Add me to the numbers of people who got covid for the first time this past month

I was supposed to present on the second day of the conference.  The first day of the conference, I had an itch in my throat and a cough, but I’d had a negative covid test and attributed it to all the ambient cigarette smoke (in fact, that may have actually been what the problem was).  The morning of the second day, I woke up with an extremely sore throat and felt a bit like death warmed over.  A covid test came up positive.  I was one of the few masked people at the conference, and definitely not the only person with a raspy cough, but I still feel guilty.

I didn’t go to the rest of the conference.  And everyone at the conference was told to mask up because of me.  I watched and presented from my hotel room bed in between naps.  It didn’t go great and I’m a bit depressed about it all.

Fortunately the kids had a separate hotel room and were extremely mature about it all.  They did a lot of outdoor activities like the zoo and botanical gardens.  They also got a lot of use out of the Switch and Kindle.  DH eventually got a positive covid test but the kids never did.

Then we had to decide whether to go to Paris as planned or to find another hotel room to hole up in.  DH was feeling fine, I wasn’t, but we would have to travel to get to any new hotel room in any case (our then current place was booked).  So we went to Paris and I stayed in the apartment with the windows open while DH and the kids did a boat ride.  At least I did get to try Paris food, which was amazing.

I have had worse colds, but Covid was definitely not pleasant.  Not a fan.  And it came at a bad time.  I feel like I should never get excited about things because that makes the disappointment so much more acute.  Also, the last time we decided to do a vacation, the pandemic stopped it from happening.  Apparently even combining a little vacation with a conference wasn’t enough to allow me to enjoy a vacation this time.  The universe wants me to stay home.

So, I’m covid negative now, but still feeling sorry for myself.

Europe in the summer is expensive!

DH and I have been booking hotels.  One of the problems is that we’re visiting when most of Europe is on vacation, so hotels that are 99 Euros/night now are $200+ Euros (often more) when we’ll be there in a month.  I wonder a bit if we might have saved money going over Spring Break or the very beginning of summer without any conferences to defray expenses, especially since flights are less expensive now too.

So we fly in, and take a train (tickets not yet purchased) and stay two nights in a “fairy-tale city” that my sister said we had to visit that is also near my second cousins.  $514.42.

Then we train over to a city where I’m giving a talk and spend two nights there (partly defrayed by university).  Our share: €250

Then we head to conference city for 4 nights (partly defrayed by conference).  Our share: €170*4 = €680

Then we head to Paris for 3 nights:  €1,053.56

Then a night at the airport hotel:  $150.51

So, all told, something under $3,000 for housing, depending on exchange rates.  Could we have done all of this cheaper?  YES.  There were sketchy looking places at a fraction of the price, particularly in Paris.  But all of the places we picked have lots of good reviews (for Europe– which is similar to good reviews for NYC– many of these are tiny and old!) and are walkable and close to rail transportation.

We haven’t figured out ground transportation yet, but that’s next on the list, along with phones and tickets to popular attractions.  Trains seem expensive compared to driving your own car and cheap compared to flying, but also extremely convenient.  It looks like it will be something like 50 euro each, give or take, every time we change cities, though I might be underestimating there.  We want to go to museums.  We want to eat out all the meals (except full continental breakfasts are included with about 2/3 of the above hotels, so maybe not breakfast).  (I love Continental breakfasts with their emphasis on things that aren’t sweet, especially when there’s local whole grain bread included.)  I’m not sure how much we will want to go places not in walking distance of the hotels, possibly not that much.

I also added DH to my Capital One account so he has a card with no foreign transaction fees.  So there’s a little savings there.

And DC2’s passport arrived with plenty of time to spare.  Yay!

Any tips for Europe in the summer? (No, I’m purposefully not saying any of the cities except Paris, though if you want more info on that, we’re staying near the Louvre.)

Already planning next summer’s DH-Family Vacation

They decided on a popular Midwestern tourist destination for Summer 2020.  There’s enough stuff that I like (and don’t feel like I have memorized from my own childhood) that I’ll be going too.

MIL is planning everything this year and got into it shortly after last summer’s vacation ended.

