DH and the kids are going on a real vacation

sort of…

We do a lot of traveling, mostly for work, which means we haven’t really been on any vacations that aren’t connected with a conference or someone getting married.  Almost all of our vacation time is spent in DH’s home town (population ~3K and falling) at the grandparents’ because DH needs to see his extended family at least once a year or he starts getting maudlin and depressed.  So essentially everywhere we’ve been, someone else is paying for our housing and often part of our meals or some of our travel.  Or there’s been a wedding.*  When we’re low on cash, we spend a day and another one back driving to get to DH’s home town (it is a very long day).  When we’re flush with cash or miles or rates are especially low, we will fly instead which cuts the time spent traveling by about 2/3.

This year DH’s parents are both retired so we’re going to try something different.  Not, you know, too different.  But still a little different.

Last year, DH’s brother’s company transferred him and he ended up moving near DH’s sister.  So last summer DH’s parents rented a couple of cabins in a state park near the town DH’s siblings live in and they spent a few days there as an extended family.  This year, DH wants to join them with the kids.  So after some discussion (and realizing that everybody in the world wants to visit peak tourist places like Yellowstone during peak tourist season which drives the prices way up), they decided to go to the same place as last year and DH and the kids will fly in to the nearest big city, rent a car, and drive down to the cabins.  After a few days there, they’ll spend a night in the city and fly home.  (Me, I will be staying home getting work done because I have to go to TWO conferences the next week.  :/ )

It’s like a real vacation!

When this was initially discussed, we talked about splitting the costs for the cabins, since DH would be adding an additional family and we want to subsidize his less-flush siblings.  Plus we’d just found out that DH would indeed be working in April and May so we were going to have more money than we’d anticipated.  AND DH’s dad is retiring and his parents are going to have to start budgeting again for the first time, so there’s no need for them to shoulder the entire expense.  But DH’s mom is being difficult about it (we finally got a “we’ll talk about it later” from her) so we’re going to have to figure some way to pay/subsidize.  Maybe we’ll pay for the hotel the night in the city and DH can pay for food purchases if she won’t let us write a check to her for half the cabins.

With some research, it looks like they’ll be paying $450/night (plus tax) for 3 nights = $1350 for the cabins.  We’re going to try to pay half of that:  $675

Airfare for DH and two kids came out to= $937 (We don’t have enough miles on the right airlines to make it worth while to use miles for this trip.)

Then there will be one night in a big city (estimated) = $250/room (if we go for near the touristy stuff rather than near the airport– airport hotels are closer to $150/room)

Car rental + gas for us (estimated) = $350 (though we may find a better deal closer to the time)

Food (estimated– a total guess because who knows) = $200

So total cost (not including incidentals):  $2,182

Which seems like a lot of money for 5 days for 3 people, but also not a lot of money for a vacation compared to what we see when people go fancier places than a Midwestern state park.  (Going on a weekend would have cost double the cabin fee!)

 

*We honeymooned in beautiful London… Ontario (the one in Canada).  Which is kind of like honeymooning in Ann Arbor if you could daytrip to Niagra Falls from there.  We did not have a lot of money.

What do you do for vacations?  How often do you go on them?

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33 Responses to “DH and the kids are going on a real vacation”

  1. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    My wife goes up to San Francisco several times a year to see opera. She often does this as a day trip (for a Sunday matinee), but sometimes we’ll go together and book a hotel for the night. We’ll do a museum or two together, eat out, then she’ll go to the opera by herself.

    We get together with her relatives about once a year. Last year in Montreal, this year in San Francisco (none of us live in either place—she, her siblings, and her mother choose a location).

    I went to Ashland, OR with my son during spring break for Oregon Shakespeare Festival, with a group from Santa Cruz Shakespeare. My wife couldn’t go, as her spring break was a week later than ours.

    My wife and I will take Amtrak to Santa Barbara to see our son in a play at the end of the quarter—we did that last year also, and it makes a good weekend outing. It also allows us to take a huge empty duffel down, and haul back half his stuff so that he can take the train with what is left more easily.

