A Cheap Summer Vacation?

One of the biggest take-aways I got from the classic finance book, “Your Money or Your Life”, was the idea that you can meet your needs differently.  In our consumer-driven culture, we instinctively reach for our credit cards to meet our needs and wants.  If we want to relax, we book a massage or trip.  If we are sad, we buy a gadget or purse.  We often forget that those same needs/wants can be met by frugal options.

As I said, the idea of frugal options was eye-opening for me.  However, after my intial enthusiasm wore off, I fell back to my usual habits of swiping my credit cards.   As soon as we decided on our summer vacation, I booked a hotel and started looking for deals to amusement parks and zoos.

Of course a slew of bills, including dreaded DMV fees and medical bills, made me re-think our vacation plans.  I cancelled the beach hotel reservation ($140 per night + $20 daily parking fee).  Our planned excursions will be scaled down, too.  Instead of the Long Beach Aquarium  ($18.95 per adult after a discount), I found a smaller aquarium with a $5 admission fee for the entire family.  Plus, the beach is free!

If this change of plans was only about saving money, it would be kind of depressing.  What makes a difference is that I know that these cheaper options will meet the same needs.  A hotel stay would have meant a change of scenery but the kids get cranky in foreign settings and the sleep battle would probably not be worth it.   If I hire the cleaning lady for an extra visit, buy some fresh flowers and change the bed sheets, I’ll be pretty happy.  As for the fancy aquarium, all I really wanted was to expose my kids to more things. They probably don’t have the stamina or interest to appreciate a large aquarium.  A smaller aquarium combined with a visit to a beach (free) will do the same thing.  

I’ve also found a lot of free or lower-cost family-friendly activities to fill out the rest of our summer vacation calendar.  Summer can be fun and cheap.

What are your exciting vacation plans, if any?

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4 responses to “A Cheap Summer Vacation?

  1. Where is this cheaper aquarium? Do tell!

  2. Oh, I forget that some people may live or visit SoCal. One is in Redondo Beach and called SEALab. I was planning to visit the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro. http://www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org/

  3. We did a 5 month caravan trip when our kids were only 7 and 4…we had hardly any funds, my hubby had just been laid off work. Friends were building a house and rented our house so our bills were covered. It was the cheapest and best holiday ever. Time together, lots of parks, picnics, beaches and free stuff. We meet wonderful people and had loads of memorable experiences…..cheaper does not always equal less.
    Have a ball and I am sure your kids will love it!

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