Want to put a smile on your face? Google images for summer vacations and take a look at what’s out there!
Beaches, mountains, water parks, national parks, white-water rafting, arts and crafting, hiking trails, biking trails, historic sites … the list of choices and places to have fun in America is endless.
So why are less than half of you smiling?
Probably because less than half of American adults actually take their families on vacation. In fact, according to a survey done by the U.S. Travel Association last summer, 40 percent of American workers are so put off by taking time off that they allow vacation days to go unused every year!
Why would you do that?
It might be because you read somewhere (like here) that the average family spends about $1,145 per person on vacations, meaning a family of four needs an extra $4,580 or so in the bank account to spend a couple of weeks bonding and re-energizing this summer.
I just went online to check the Fay Family bank account and we have the “4” and the “5”, but sadly, we’re missing the “8” and the “0.”
But we’re still vacationing this summer.
That’s because Frugal Man knows there is a way around everything, including the three fundamental questions that have to be answered for any vacation; a) Where are we going? b) Where are we staying? c) How much is it going to cost?
Fund Raising For A Family Vacation
We’ll start here because how much $$$$ you have determines how far you can go and how long you can spend there. Give yourself 2-3 months to pull this off. It’s important that everybody in the family have a chance a chance to contribute something. Here are some money-making ideas.
- Part-time jobs. Parents can do something in the 10-12 hours a week range and bring in anywhere from $125-$250 a week. Kids could do babysitting, yard work and odd jobs and pull in $10-$20 a week. Family goal: $250 a week.
- Eat at home. The average American buys four meals a week at a restaurant and spends $13 a visit. For a family of four, that’s 16 meals times $13 = $208 a week in restaurant costs. Family goal; Get $125 a week of that back.
- Transportation costs. AAA says the average cost to operate a car is 60 cents a mile based on average driving of 15,000 miles a year. That’s about 600 miles a week in a 2-car family. Knock 210 miles a week off that and you’ve met the goal. Family goal: $125 per week.
- Cash-in Credit Card points. You reduce the cost of airfare or hotel stays by using you’re a mileage credit card to pay for your purchases the rest of the year. Family goal: At least one airfare or three nights free lodging.
- GARAGE SALE! If you come up a little short, you can reduce clutter and make some money at the same time. The old couch, bed, table, chairs and set of golf clubs are a good place to start. Bonus points for emptying half of everyone’s closet and drawers. Family goal: $500.
Deciding Where To Go
If the money problem is solved, that leaves destination and accommodations, two subjects that are best inter-linked.
Destination is a totally subjective category for which Frugal Man can offer only one, cost-saving thought: Where you go depends on who you know. Pick a spot that can accommodate your family at no, or very low cost.
In other words, if you’re on a budget, plan something that includes a visit to a relative or friend you won’t see any other time this year. Not having to pay for a few nights lodging – and maybe sharing meal costs those nights – is a great way to stretch dollars.
And stop with the “Oh, I don’t want to impose,” baloney. If this is the only way you can afford to see your relative or friend and keep those connections alive, call ‘em up and ask. You might be surprised at the answer.
Home Exchange Program
Failing that, bargain for a place to stay.
If you have a house in the South, someone in the North or West might want to exchange homes for a week or two.
There are websites set up to make this happen.
Or, you could double up. My kids love the beach. So do my sister’s children. Neither of us can afford a nice beach house rental on our own, but when she splits the cost with us, both families win.
The bonus in this is that you save not just on hotel expense, but eating out expenses as well. That’s more money to spend at the theme park, water park or golf shop of your choosing.
A Few More Cheap Thoughts
First the obvious: If you can, drive, especially if you’re sister will let you borrow her hybrid. Gas prices almost demand that you drive these days. If you have to stay at a hotel, choose one with free breakfast. That’s $40 more in your wallet.
If you’re flying, do it on a Tuesday or Wednesday when fares are typically cheaper.
The last cost-saving suggestion is to plan your vacation around festivals, museums, outdoor concerts, and campsites.
Summertime is playtime, especially up north where they have to hide inside for too many months a year.
Pick just about any section of the country and you will find some sort of production that highlights what they do best in that area. It could be the Tanglewood Music Inn in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts or panning for gold In
Yosemite or catching a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
And if you happen to have friends or relatives near those places, so much the cheaper!
It’s Gotta Be Fun
There is a fourth fundamental I’d like to add to the three listed above: Make sure it’s fun. That should be the No. 1 goal for any family vacation. Vacations are lifetime memories. You want your kids telling their kids stories about where they went and how much fun it was.
If you go to the beach, put the kid on a surfboard and take a picture. If you go rafting, buy the video they offer at the end of the trip. If you take them to a baseball game, buy ‘em a hat and make them a fan of that team for life.
Can you afford to do something that the kids will be talking about 25 years from now? Yes, it takes a little planning and probably some sacrificing to make it happen, but think how much fun it will be to hear them tell those stories to their kids. Give them a memory they’ll want to share.