  2. Leah Says:

    We are lucky to take a fair number of vacations. We almost always do a family vacation with my in-laws — typically a cabin vacation, except for the year I planned it. I did a city vacation that was fun, but it also was enlightening. My in-laws are small town folks, and it was an eye-opener to see the different comfort levels with being in the Twin Cities depending on the person. Some of the people in our extended family group had to go back to the hotel each day for downtime when “the crowds” (think normal city amount of people) got to be too much. Definitely never taking them to the state fair!

    My parents are moving closer, so we won’t do our extended west coast trips we typically do each year (1.5 weeks for Christmas and 2 weeks in the summer). We’ll have to see what we end up doing. Most of our travel is to visit people, both to save on expense and because we like our families. We will likely replace with more camping, as that’s something we love and have not done much in recent years. But our little one loved camping last summer, so I think we can start getting back into it.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I guess we’re starting a family vacation tradition… I wonder if they’ll keep going to the same state park or if they’ll branch out now that the in laws are both retired. Or if we’ll just revert to DH’s childhood home.

  3. Cloud Says:

    We travel a lot: it is probably our top priority for how we spend money that isn’t needed to pay bills or shore up our savings accounts. This is also probably why we always have a long list of improvements we’d like to do around the house, but rarely seem to prioritize doing them! But we like it this way. We both really enjoy traveling and as luck would have it, so do our kids. So we tend to take a “big” vacation every year. Back before we had kids, this wasn’t always in the summer and would sometimes be as long as three weeks. Now, it is always in the summer and is always two weeks. Every 2-3 years, we fly down to New Zealand to see my in laws. On other years, we go somewhere in the US. This year, we’re planning a car trip around Arizona, Utah, Nevada (ok, really, we’re just driving across Nevada as fast as we can: I couldn’t find much to do that would be of interest to the kids), and parts of California I’ve never seen.

    I am in the process of booking hotel rooms for this trip now (some of the places we’re visiting have limited lodging that books up early), and I’d guess we’ll average about $150/night for lodging. So, we’ll spend over $2000 on lodging. I haven’t estimated the rest of the expenses yet, but even without airfare, a trip like this gets expensive. But for us, it is worth it. I come back from a vacation truly rejuvenated in a way that I’ve never been able to replicate with a “staycation,” even though I live in a premier tourist destination.

    In addition to our “big” vacation, we’ll sometimes do something closer to home for spring break. This year, we went up to Santa Barbara. A few years ago, we went to Catalina. This is not something we do every year, though.

    We also go visit my family in Arizona for either Christmas or Thanksgiving every year, but that doesn’t cost much because we can drive over and we stay with my parents.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      … I have some fond memories of Reno as a kid…

      I don’t tend to find traveling rejuvenating. I’m not sure that I find much to be rejuvenating other than reading novels or sleeping in. I guess I am a cheap date!

    • Shannon Says:

      I am with Cloud – traveling is our top priority for how we spend extra money. I recently got a new part time administrative gig, which means we’ve been able to expand our traveling a good bit in the past year or so.

      I am always on the search for good deals, so we manage to get at least a couple of big trips each year now. This year we’re going to Iceland (in just a week as our original trip over spring break was cancelled due to weather – yay for credits cards with trip insurance).

      One of our primary mechanisms for saving money is to exchange houses when we travel abroad, primarily to Europe. They stay in our house, we stay in theirs – only the $100 cost of membership to the exchange site. We even exchange cars. It’s really how we afford to do this. This summer, we’re doing two weeks in Spain – partially in Madrid and partially on the North coast as they have a vacation home too. Good for some beach and mountain time! We’ll squeeze in a trip to Morocco too as it’s so close and we all want to say we’ve been to Africa. We’ve seen London, Paris, Ireland (Galway), and Rome this way. It has the added benefits of keeping down costs (we can cook some meals in the kitchen), giving everyone some space away from each other, and letting us live more like locals. We get TONS of requests every year from places all over Europe – we can pretty much pick where we want to do which is nice.

      • Linda Says:

        Can you share more information about the house exchange you use and tips for how to be a good/successful home exchange? I can surely find something online, but a recommendation and insights would be much appreciated. Maybe even a guest post here is possible?