We offered to pay half the housing again.  We’re renting a house off AirBnB and our half will be $1500.

We bought four plane tickets.  That will also be $1500.

We’re going to have to rent a car this time around at the airport.  If we don’t put off booking a car for too long, it looks like that will be something under $300.

There’s a lot of attractions at this tourist place, and they all cost varying amounts.  I imagine it’ll be somewhere between $100 and $200/day for our family of four, though we will be spending a day going to a state park which will be some small amount per vehicle rather than per person.  Then there will also be food.  The place we’re renting has a kitchen so it is likely that the in-laws will purchase groceries.  But our smaller nuclear family also likes to try restaurants.  And there’s supposedly some good coffee shops.  We will probably order pizza.

This looks like it will cost more than last year’s trip (even though last year we paid the entire housing) or the first real vacation and less than the Disney trip from two years ago.

Do you have any fun plans for next summer?  How about winter break?

Another real vacation for the family (that I won’t be going on)

DH’s grandmother died earlier this year and she left a small inheritance to her daughters.  DH’s mother has decided to put that money into a “Disney World” savings account and take all 6 grandkids and their parents to Disney World.  She wants to go in June.

This is very Midwestern.  Growing up I think I was the only kid who had never been to Disney World (I had been to Disney Land as a child with an after-school field trip when we lived in California– mostly notable because they lost me in the gift shop and I spent a good portion of the time in the room of lost kids coloring in already colored coloring books and eating lolly pops).  My sister has never been to either Disney.  That money went into our college fund instead.  (DC1 has been to Disneyland and to all the stuff in San Diego in conjunction with work trips for me– we paid for DH’s mom to fly out and take him places while DH took care of baby DC2 and I conferenced.)

I hate theme parks with a violent passion that’s mostly to do with my undiagnosed ocholophobia (well, not precisely undiagnosed– it showed up on the initial anxiety screen when I did CBT but I declined to get it fixed because I can easily avoid the kind of large crowds that freak me out now that I’m no longer forced to go to school dances or 6 Flags trips), and partly to do with the ease with which I get overheated in the sun.  So I won’t be going.  DH will have to go because there are 6 kids going and we have to send at least one adult to corral our two kids.

While I know that MIL will be paying for DH’s sister’s family (they combine a small-town teacher salary with a factory worker salary) and will probably be subsidizing DH’s brother’s family (union engineer + SAHM), we should probably pay our way.  If we book now, it looks like flights will be ~$1,500 for DH and the two kids, and hotel will be another $500, assuming they stay outside of Disney which I assume will be the plan [update:  our house rental will be $500-$1K, and I have to admit, some of these Kissamee houses are nice enough that I’m tempted to go and just work by the pool all day while everyone else goes to Disney/Universal].  Disney and Universal tickets look like they’ll be another $1,500 which seems pretty crazy to me.  So $3,500, not counting food or ground transportation, for a trip that the kids will probably enjoy but DH will find exhausting.  By me not going they’ll be saving ~$1,000, so that’s something, right?  (Of course, I will probably soon start spending similar amounts on academic summer camps for DC1 without blinking an eye, but those are at least more enjoyable for the parents!)

My well-off colleagues seem to be going to Caribbean destinations more and more.  Sitting on a beach has always sounded boring to me in the past (I can read a book just as easily inside without worrying about sunburn!), but given how hectic life has been lately, I’m kind of wondering if maybe they have a good idea.  Though that’s not cheap either.  Staying at home is cheap!  And I can get more work done.

What kind of vacation do I like?  The kind where a conference is paying for most of it, where there’s really amazing and different food to explore, and where there’s history and/or nature and not too much sun.  Sadly I haven’t been going to too many of those recently– all my conferences are either in Boston or Palo Alto/Berkeley these days.  And while those places are lovely, we’ve been so often that I can’t get DH and the kids to tag along with me (plus that whole public school thing puts a crimp in taking the whole family during the school year thing).  So… no vacations for me, and another week to myself next summer.

Have you done Disney?  Which one?  How do you feel about theme parks?  What’s your ideal vacation?  Have any good vacation travel coming up?

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?