Vacation, Vacation, Vacation

For the frugal family on a budget, vacations are one of the trickiest things to balance. On the one hand it’s important to expose the children to different cultures and experiences. However it is also a potentially expensive proposition.

We also have different types of vacation. For example I just got back from my annual 5 day trip to Los Angeles. I go every year to a science fiction convention and meet up with friends. But this is obviously not cheap. There are larger expenses (flight approx $200 and half a hotel room for 5 days at $450). Then on top of that there are other expenses such as food and alcohol(!) any expenses for trips away from the convention and souvenirs.

Eating and drinking in a hotel can be extremely expensive so usually myself and my friends typically visit the grocery store and stock up on suitable items for breakfast and lunch and then eat out at dinner. Also I can’t justify paying $10 for a beer in the bar against purchasing a 6 pack for $9.

The next time to think about vacations is potentially over spring break. Unfortunately flights are crazy expensive over that week. I was looking into a possible weeks trip to Washington DC as we have good friends there. Also I think it’s a trip that all kids should do at least once. Our daughter has been but our son has not. He would get a real kick out of the Mall, the Smithsonian and the National Zoo. Unfortunately at approximately $500 the flights are probably too expensive. Especially if you need to add in a car and hotel.

Our main vacation has already been planned though. We will be heading back to the UK to see my mother for 3 weeks in June. We had already planned to try and do this trip somehow with points from our airline accumulations. We had a load of miles on both United and Delta from our various overseas trips so wanted to see if we could use these somehow.

Originally we had thought we wouldn’t need to. Back in October flights to London were around $600 which is the cheapest I had ever seen for summer flights. However by the time we were committed the flights had gone back to $900. So we started looking at using miles.

It’s interesting comparing the reward systems at United and Delta. United seems easier to understand, economy flights have 2 fixed costs either low or high depending on the date. Delta seems a lot more fluid with several different costs. However Delta does have a nice 50/50 system where you can pay for half the price with money and half with miles. So by using that we were able to get our tickets for only $450 each. Which is a good price to Europe. The other advantage is that Delta has direct flights to London out of PDX.

Obviously there will be other costs associated with this trip such as car rental. For half the time we will be staying with my family so costs are negligible there. There will be travel for the other half, so we will need to think about hotels and food which will need planning. Luckily the kids when we are in England are quite happy eating “street food” such as pasties and sausage rolls. So we can do this quite cheap. We will probably also purchase an English Heritage Visitors pass which for 16 days allows unlimited access to historical sites for £72. It’s a pretty good deal and allows us to add some cultural activities to the trip.

We may do one more trip at the end of the summer but that is very much dependent on how we do over the next few months. The kids are keen to back to Disneyworld and also living in the Pacific North West we are keen to travel up to Alaska on a cruise out of Seattle. However both of these are expensive propositions and may have to wait until next year.

Vacations are an important part of a family lifestyle, but they aren’t cheap. However by cutting expenses in other areas we can ensure that everyone has a memorable and fulfilling experience.

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