By Denise Long
Vacations are best enjoyed with minimal stress. But sometimes we invite anxiety on trips through poor planning. Other times we forget the simple joys of slowing down and spending time with family, and these are usually the reasons we look for a break from work and our daily grind. Here are some ideas for fun, inexpensive, and worry-free vacations that focus on family.
Develop a vacation budget well in advance
Preparing for a vacation requires more than buying tickets and making reservations. Before you decide on a vacation, begin the planning process with a budget. Some experts say that the average family spends 10 percent or more of its total annual income on vacations. With the average U.S. household income currently at $67,000, a vacation could cost $7,000. There are many ways to spend less and still experience an unforgettable vacation, but knowing what your family can afford helps you contain costs, set reasonable expectations, and lessen money worries during the trip and afterward as the bills come due.
Make sure your budget is comprehensive. Set a daily spending allowance that covers meals, transportation, and activities. Build in a buffer to your budget of 10 percent, which helps if unexpected expenses arise. If you don’t use the extra amount, splurge on the last day with a special meal or leave with cash in your pocket as a bonus.
Connect with family
Including other family members in your vacation is a way to make sure that your children maintain strong connections with family. An annual vacation with Grandma, for example, is a tradition that your children can cherish, and the time away is beneficial to her as well. The older generation can join in on the vacation planning, and budgeting should also be a process that involves the whole family. Including children in preparation teaches them the value of money and the importance of budgeting, while also reinforcing that quality of time is more critical than choosing expensive vacation activities. Explain your budget constraints to Grandma, not necessarily to ask for her financial assistance, but to make sure your kids have a consistent message about the trip’s finances. Once you’ve determined your budget, plan your destination and activities to maximize your buying power each day. Here are some budget-friendly and stress-reducing travel ideas and tips for families:
– Take a road trip for many sights and budget savings. Airfare for a family adds up, as many airlines have reduced or discontinued child fares. For many people, there are fantastic destinations that don’t require a flight. Look for resort towns and historic cities that are in your region. A road trip slows down a trip and adds more areas of interest, and sightseeing is cheap, so you’ll free up more of your budget for gas, tolls, and road snacks.
– Hit local or regional beaches. Whether they are at an ocean resort town or a mountain lake region, beaches are fun, relaxing, and cheap destinations. Most areas in the U.S. have a waterfront vacation town within a day’s drive. Even the geographic center of the country—Lebanon, Kansas—is only 500 miles to the Great Lakes.
– Plan meals to maximize budget. Lunches are often cheaper, but just as filling. Make your midday meal a sit-down affair and grab a more casual bite for dinner.
– Plan with four-legged members of the family in mind. Some vacations are pet friendly, while others are better experiences for all, including your animal, when you keep your pet at home. Consider using a reasonably priced pet boarding service, so more money can be available for your vacation spending.
– Unplug from work. Close communication loops so that you are not tempted or required to be checking email all week. Before you leave, make sure people know you are unavailable. Resist the temptation to try to work a little bit here and there during your trip. It will amplify your stress and can make the vacation unpleasant for others. And you deserve a vacation from your hard work, so take it!
Pleasant vacations are possible when families focus on quality time and togetherness. Look for the hidden nearby destinations, slow down, include Grandma, and remove stress from your life, at least for your vacation.
Denise Long is the Grandma in CHIEF at grandmothering.info
For more by Denise check out her latest article Making Lasting Memories with Your Children.
For more tips on how to entertain small kids while traveling check out this page full of invaluable advice.