In the last couple of years I’ve become an advocate for regular vacations. I KNOW that they cost money and that they aren’t always “practical” but in the words of our high school weightlifting coach “any excuse will do!” (I say this in jest and love!)
And I don’t think that I need to reiterate the benefits of regular vacations, but just in case: THEY REFRESH THE SOUL!
HOW WE’RE MAKING VACATIONS POSSIBLE
Currently our goal is to take two vacations per year, one as a family and the other as a couple. Last winter Tom and I were able to go to Hawaii by ourselves for a week and then in the summer we spent a week as a family at a cabin on a lake a few hours from home.
Most recently, we just got back from a week in Florida with our kids as well as my parents, sister and her husband, brother and 10 year old nephew. Then this summer, Tom and I plan to take off on our own to celebrate our ten year anniversary.
Obviously vacationing isn’t free, and not really cheap either (have you seen what they charge to get into Disney World???? ;) but for us, its worth sacrifices or redirecting resources, so here is what we’ve done to make it possible:
1) We update our vehicles less frequently: We sell residential real estate, so our vehicles need to look “nice” but they’re far from new. For me, driving an eight year old van without a payment is a small price to pay for vacations!
2) We’re holding off on remodeling our home: In the past I would have said “we live in our house everyday but a vacation is for a week, therefore we should put the money into our house.” But as I’ve gotten “older” and experienced the stress relief of vacations, going to bask in the sunshine when it is 8 degrees below zero at home is worth more to me now than granite counters!
3) We look for creative ways to “trade” for vacation lodging: Last year we were able to trade the cabin stay for some graphic design and marketing work that I had done. We’ve also traded real estate services for vacation stays. You may be thinking “that’s nice for you but we don’t know anyone who we could trade” but I encourage you to think outside of the box, you may be surprised who comes up!
4) We did a spending freeze from Christmas to our February vacation: This meant no fast food and eating out of the freezer and pantry as much as possible. I had a $90 per week budget for groceries and incidentals (field trip fees, toilet paper, prescriptions) for our family of 6…this is not much at all! But, it was a fun challenge knowing that it was just for six weeks and then we’d be off on vacation. I know I saved at least $500 during this time, but probably more!
Again, I know it may take a little creativity, but I do believe that once you make vacations a priority, you’ll want to keep going! There is something about getting away from the daily grind for awhile, I always come back refreshed, re-charged and ready to conquer our goals again.
OUR FLORIDA VACATION
One year ago at Christmas my mom announced that she would be taking us all to Disney World this year. It had always been a dream of hers and she wanted our two daughters to experience the princesses while they still appreciated them. So we headed to Florida with our four kids (ages 3-8) and my parents, brother, sister and her husband and 10 year old nephew.
Down there, we rented a house from VRBO just outside of Disney. Tom was also able to find super cheap plane tickets for us and we didn’t check any bags to keep the cost down.
The weather was perfect the whole week we were there and after much debating, we decided that two days in the Disney parks would probably be enough for the kids. So we went to the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom. We also spent a day at Clearwater Beach and two days hanging out at the house enjoying the pool, as well as the pool and waterslides that the resort offered.
For 12 of us (7 adults and 5 kids) renting a house that fit us all (7 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms) turned out to be far cheaper than hotel rooms. Not to mention much more convenient. We cooked almost all of our meals there and packed food to bring to the beach and parks.
3 MISTAKES WE MADE AT DISNEY WORLD
The last time I had been to Disney World was in 8th grade, so about 20 years prior, needless to say: ALOT had changed!!! My plan was to just wing it, but I think we should have been a little more prepared. Here are three mistakes we made:
1) We didn’t buy our tickets ahead of time: We arrived at Disney World (the Magic Kingdom) around 10am (we had planned to get there earlier but coordinating 12 people was a little more challenging than anticipated ;) and waited in line for about 45 minutes to purchase our two-day passes. There are many, many places we could have purchased our tickets outside of the park and saved the time in line.
2) We hadn’t downloaded the My Disney Experience app: Duh. The whole Disney experience now revolves around your phone! Reserving Fast Passes, seeing wait times and show times, we really weren’t prepared! So we spent the first hour or so once we got in downloading the app and trying to load everyone’s cards (tickets) into it.
3) We didn’t reserve Fast Passes ahead of time: Honestly, our oldest two are 6 and 8 so I just didn’t think it would be a big deal to reserve spots in line for the rides they would want to go on. Little did I realize that they would want to go on the big kid rides like Splash Mountain and you NEED fast passes for these rides or you’ll wait in line for an hour or MORE.
So, long story short, it was about 1:00 by the time we actually got our act together and figured out how everything worked. But from there, things went pretty well! We had food packed (which was really helpful because we all ate in line and the kids weren’t asking us to buy them things) and we got to see the parade.
3 THINGS WE GOT RIGHT AT DISNEY:
1) We packed food (and ate it!): We packed sandwiches, water and lots of snacks. Sometimes I do this (going to the beach or zoo) and it never gets touched, but with all of the walking we did, we were all hungry! So while we waited in line for rides we snacked :)
2) We saw the afternoon parade: Our oldest had three princesses that she REALLY wanted to see, instead of searching out the individual appearances we watched the parade and they were all there! (Along with the VIP of the Eagles, it just happened to be the day after the Super Bowl, that was a fun surprise!)
3) We brought two strollers: I had an idea that even the older kids would get tired of walking (and they did). Even our 8 year old took a turn in the second stroller and our 3 year old got a good nap in the other.
All and all we walked 6.1 miles the day we went to the Magic Kingdom! So wear comfy shoes and clothes and plan for rest stops :)
DISNEY WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN MY FIRST CHOICE
Honestly, my first choice for a “relaxing” family vacation wouldn’t have been to Disney World (growing up, most often we traveled to National Parks all around the country). BUT, by limiting the number of days in the parks (two really was plenty for the ages of our kids– 3-8) and intentionally keeping the other days low key, it actually was restful.
The kids swam in the pool for hours and hours and hours so we got to sit by and sip wine coolers and read.
And while traveling with family probably isn’t for everyone, for us, it was EXTREMELY helpful! Uncle Princeton never tired of playing with the kids in the pool or at the beach and we were able to divide up kitchen duties. Tom and I even got out for a date night by ourselves.
Of course, this also meant more opinions and expectations to coordinate, but we figured it out!
I HOPE YOU CAN GET AWAY, TOO!
Again, I know vacations aren’t always practical, it has taken us almost TEN YEARS to get to this point, but I do think they are completely worthwhile! Besides simplifying our life and home, taking regular vacations has been the best decision we’ve made!
Here’s to restful vacations!
Let’s keep in touch!
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