Dec 16 2011

The value of a great vacation

Shane and I took our honeymoon as a Holland America cruise to points in Alaska. It was awesome. The food, the hospitality, the views, the relaxation — all of it was fantastic. Unfortunately, it was before I was enlightened about money, and we (stupidly! recklessly!) opened a new 0% interest credit card to pay for it.


I wrote more about the stupidity of that here.

This post isn’t about financials. It’s about enjoying life, and about memories that last a lifetime.

Our cruise was a 7-day deal. We had a day or so on each side of the trip in Seattle, too. The cruise came at the end of four years of college, right after our wedding, and right before we left Indiana for Pittsburgh.

I made a photo book from some of the photos we took, and some of the scenery photos will hang as artwork in our home (as soon as I select frames).

When I was doing Hypnobabies to prepare for the birth of my daughter, my “special place” in my mind was aboard that cruise ship. More specifically, it was me in the “mineral tub” that overlooked a giant deck with spectacular Alaska shoreline passing by. Whenever Shane and I are stressed, we think “ahhhhhh, Alaska!” and smile.

That trip was probably the best 7-day chunk of our lives that we can remember. The memories of the trip still affect us more than four years later, and I know they’ll always have a special place in our hearts.

We have taken a few smaller trips since then, but not nearly on the same scale. I don’t know when we’ll go on another cruise, but we intend to do a vacation of some sort in the coming year. We need it. Not long ago, Shane was telling me how he just wanted to have a few days that he could do whatever he wanted — not having to deal with work, or anything on his to-do list. Just…be.

“They call that a ‘VACATION’!” I told him. He laughed when he realized those do exist. He had just forgotten about them. Poor Shane.

Vacationing with kids doesn’t sound so restful, though I think it could still be fun. I think we’ll aim for a trip with the kids at some point this summer or early fall, and keep it low-key. But I also think Shane and I will try to do a one or two-night trip with just ourselves later next year. Probably after Vivienne is saying a few words, is sleeping more reliably, and is weaned. Her first birthday is tomorrow (!) and a lot still happens developmentally in 6-9 months, so I think she’ll be able to handle it better later on in the year.


We’ll actually make a budget this time and pay for our expenditures outright, rather than charge it and carry a balance.

And hopefully, we’ll rest up and recharge enough to last us awhile.

Life is hectic. It’s important to take a break, relax and enjoy life a bit instead of workworkwork, savesavesave all the time. Why work yourself to the bone and never make time or money available to enjoy yourself?

As such, we’ll include “vacation” as a line item in our budget for 2012 (and hopefully every year after). If money is super-tight for your family, I’d still encourage you to figure out a low-budget vacation. Maybe go visit some friends a few hours away and stay at their house, or switch houses with another family looking for a similar vacation (hey, sometimes a change of scenery is fun!). Or go camping (lol, I am not a big camper at all but I still want to do it again). Or come up with some stay-cation ideas for your own area.

Remember, whatever the financial cost, it will live on in photos and memories for a long time after!

Meet me in the comments to talk about vacation stuff. Tell me about your favorite vacation or one you’re planning soon. Share ideas for vacationing with little kids!

13 Responses to “The value of a great vacation”

  1. We tried doing a one-night vacation to Door County, WI (about 2 hours from our house) this past summer when our son was a year old. It was ok, but he slept horribly and got really cranky. We decided that traveling with a 12 month old is just not worth the hassle to us.

    With #2 on the way, we have resigned ourselves to no vacations for probably another 2 years. Once baby #2 is 2 years old, we’d like to do one family vacation and one spouse vacation every year, just like what you’re thinking of doing!

    Honestly, I’m already looking forward to our first spouse vacation :)

  2. Seems like the way to vacation with little kids is to bring along grandma or another grown-up, so mom & dad can have a little time together.

  3. My husband was always in the “I don’t believe in vacations” camp. He just couldn’t see spending the money. For YEARS I had planned and saved for a beach vacation. He was not on board. I had to save on the side – nothing out of the regular budget. I casually mentioned to my brother that maybe the entire family (18 of us) could all rent a beach house together and the next thing we knew my parents had reserved house big enough for all of us and we were going. My husband was forced into saving for a vacation at that point, but honestly wasn’t looking forward to it at all.

    We went, we had a blast and we came home with my husband having a new appreciation for vacations and wanting to do it again soon. The memories we made were priceless. That was 2.5 years ago. This past summer we drove out to CO for 2 weeks as a vacation, we had a great time with that too. We realized on the way home though that we had never been on a vacation as just us – the 6 of us. So next summer we will take a 1 week vacation as just the family for the first time since we got married 15 years ago. I can’t wait!

