Vacations on one income are not something that occur frequently. And when they do occur they take planning so that we have enough time to set aside the money. Added to that I always look for the best deals.
Most of our vacations are taken in Maine where Jon's parents have a house on a lake. They have had it since Jon was a child, and built it themselves (I mean that literally!). Since it is free to stay, and we can drive there in about four hours, we try to go each summer. Some summers we get there for a few days. Last summer we were able to get away for almost a week and Jon is making noises about going for two or three weeks this summer. The only cost to us is fuel and food and anything we allocate for extra activities. We try to do as many free things as possible and spend most of our time swimming in the lake. We would buy food if we were home so there is little additional cost for us. The only reason we don't spend more time up there is the four hour drive and we need to be able to go for at least four days to make all the packing that is needed for one dog, three children and two adults worthwhile.
However, other than Maine we have taken three family vacations since Madeline was born. Two were to Baltimore to visit friends who live there. One was to Jamaica for Jon's older brother's wedding. The only reason I was both able to go to the wedding was that my wonderful inlaws offered to pay for one of our tickets. An even then it took a lot out of our savings.
I would love to take vacations of course, who doesn't? I would LOVE to take my kids to Disney world or away to some place new for a few weeks. But we don't. For several reasons. One is that we live on one income and we want to do it as debt free as possible. Another is that our kids are young, and if we are going to take them somewhere we should wait until they are older and will remember it. The third is that it takes a LOT of effort to take small children on vacation!
Normally it doesn't bother me. But recently a chance to visit our Baltimore friends came up for this April. A family vacation with several friends and their families as well (there would be three families going to visit the Baltimore friends). This is something we have all talked about doing for several years but have not done. The problem is that they want to go this April. And for us to come up with the money that quickly is not easy. We are planning on using the money we have been saving towards a new and larger vehicle this spring. With only three months until this vacation there is not a lot of time to save extra money.
It is hard to say no at times like these. I don't want to be the only family not going. And I hate to say it is because we cannot afford it. But the truth is that we may not be able to afford it. Jon and I were talking about ways we could make it work. If we drive (it is only 6 hours) we won't have to pay for four plane tickets plus a car rental while we are there. We can bring a lot more stuff with us if we drive as well. When we go away we choose a hotel that has a breakfast, they don't cost more than most other hotels and this saves us about $60 if not more in breakfast costs. We will shop at a grocery store while we are away and buy the makings for sanwiches for lunches. We don't go out for lunch and that saves us about $70-100 during our stay. We are left with buying dinners, which can be done inexpensively if we try hard enough. But even with these cost saving measures the costs add up. Fuel is not cheap right now. Tolls need to be factored in. Money for dinners and any activities we do while down there. We have a dog and would need to kennel her so add another $100 on as well.
We have decided that we will make our decision once we learn how much, if any, we are getting back in tax returns this year. If we have more back than we need for the vehicle than we will go on vacation. We will know in about a month.
In the end being a stay at home mom is much more important that last minute vacations like this. Sometimes we need to say no we can't afford that right now. My friends will understand. And after a few minutes of being sad I will get over it as well. And start planning for our Maine vacations this summer!