I’ve always really enjoyed breaking up the monotony of everyday life and getting out of town for a few days, whether it be a family vacation growing up or to visit friends for a long weekend as an adult.
As far as trips for leisure go though (where we go on vacation somewhere enjoyable just for the sake of “vacation”), we haven’t done a whole lot of that as adults. Don’t get me wrong; we’ve been fortunate to go all over the country visiting friends, family, and traveling for weddings/work events, but for time and financial reasons (mainly financial), we haven’t been able to plan trips just for the heck of it. To be honest, I didn’t really know what we were missing.
But then I went to Turks and Caicos last May for a wedding and had this moment of clarity where the travel bug swooped down and sunk its teeth super deep into me out of nowhere. I was laying on the beach, soaking up the most perfect day weather-wise, and looking at the most beautiful sand and water I had ever seen. I think I referenced this moment in a previous post, but in that moment I felt very aware of just how relaxed my body felt for the first time in years. I wasn’t thinking about anything but simply just laying there. I couldn’t believe where I was, and I felt so grateful to be there.
I thought to myself “I can’t believe places like this exist and that they are available for us to visit and enjoy.” I had never been to the Caribbean besides visiting on a cruise, and there was something so incredible about the simplicity of waking up, sipping a cup of coffee in peace while walking the shoreline, then throwing on a swimsuit and laying on the beach/swimming in the ocean all day with people I enjoy being with. It was bliss, and I wanted more of it in my life.
Fast forward to this past fall when we flew to Europe to visit my sister’s family in Germany and then vacationed for a few days in a sleepy town in Switzerland called Gersau. Visiting my sister was incredible and such a blast (!!!), but that part of the vacation was very different from being in Gersau. There was just something about being with just our little family, in a place that was sheer eye candy (drop dead breathtaking), and enjoying a mix of outdoor leisure + exploring at our own pace.
I remember sitting on the back porch sipping coffee on our second morning there, and holding back tears in my eyes. I couldn’t get enough of the site of Lake Lucerne against the Swiss Alps, how quiet and still everything was, and just like Turks, and I felt so relaxed and at peace.
So how did these experiences change my priorities? I simply want more experiences like this. I want to prioritize them over other things, plan them months/years in advance, take the kids, and make vacations like this happen annually.
So how to actually do this? I discussed this with Jamie who agreed that travel is something we could start doing more of now.
So we sat down in person with our financial planner, shared our thoughts, and asked him the best way to do this, just like we’ve done in the past with other financial priorities. We needed his help with seeing what kind of wiggle room we had in our budget.
He suggested picking an amount that each trip (at the time for a family of four) would cost, and then divide that number by 12. Then, each month have that money auto-drafted into our savings account so that we aren’t tempted not to contribute to our travel fund that month. If something unexpected comes up, we’d have to consider giving up something else (if possible of course), but if we wanted to prioritize an annual family trip, we’d need to make sure we paid this account at the same time we paid other nonnegotiables (mortgage, investments, tithe, bills, etc.) Simply put, we needed to make a mindset shift and agree together that this was a new priority.
We’ve already been tempted BIG TIME with pulling out of this account for things like a new couch, dining room furniture, backyard improvements, and even this new van we need to buy. At the end of the day, travel isn’t obviously something you have to do and certainly is not a necessity to a happy life, but everybody spends their money on different things, and this is something we want to put ahead of household wants, nicer cars, etc.
We want these experiences with our kids at every age and every stage, and I want a few days a year to look forward to where we can shut the world out and quiet our brains and bodies a bit.
So – with all of that rambling, we’re in countdown mode for our 2019 family trip: Grand Cayman! We found some outstanding deals on our lodging via Airbnb and HomeAway. Jamie is going to be very busy April-June with Reserve and work commitments, so we booked this trip for Spring Break. THANK YOU JESUS for this timing, because we found out three weeks after booking this non-refundable trip that I’m pregnant. Traveling in March will be great, but going in June (our original second choice) wouldn’t have happened that close to my due date.
After that, we can be at ease settling in for the rest of 2019 as we adjust to life with a new baby in July. We’ve already picked our 2020 destination, which will be in October. This will give us 18 months to save as well as give the baby some time to grow into a toddler before we tackle a big trip. I’m already so excited about both trips, and having them to look forward to and dream about with Jamie makes me a giddy little girl! Even Hadley can’t stop talking about the beach. All she wants to do is play on the beach and make sand castles with Sadie, Mommy, and Daddy, and I am ALL ABOUT IT, SISTER! I’ll just have to pass on the Caribbean cocktails and cute two-piece swimsuits. 😉 Fine by me! Haha.
A few tips/take aways:
- Have you ever heard of the old-fashion “Christmas Club” where our parents would put away money all year toward Christmas, and then get a check at the end of the year to spend on Christmas? This was guilt-free money to spend. This is the same concept. It’s also the same idea as putting away money in the “envelope system.”
- The beauty of budgeting is that one should not feel guilt about spending money that has been intentionally saved. Instead of feeling guilty about spending money on leisure, we want to be proud that we saved it and then enjoy it.
- You do not have to put away money once a month. It could be every paycheck, every couple of months, your annual tax return, etc. We decided on our method of saving after counsel from our financial advisor.
- Trips abroad are wonderful, but a weekend trip to a neighboring state to the zoo, aquarium, or amusement park can be just as memorable and enjoyable! One of my favorite trips OF ALL TIME was three nights in San Diego, which was just seven hours away from us at the time. It’s important to figure out how much money you can/want to set aside, set a goal of how often you want to get away, and then make it a priority. For example, we would rather do one big annual trip than a handful of smaller trips. TRULY each to their own!
- Figure out what types of getaways you enjoy THE MOST and feel are worth the money. Who do you enjoy traveling with that enhances your vacation? Do you like adventure or leisure? Do you like warm or cool weather? Are you an early bird or night owl? Do you get anxiety being away from your kids, or no? Who will care for your pets? What aspects of traveling steal some of your joy? For example, if you loathe traveling by car with kids, consider boosting how much you save so that you can fly! We feel that the money is well spent on travel if it’s done in a way that eliminates things that you know without a shadow of a doubt will stress you out, cause disagreements, or cloud the peace you should have with loved ones on vacation.
Anyway, I hope this was semi helpful or insightful into some of the traveling we have done/will do, because I know that I often wonder how so-and-so does this or buys that. The truth is is that our finances, priorities, background, hurdles, successes, and goals are as different as our fingerprints. Sometimes it’s just neat to know how others do things and consider if this or that could maybe be applicable in our own lives as well. As least that’s the reader/writer lover in me. 😉
What is the best trip you’ve ever been on, and what are two or three reasons that it stands out as the very best?
Hi! I’m Erica, and I absolutely adore sharing my life on this website with you! I come here almost daily to blab about all of the things related to being a regular wife and mother in today’s ever-evolving society. I share about our new home, what’s on our kitchen table, what we’re hanging in our closets, where we’re traveling to next, my crazy 5 a.m. work outs, how I make time for girlfriends, our faith, and much more. We always have a lot of balls in the air and somewhat thrive on the chaos. I believe in the power of story-telling as a form of inspiration and entertainment, so I’m here to do both! I was born and raised in north Alabama and recently re-planted roots here again after my husband transitioned out of the Army (he is now in the Reserve and it’s going so well!) I’m a super proud mom to two little girls (ages 5 and 2) who seem to be the stars of the show around here (for good reason – they’re pretty great!) I’m so glad you found me and are here reading! I hope we can get to know each other here on the blog as well as Facebook and/or Instagram. xoxo