  4. We were very poor growing up so the only vacation we ever took was a weekend to the Cincinati zoo. My husband and I took separate vacations this year and have taken mini weekend trips within a few hours of home. It is truly so important to stop and smell the roses (or the ocean). It is worth the money and can be done inexpensively! Recharging your batteries and renewing a relaxed non-scheduled love for your partner is not a luxury-it really is a necessity!

  5. We go on 2 vacations a year (usually). We have 2 kids (3 and 5 years old) and have been doing this ever since they were born. One is to visit relatives that live about 6-8 hours away. This is not always the most relaxing b/c of the driving, but it is important for us to do this. This summer was one of the most relaxing, since we skipped naps for the most part and went to the beach and other site seeing places. For our other vacation, we rent a place with my parents and my sister’s family. The adults all end up with their own rooms and the kids share one room (although we had a visitor one night). We really enjoy this b/c the cousins get to spend time together and so do the adults! One thing that I loved was the pool. One day we stayed where we were and played in the pool all day. One year we did a stay-cation, and that was fun too – we planned to go out and do something every day, that way it felt like a vacation!

    Vacationing with kids is different than when you vacationed as a couple. Before we had kids, I heard how horrible vacation was with kids b/c you don’t really have a vacation. Well, that is not the way that it has been for me! Yes, there are still diapers to change, naps to fit in, the daily things still happen, however there are little to no dishes to do and laundry can be ignored! I also want to say that my husband changed just about every poopie diaper while we were on vacation – he gave me a vacation from that part of my day!! It is important to plan ahead and find things to do with your kids – but allow flexibility. When the kids were taking naps, we would do something in the morning or afternoon, due to naps – you usually can’t expect to be out all day if you want them to get a good nap in (at least that is the way that it was with my kids).

    One thing that I want to do is to plan a weekend (or night) away with my husband. We have only done a few of those since the kids were born…definitely need to fit more of these in!!!

  6. Janelle — you have given me some extra ideas to consider, thanks! I don’t think a vacation with kids is going to be all-out horrible, so long as we can plan ahead and also have low expectations. Of course it’s not going to be the same as a couples-only vacation, but that’s ok, better than nothing. I think if I keep time available for naps (and maybe take one myself, heh) and don’t have the whole thing at a blistering pace we should probably be ok.

    There are so many places just a few hours from Indy that would be fun for us — Cincinnati, Louisville, Chicago, the Lake Michigan area…we shouldn’t have trouble picking places to go.

    Jennifer, so glad to hear you’ve made a vacation believer out of your husband!

  7. I am going to be a bit controversial for a personal finance blogger here, but I would argue that your decision to pay for your honeymoon with a 0% interest credit card was NOT stupid and reckless. Did it ruin your life financially? Are you still paying it off to the detriment of your finances? In 20 years (or even now, just a few years later) are you looking back and regretting the decision? No. You paid it off (likely before the interest even kicked in), and you gained a lifetime worth of memories from one of the best weeks in your married life. This wasn’t a trip that you could have waited and recreated years later when you had more money. Your honeymoon is a one-time deal, and there’s something truly special about that first trip together as a married couple.

    Are there better ways to do it? Sure. You probably should have saved up the cash for the trip. But you were broke college students, and you were about to move to another state anyway, so I don’t know that any savings you had in the bank (if any) would have been better spent instead of saved.

    I dunno. I know I’m way more lax about this sort of thing than the average PF blogger, but I think memories like this are important. I wouldn’t recommend doing it this way, but you did, and it was fine. It didn’t ruin your life. In fact, it very much enriched your life! So I say whatever. No harm done, you know?

    I took so much crap for taking a vacation to Europe while we still had student loan debt. I’m sure some people wouldn’t agree with us buying a house while we still have student loan debt. And some people would think we’re really dumb for taking our time paying off that debt rather than putting every. single. extra. penny toward debt repayment. I say whatever. I have no regrets when it comes to that stuff. When I’m old and grey, I want to look back and remember happy times and memories. I’d rather have that than a whole heap of money in the bank.

    I’m not saying anyone should put themselves into serious trouble to make those kind of memories, but as long as there’s food on the table, a roof over your head, bills paid on time, and some money for emergencies, it’s okay to make some dumb money choices if it enriches your life.

  8. Oh, and vacationsssssssssssss. We wanna go to Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village before we have baby #2. I think Judah needs to be just a tad older to appreciate it, so maybe I’ll be pregnant when we do it. I dunno. Anyway, I used to live near there when I was a kid, and my family had season passes, and I have so many good memories there. Plus Tony is a big old nerd, so I know he will appreciate the historical aspects.

    We had a good time traveling with one baby in St. Louis last month. Yes, it was more complicated than the vacations we’ve taken without kids, but it was a different kind of fun. We enjoyed seeing him experience new things, and he was pretty wiped out at the end of the day.