        I live in a desirable vacation area and this has given me an idea on how I can possibly manage to afford a vacation sometime soon.

      • Shannon Says:

        Linda – We use homeexchange.com. It’s pretty easy. We just posted some pictures of our house and expressed interest in certain places. Once you find a place you like, it’s usually just going back and forth with the person to build trust and make arrangements that work for you. If you’re in a fairly high demand area (we are – we live in a beach town in MA and are near the Cape, Boston, Providence, etc.), you’ll find that a lot of people will want to exchange with you. We’ve received 16 requests in the past two months alone from Denmark, Spain (two places we indicated we want to visit), Switzerland, Florida, France, Thailand, etc.

        The website has pretty good information on how to do it – what to post, how to “sell” your place, etc. They even have sample exchange agreements – we create one for each exchange that acts as sort of a contract (will you exchange cars? who will be responsible for tolls? etc.). So long as you’re okay with someone staying in your home (we are totally fine with it, and have never had a problem – some people aren’t okay with it), it’s a great way to save money, but at the same time, it also makes the vacation more enjoyable, particularly when traveling with kids!

  4. chacha1 Says:

    We have a timeshare with a high exchange rate, so our usual “big vacation” is a week in a timeshare resort. Because we are prioritizing saving money, we go to drive-to destinations most of the time (we’ve stayed in the Sierra a bunch of times, in Sonoma County a couple of times, in San Diego once) and usually not in cities because we live in L.A. and that is more than enough city for me.

    The annual maintenance for the timeshare is about $600; with exchange fee and local taxes it’s generally less than $1K for a week’s lodging (Sat-Sat or Sun-Sun). These places always have in-unit kitchens so we do a lot of our own cooking; the food budget rarely exceeds what we spend at home. However, these places are usually in or near wine country or Things To Do so we typically end up spending about $1K over and above lodging.

    Sometimes we manage two vacations in a year; that’s rare, but when it happens it is typically a fly-to thing – going to see my parents in Florida, or my sisters in North Carolina – which adds roughly a thousand dollars to the cost. DH’s mom is in SF and he visits with less frequency now that she has his brother living with her … but a visit there is never a vacation. :/

  5. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Assuming that everyone gets along, that does seem like an exciting trip! :) I could only do that with the right mix of family.

    It seems like everyone counts family vacations as vacations. I don’t because I normally have to work at least part of the time and also, most of the time, family is also work. For me, anyway. (And I see for chacha1, too!)

    If I counted seeing family as vacation, then at least twice a year we do a big driving “vacation”. Quotation marks because I still can’t convince myself that it really is a vacation. And then we have minor weekend visits from family, or longer weekends from family that I really like and then that’s a lot like fun.

    We haven’t done a for fun only trip, without any work required at all, in a few years – I wanted to count last year’s Hawaii trip but that was also a part-time working trip.

    I did just send PiC on a short weekend vacation, though, just purely for fun. He was overdue and it’s easier to send him on the road than it is for me to muster the energy to do a thing on my own right now.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      If we count seeing family as vacation then we go to the rural midwest once or twice a year. That’s where most of our vacation time goes. This one is a little different because we’re seeing family, but nobody is staying at anybody’s house!

      (Of course, I’m not going… But hey, I get to go to SF and Boston this summer all by my lonesome, for work. Not that I’ll be spending much time in SF since I have to get to Boston…)

    • Leah Says:

      We have found that family vacations are vacations IF we take time alone as our own little family during them. Spending a concentrated week with the family is a lot. We typically spend less time and more concentrated time with my in-laws; by the end of a week (sometimes less), we’re both ready to go home.

      When we stay with my family, we do a lot of things individually, and that makes the 2-3 week trips fairly smooth. My parents live (well, they’re in the process of moving closer, so lived?) 3 hours from where I grew up, so we usually take a few days for a side jaunt to see friends and sight-see there too, or we’ll go visit the coast (1.5 hours away), or just go into the nearest big city to them for a day (40 minutes). I went to college there, so I know the area really well and have lots of favorites to share with my husband and kid.

      I forgot to mention upthread, but we also do one vacation with just us during the year, so we get a true vacation. This year, it was a stay-cation due to my pregnancy, but most years it’s picking some destination in the southern US to enjoy. Thanks, zika, for ruining my hopes to go to Florida.

