Vacation season is here! Kids are out of school, the weather is absolutely gorgeous (well, for the most part), and people are starting to take summer vacations. While it’s easy to want to keep up with the Jones’s and take your family on a whirlwind European vacation, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a great time.
When a lot of us think of vacations, we think about getting on an airplane and going somewhere great. And you can save a lot of money on air travel if you play your cards right. Check out credit cards that offer airline miles as rewards. But make sure you do your research and choose the right card (and if you carry a balance on your credit cards, under no circumstance should you get a rewards card – they have significantly higher interest rates that do not offset the benefits you get from the miles). You don’t want to choose a card that significantly limits how you can use your miles. You also don’t want to choose a card that has great benefits, but only works with an airline you rarely fly.
A number of my friends have Southwest credit cards, as that is their preferred airline. In my experience, their program is pretty great, and you can even earn extra rewards miles by shopping through their portal. What I love about Southwest is that you can change your flight for free – and that means if you book a ticket and then see that the price drops, you can re-book for credit on your account. The credit has to be used within a year, but it’s better than just throwing the money away. One of my friends just took her family of four on a trip across the country by paying for the flights with Southwest miles. Pretty great deal.
Some of my best childhood memories are of epic roadtrips we took as kids. My parents made sure that we saw what our country has to offer, so we drove all over the place. We couldn’t afford to fly as a family of five, so we drove. Mom had a special box of road trip games that she would pull out, and she had all sorts of activities for us to do in the car. We got to see a lot of the country and we also got to spend a lot of time together.
I think our longest trip was around ten days, and a coworker recently took her kids on a three week trip across the country, visiting baseball stadiums along the way. But not everyone has that kind of leave from their jobs, so consider a weekend trip a few hours away. Take a look at a map, draw a circle centered on your house, and see what you can see.
Staycation is a weird word, but I think it can be awesome. Travel can be expensive, and if a vacation just isn’t in the cards for you this year, consider a staycation. Now, this isn’t the time to take a week off of work and do projects around your house. While that’s a productive use of your time, it’s not very restful and vacation-like.
No, consider a family staycation, where every member of the family takes time off and spends time together. You don’t have to spend the time at home – go to your town pool, go out for ice cream, visit a local park, maybe even see what sort of day trips you can do in your area.
If you go this route, I highly recommend that everyone try to go as technology free as possible. Nowadays we can’t just leave our phones behind, but that doesn’t mean we have to be looking at them all the time. Spend your time together. Reconnect as a family.
And if you’re staycationing solo, just enjoy yourself. Read a book, watch a movie, go for a walk, check out the restaurant that just opened around the corner. Take time to relax and decompress. Life brings enough stress. Sometimes you just need to reconnect with you.
Megan is a 30-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.