Nickels, Dimes & Quarters: Vacation Fun On Only Cents

A couple years back, I went to a “Meet the Teacher” night at our son’s elementary school. Kids ran into one another in the hallways and were saying, “I went to Disneyland this summer.” “I went to Sea World,”said another. Our son said, “Well, I went to see my Grandma.” One kid replied that must have been boring. Seeing Grandma was more important than his trip to Knott’s Berry Farm during that particular visit.

Everywhere around us, adults are always trying to get that “one upper.” Finding that “one upper” made its way to the kid's at school, taught me vacations, whether long or short, take financial planning as well.

The easiest way I have found to plan for a vacation is take a Visa debit card and each month add money to it. The first month is the toughest, because you miss the money the most. I’m talking $25 to $200 depending on what your final objective is, how determined you are and most of all, what your budget will allow.

Last year our vacation was a bit selfish since my grandson was to be born, but I knew that wouldn’t be fun for a nine year old, it required careful planning. It wasn’t just the financial planning but taking charge in being a one person entertainment committee.

We took a ten day vacation to Missouri to see my daughter, son-in-law and newly born grandson last year. Taking $200 in January for a vacation late June, taking into consideration purchasing tickets three months in advance, and $200 each subsequent month and putting it on a Visa debit card I had saved enough money to take everyone on a weekend vacation within a vacation to St. Louis, a four hour drive from Whiteman AFB, between a two night hotel stay at the Hampton Inn, a visit to the St. Louis Children’s Museum, St. Louis Children’s Science Museum, the Arch, not to mention souvenirs and food for all. Upon returning to Whiteman AFB, the rest of the vacation consisted of evening walks, playing scrabble, going swimming, taking in a movie and launching a rocket 650 ft into the sky. It turned out to be a totally awesome vacation.

Being frugal as much as I can , it was very hard to resist the temptation when the airline asked if anyone wanted to give up their seat in exchange for a free round-trip ticket. Reality kicked in and I thought about the hell I’d go through waiting three hours for the next flight out with a nine year old in tow. I have vowed next time we traveled , I’ll come prepared to give up our seats to see my grandson once again; next time for free. The rest of the summer days were spent with my son and his five friends at my house, in our 12’ x 30” pool.

When it came to back to school “Meet The Teacher” he repeated everything I just wrote to his friends. He was beaming when his friends said “wow man, what I did this summer didn’t even come close to that.”

Having been in the habit of saving, I continued saving $200 a month for Christmas. It seems like a lot, but considering, with our immediate family, my daughters, my grandkids, Christmas had become more expensive than previous years. However, nothing prepared me for it the minute I started to tackle my list.

Economic times have hit every one of us in some form or another. I already have our tickets for our vacation back to Missouri this year. To be very truthful, I haven’t saved one dime for what we’re going to do during it. Words can’t express the welcomed relief I experience when the Chamber of Commerce in Kansas City, Missouri sent me massive packet of information on the free and low-cost activities that will be taking place in their city when we’ll be there. What a life saver! I felt the weight of the world come off my shoulders. That is until my son said to his dad “How come we never have been to a ball game.” Vacation pre-planning is a must, because the local Chamber of Commerce will have information AAA or a travel agents don’t. - the free stuff!

I've discovered more kids do less throughout the year, but when it comes to spring break and summer this is where families are taking their vacations. These vacations are pointless when the kids spend the remainder of the year in front of the television and become TiVaHolics. A vacation doesn’t always have to be one week or two weeks during Spring Break or during the Summer. A vacation can be in short spurts during a two or three day mini- weekend vacations, here and there throughout the year. . I’m looking at this from the prospective of when I was a single parent, who while working, used up all her vacation time to fill in for the days that were taken off because the children were sick.

Its time to go back to basics when family values were simple and vacation fun can be done on only Cents. (cents add up to dollars you know) I’ve dubbed these mini-vacation a Family Weekend Daze. The plan is to group together several activities into a vacation. Nature Daze: Camping, picnic’s, fishing and hiking. Water Daze:– Water ballons, super soakers and hitting the pool. Park Daze: Frisbee, basketball or catch, a picnic, watch a kids sports game and go bike riding as a family. Home Body Daze: Playing PS2 with your child, playing cards or a board game, finish the day with a pizza, that cool movie on DVD, popcorn and having a sleepover out in the living room with your kids. Art Daze: Devote the total weekend to learning about the Arts, visit a museum or a town like Oatman, Tombstone, Sedona or Prescott. Go to a locally sponsored Art Festival and end it with doing an Art project or Photo memory book; kids love those. Plan in advance when you venture out of town and you just might find the cheapest hotel just might not be a dive but the best known local mom and pop, old town hotel, with those old price, and friendly accommodations.

If I’ve omitted any apostrophes or put them where they don’t belong, and have offended anyone by doing so, as I did in my previous blog, oh well, I’ll look to hire an editor or update my word processing program if it really, absolutely matters. I never professed to be perfect, not in my writing or in my own spending habits! Living on 3 to 4 hours of sleep each night, the only mistakes I worry about making in life nowadays, are those I make in balancing my checkbook.