    The roughest part was after his very early bedtime. He was wiped out by 7 EST, and we were in CST, so he was going to sleep at like 6:30. And then Tony and I had to sit in the dark hotel room and be as quiet as we could to avoid waking him. I’d maybe consider getting two rooms joined together for a future trip. That way we could deadbolt his room from the inside, and put him to bed and still have fun in the other room until we’re ready to go to sleep. But I dunno how expensive that would be. One hotel room is expensive enough!

  9. Karen, you do have a point. It was the only chance we really had to take a big vacation since we were moving so quickly, so it was really then or never. We did pay some interest on it because we didn’t have the whole thing paid off by the time the 6 months was up and I wish i could remember how much interest we did end up paying. We had credit card debt on other cards as well.

    The biggest problem with our “plan” was that we didn’t really have a plan to pay it off, or a budget. We figured, “Ooh wow, Shane is getting a big shiny college graduate salary, and Kacie is getting a paid internship…we’ll be rich!” Pfft.

    We are really lucky that we were able to take care of it quick, but it could have gone bad fast too.

    I had debt and minimal income and I was approved for a big ol credit card…and a few months ago I was turned down for a Kohl’s card. Weird!

    You are right though, the experience certainly didn’t ruin my life at all. It made it better. Who cares about the few hundred bucks I might have paid in finance charges in the long run? I just wouldn’t do it that way again, and that’s ok. I have time to save up and more income to work with now thankfully.

  10. Well…I’m probably going to be a bit controversial in my response, but I’d like to share what we have done to pay for our next vacation. So please don’t anyone get angry at what I’m going to share…this is truly something that worked for our family…I am not saying everyone should do it.

    We have a Disney Visa Credit Card. We put a lot of our monthly bills on it…like our cable, cell phone, propane, etc. basically all the things I regularly budget for and have money allocated for. I know, I know…a big Dave Ramsey no no. (and I am a FPU graduate and have paid all our debt off except for our mortgage) But I pay our bill in full every month and always on time. I have never carried a balance…so we don’t incur finance charges or late fees. We did this so we could earn points/Disney dollars to pay for our trip to Disney. Which I am happy to say we are going on this coming February. With the points saved on the cc…we have paid $1800 of our $2400 trip! So our out of pocket for a 7 day trip to Disney, including park passes, the meal plan and a stay at a moderate value resort will be under $700.

    We are planning on canceling the credit card after this trip…but it has been well worth it for us to use our cc this way. I definitely would NOT recommend this if you are not able to be diligent in paying your balance in full every month, but my hubs and I are rather anal about paying our balance every month so it hasn’t been an issue for us. However, I know for some people it could be the first step into a very bad situation. I’m just saying for us it worked well. And I know I can say we would not be going to Disney in February had we not use the cc in this way. Our finances have been limited lately we would not have been able to save $1800 on our own. So this worked for us as a way to save for a dream trip!

    Just my 2cents on what worked for us.

    PS. We also waited and booked the trip when we knew that the were offering a free meal plan promotion! That greatly helped!

    PPS. Our next dream trip is a cruise to Alaska…so jealous that you went!!!

  11. Tammy — I think your plan sounds pretty amazing! I mean really…earning enough points for $1800 worth of your vacation budget? Yeah, that’s awesome!

    I know Dave is anti-credit cards, even if they give points. He reasons that we will spend less if we use cash, and he’s probably right.

    But still. I think it’s totally fine to use a credit card rewards plan so long as there’s never a balance.

    We have a credit card that earns us 1% cash back, for example. I ought to look into some sort of points thing for vacations just to see how it compares.

    For folks who use the credit card to pay for regular boring bills such as phone, electric, etc., I don’t get why Dave has such a hard time with that.

    So Tammy, I hope no one gives you a hard time for your creative way to save for a vacation. Enjoy your trip!

  12. We do a lot of trips, and almost always we’re visiting friends or family which makes our trips a lot cheaper. We camp usually 3-5 times every year, plus an annual trip to Indiana every summer, plus at least one trip to New England, plus several trips down to Orlando (where my parents are). We think camping is an awesome way to get away without having to pay too much money (especially since we have all the equipment already). We tend to stay closer to home with that.

    We were able to go to the Dominican Republic to visit some friends who lived down there. I tell you, visiting friends is the BEST way to tour another area. :-) They were able to get us inexpensive housing, take us to all the local places, and overall help us be budget conscious.

    We’re in a tough spot now because we have student loans, plus a money pit of a house, but we don’t want to give up traveling. To be honest, it’s definitely a personal decision, but my concern if we wait until we’re older is that we’re not going to have the health and energy we have now, and we may never go. I also want our kids to grow up traveling. I’m sure it will be harder as we add more to our family, but Savannah has done great.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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