  6. CG Says:

    Like Cloud, we are willing to spend (relatively) big on travel with our three kids. We find that those memories really stay with the kids (and with us) and seem to do a lot to glue us together as a family. Every third year or so we vacation with grandparents, with whom we get along great, and who like doing really different kinds of things (think, a cruise with one set of grandparents and a remote Canadian national park with the other). We have done national park/city combos over the past three years with the kids, which have all been awesome (with the exception of SF/Yosemite, which was just okay because of the heat and 2/3 cranky and 1/3 sick kids). This year we are taking them abroad for the first time, doing 10 days in Iceland. I can let you know if that turns out to be a good idea or not. We are gearing up to take them to China in a year or two–we are a half Chinese family and want our kids to see it, plus we know they’ll love the food.

    We find that Airbnb or VRBO-type situations tend to save us money and preserve our sanity so that we’re not all trying to sleep in the same room. We can also buy some breakfast and lunch stuff and save on meals that way. My husband has a brutally punishing overseas work travel schedule, so we use miles for our flights, which obviously saves a lot of out of pocket expense.

    I should also add that planning travel and traveling (getting from A to B) both stress me out–I am a real homebody–but as long as we get out into nature once we’re there I find it a source of renewal, and I am never sorry we went.

    • becca Says:

      “I should also add that planning travel and traveling (getting from A to B) both stress me out–I am a real homebody–but as long as we get out into nature once we’re there I find it a source of renewal, and I am never sorry we went.”
      THAT! I’ve never been accurately introspective enough to break that down, but that is exactly me.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I kind of like the travel itself probably because I don’t feel as guilty for not working when I’m driving or on a plane. I suck at taking time off. I don’t really enjoy it except in small doses like weekends.

  7. First Gen American Says:

    The place where I teach spinning just got bought out by the Hyatt so now my hotels are deeply discounted due to employee perks. We were just in LA for 5 days and it cost a total of $210. 3 comp days + 2 discounted rooms. SO as a result I want to ramp up our travel as this is often a big chunk of the cost.

    We usually would take MIL with us on vacation so it meant an extra room and flight so we rarely spend under $5k now between flights for 5 and all the other stuff. But now she lives nearby so she didn’t go to LA with us this time around.

    We haven’t gone on a 2 week vacation since before the kids were born. It’s been too hard to take off that much time from work plus it keeps the cost down. If we ever go far again then we would take 2 weeks.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Nice!

      (I was just in LA for 3 days and it was free for me, or will be as soon as I process my cab receipts… but I spent almost the entire time indoors at a conference.)

  8. Rosa Says:

    One of the benefits of me not working is that we take a LOT of vacations. But almost always on the cheap. My folks used to have a time share, so me & the kids have spent several weeks at the beach with them. Me and the kid go camping on the beautiful beaches of northern Wisconsin every July, when it’s sometimes possible to swim in Lake Superior without dying of cold (and if not, there’s kayaking and hiking and laying reading in the hammock and biking into town for ice cream.) That one costs about $250 total, $300 if we go really crazy with the activities.

    My husband gets weeks and weeks of PTO but will not take it, so he doesn’t usually come along. As a family we usually do a week in a big national park every summer, plus the drive there and back. And he took a week to go see his own parents last year, after they retired (usually I take the kid and visit his family. But before they retired his parents ALSO didn’t take vacation usually.) But we’ve capped the number of consecutive days we will hike at 5, now that kiddo has opinions. We staged a revolt at Glacier a couple years ago – left early to see some caves and Wall and the Badlands instead of more days of endless hiking on snow like it was still winter and we were at home. Last summer we took a trip to Tennessee – the Smokies, the Eastern Cherokee reservation museums, Gatlinburg, Dollywood. Also some civil war battlefields and a bunch of Moundbuilder sites.

