending a lot of money.

This year we will spend part of our vacation visiting my mother.  It is a 14 hour drive (stops included) to drive straight from our house in Iowa to my mom's home in Western New York.  We have been driving straight through for several years and spend the time watching the scenery and talking or reading books while travelling.  It isn't for everyone, but it works for us. 

My mom lives in a very small apartment in a senior citizen's apartment building. We cannot stay there so we will once again be staying in a hotel. No matter who you book through, it costs money to stay in a hotel.  Unfortunately my home town is a tourist town so hotels aren't cheap, especially during the busy summer season.  We do a lot of price checking, comparing and we usually get a pretty good deal.  We always book a room at a hotel that has a continental breakfast and a microwave and fridge in the room.  These are almost becoming standard now.

On our way back to Iowa we will spend a day or two in Ohio going to the Football Hall of Fame and a few presidential historic sites.  Again, there will be two more nights of lodging.

When I was employed we would generally budget $1,500 to $1,800 for vacation.  For some people that is not a lot of money, but for us that was more than enough.  This would include about 6 nights of lodging, all meals being eaten in restaurants, admission fees to any attractions, souvenirs, gasoline and anything else that would be related to a vacation.

This year I will be packing food so that we can stop at rest stops and have a picnic.  When we are in New York we will take my mom out for a special meal but will cook the rest of the meals at her apartment. 

Our budget is an absolute cannot go over $1000.00 and would like to keep it at $800.00.  To help with the vacation expenses I have been taking all the money I save from couponing and stashing it in a jar.  It will be interesting to see what I have saved by the time we go on vacation. 

Over the almost 30 years that I have been married I have learned that it's not the amount of money spent that makes a great family vacation.  It's the time spent together, travelling and doing things together that makes it great.

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