    The best thing we’ve ever done, vacationwise, is that one year we set aside one weekend a month for mini-trips. Mostly camping at state parks. A couple were AWFUL (one of them it poured for like 75% of the time so we spent an entire day in the tent, and it was before kiddo learned to read to himself.) But almost all of them were great and they definitely averaged out to “good”. Plus, they were all four hours or less from home, mostly about 2 hours. Lowering the percentage of vacation that involves cars or planes makes me really happy. I actually need to sit down and make some little trip reservations now that we’ve got the big summer things all scheduled.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s a lot of travel to places I have never been! I mean, I’ve been in Tennessee, but haven’t stopped at most of the places you list. I don’t know why we haven’t done the Eastern Cherokee reservation museum since we do usually stop at Native American museums when given the opportunity– I bet DH’s grandma has been. Maybe we should spend more time traveling the South, but I’m always in such a hurry to leave it. Plus, the only Southern conferences in are Nashville, New Orleans, Austin, and Atlanta and I feel like I’ve spent plenty of time in those cities.

      • Rosa Says:

        We really liked Memphis! It’s a shame we’re stuck on the school schedule, I would like to go to the south more (just to visit) but it’s a lot nicer in April and May than June or July. The Mud Museum’s model of the lower Mississippi is really cool, and a nice complement to the Duluth Aquarium’s model of the Great Lakes and the St Paul science museum’s stuff about the Mississippi.

        My family is mostly out West so I grew up seeing the Rockies and parts of Colorado an awful lot, so even though my in laws and my husband would happily just hike in mountains every day for every vacation, I’ve been planning more Eastern trips – Mammoth Cave was also wonderful. The national and state parks that are in more settled areas have fun touristy stuff around them, too. The famous Western parks are awesome (we need to go back to Grand Canyon now that kiddo’s old enough to take) but it’s a 3 or 4 hour drive from anywhere to anywhere.

        I do love laying on the beach/by the pool vacations too, but my husband is so opposed. We used to go on vacations with friends who are a couple with one lay on the beach member and one hike-climb-triathlon member, so we each had a friend to do things with.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We’ve gotten famous fried chicken in Memphis. It was pretty good, but not really worth the wait.

        Mostly when we go new places we focus on food, playgrounds, and museums. Sometimes we’ll (read: DH and the kids while I’m at a conference) do touristy things too, but it’s generally always children-oriented.

      • Rosa Says:

        I think we’re food, hiking, and museums (the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is AMAZING but maybe only for older kids and adults – the burned out freedom bus kind of traumatized my then 10 year old). But we’re easy to please, foodwise – we eat a lot of random divey restaurant food, which is of course hit or miss and not for people with dietary restrictions. In Memphis we went to BB King’s, which isn’t really known for the food, but the food was fine – the fried okra at a random lunch place downtown was better, and then we were driving through Iowa on the way home (because we are tremendous dorks we ended our vacation at Cahokia, even though it was not actually on the way at all, but it turned out to fit in really well with the various moundbuilder history at Shiloh and the Eastern Cherokee museum) and by totally random chance hit a Long John Silver’s with really excellent fried okra.

        Since we do at least half our nights non-electric camping, me and the kid are still pretty delighted by hotels. Free hotel breakfast might be the kid’s favorite part of vacation. He certainly remembers it better than stuff like the giant caves and civil war sites.

  9. SP Says:

    Do you bank any hotel points with your work travel? I stick to Marriot/SPG when feasible, but we also are allowed to book through hotels.com. Between my husband’s bookings and mine, we usually end up with some free nights on hotels.com and maybe one night with Marriot.

    Since we got married, we’ve done a bigger vacation every 2 years on average (we go whenever we can but skip years with new jobs or new puppies or whatever). We do a backpacking trip each year (but maybe not this year), visit one family for the holidays, and I make at least one bonus trip to see my family. I try to do a weekend getaway or two, but the dog has made that harder. Before marriage, it was mostly driveable trips, often hiking. Living together did increase our travel budget!

    I’m a big fan of combinging international trips with T’s conferences when possible. It reduces costs, and his conferences are in interesting places much of the time. Of course, we do the real vacation either before or after since he is busy during the actual week. I am comfortable exploring by myself and have done that – but it is better together!

    We are NOT relax on the beach / by the pool people at this stage in life. The best trips include some time in nature and a bit of adventure. I like getting out of the norm. I like cities too, but generally feel overwhelmed if I spend too many days in a row at tourist attractions. Norway was probably my favorite vacation… although our honeymoon Venice / hiking Mt. Blanc trip was also very cool.

    I also love figuring out the logistics – not always in the moment, but the planning is fun for me. I can never just say “oh, you conference is in Barcelona? We will spend a week there!” I always try to make the most of it, see a few things, and have a bit of adventure. I have to be intentionally in not overscheduling us, because my tendency is to do so. Alas, we are no longer 22 and I need to factor in the fact that we might get tired!

    • Leigh Says:

      We have huge conflicts with family vacations because we tend to want to explore places with our vacation days, while my family likes to sit on a beach and do nothing for two weeks! They also like to do that at winter holiday time, which makes seeing them at Christmas difficult… We aren’t big hikers, but family will drive to the top of a big hill and take pictures, rather than walking up there.

      I don’t know about you but I tend to get excited about them by anticipation so planning a trip over many months is really great for that!

  10. Debbie M Says:

    Mostly I vacation wherever people (or conferences) invite me. However, in the past decade, my boyfriend and I have independently planned some of our travels (London, England; Amsterdam (after seeing a friend’s pictures); Disney World; a cheap cruise; a music cruise; New Orleans).

    I like to travel once a year, but I’ve been getting a lot more invitations recently:
    * my sister moved to a far away state for a job–she loves it there and will not be coming back
    * some friends moved to California (far away) for a job and want us to visit
    * a friend from Spanish class is going to college in Argentina and wants us to visit
    * and you already heard about our Spanish study-abroad trip to Spain and friend’s significant birthday trip to Norway last year.

    Also, I wouldn’t mind re-doing that music cruise and want to visit DC for the Smithsonian (and probably other stuff) and drag my boyfriend to Utah (Arches and other gorgeous places). And now that we’ve realized that Amtrak goes straight to Chicago from our town (though over two days), we want to go there, too. (We found out because it’s on the way to my sister’s.)

    I also like the planning stages–reading up on what’s available and the background and culture of the place is fun. I do like to bring a huge list of things to do, organized by location in priority order (in case something turns out boring/short, we can find something else good nearby). I like everyone to tell each other the thing we most want to do–if we all get to do our favorite thing, I call that a success. Then when we get there, we try to do those most prioritized things first, or at least schedule them first, then work other things around them as we see fit. Of course we never do even half of what’s on the list, but that’s so much better than having more time than ideas. Oh–I like the active kinds of vacations, not the relaxing kinds. (If I wanted to relax, I’d go to a local hotel with good room service or delicious restaurants and pools or whatever nearby.)

    Also, I prefer vacations that are all in once place. Once I get there, I don’t want to spend a lot of additional time commuting between sites. I like a single home base with maybe day trips. I also like to get to know a place, so if we love a store or a restaurant, we get to go back.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DH has been to London. I had a chance to go to France this summer but decided I didn’t really want to, so my coauthor is presenting.

      Sounds like you have a lot of great friends to visit!

      I’m such a big fan of the get a home base and day-trip that I’ve done two faculty development leaves!

  11. Sneakers Says:

    Travel always rejuvenates me – even a weekend away to friends’ two hours away. Staycations to me are misery – because all the house projects seem to scream at me to get done AND there’s the expectation that we’ll be doing fun things in addition to the list of projects.
    We, like Cloud, prioritize travel as our largest expense after savings/mortgage – part of this is that I have family all over including my parents (in India) and are at the point where they can’t travel any longer to see us, so we go most years (skipped the year when daughter was 1.5 and putting everything in her mouth) for a week. We both have friends from living abroad – and we want our daughter to know more than our US east coast city. We’re also urban in our perferences – so I’ve been trying to do at least one trip that isn’t urban a year – meeting in-laws in Colorado this summer again for that. This has been working because I’ve worked at current company for 10+ years and accrue 4 weeks of vacation – will have to see what my next job (fall) will have vacation wise. That being said, we stay with family/friends as much as possible to reduce costs or renting an apt so that we can cook most meals etc. And I can spend hours figuring out how to save major dollars on flights too. It is all in what a family’s priorities are.


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