thinking about traveling

March 21, 2009 |  Category:   life travels


…or our lack thereof. Actually, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and starting to wonder, for the first time, whether I’m being too fiscally conservative (meaning, cheap) by denying us vacations. I know where it comes from: when you don’t pull in a steady paycheck that you can count on and plan with, it’s really really scary to spend money. I’m not talking about a nice meal or a pricey clothing purchase, but the kind of money it takes to finance a vacation, even a short one. So my automatic answer has always been, no, we can’t afford it.

Mark traveled as a kid, but I didn’t. Vacations were not something that we did at all, save for the occasional long weekend motel stays in Montauk or the Poconos, so once I got to college, I took off entire summers as soon as I could. Since then, I’ve been to every state but 6 (ok ok, I AM counting drive throughs, but I should get bonus points for being in Alaska) and drove across country 3 or 4 times. Mark and I traveled as much as we could afford before the kids came along, mostly to Hawaii and a few European cities, but travel slowed almost to none once we had kids. The few times we’ve been on a plane have been to either LA or Seattle to visit family.

I’ve really been wanting a vacation lately. A real one too and not just one where we’re staying at someone’s house. M’s been dying to go to Hawaii. Maybe it’s been passed on in her genes, but she talks about “going to the Hukilou” all the time and protests with jealousy saying it’s not fair that we’ve been there multiple times when she hasn’t even gone once. Hawaii is not in the cards for us (way too expensive and an 11 hr non stop flight – or worse, multiple stops with 2 kids? Oh hell, no), but I’ve been dreaming about a beach vacation for years. I still don’t know if I’m ready to decide if we can afford it. It was almost easier back when we really didn’t have any money, but we’ve scraped by the last few years to build up savings, so in *theory* we can. I am taking small steps, though. Now that the girls are older, I’ve shuffled our priorities to make at least one yearly vacation happen, however small. I see that it’s important for them, but also important for us. We want to travel. I’m tired of being jealous of other people’s vacations and I’m tired of being so frugal. Our frugalness has paid off, for sure, but I think I’m starting to get a bit more comfortable relaxing our budget a bit by doing things like go out to eat more than once a month (craaazy, yeah?). We’re thinking of renting a house on the beach in the North Fork, LI for a week in August, but I kind of want to go on a long weekend trip somewhere in May or June. So….where does a family of frugal minded people go? Any ideas?

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  • erinn March 21, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Not the most cultural vacation, but my brother-in-law took his family on an all inclusive to Jamaica. Kids are 5 and 3. They loved it. And it was relaxing and recuperative they said. Got a great price on it supposedly, but unfortunately I am not sure how much.

  • Christina March 21, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    We go to Cape Cod in the spring. It’s the off season so lodging is much more affordable and there aren’t any crowds. The beaches are still great (we’re not swimmers so we don’t care that the water is too cold) and there’s always some nature blooming and fresh seafood to eat.

  • Gabriel March 21, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    save the north fork for early september if you can. prices can go down dramatically. this summer season already has fewer renters confirming early. and if you have a choice get a house on the peconic bay instead of long island sound. waves are more calm for the kids.

    for may-june how about a road trip to montreal?

    have you guys looked into the companies that arrange for housing exchange to save on costs? a friend has done it twice – his brooklyn heights for berlin and it has worked out well.

    and this may sound cheesy as hell but all inclusives in punta cana (dominican republic) can be a great bargain. went to the club med there 2 years ago (february) and it was pleasant in a semi-suburban way – some of their other locations are quite outstanding though. flight to punta cana is very quick from jfk. and they have kids clubs so you and mark can be on your own during the day.

  • Gabriel March 21, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    oops. nix the early september/after labor day advice for the north fork. forgot about the girls and school. being a freelancer has it’s many advantages : )

    did a quick scan on craigslist and prices have definitely gone down for summer rentals.

  • Brenda March 21, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Now’s a great time to travel – airfare and lodging prices are steadily dropping!!!

  • Annie From Seattle March 22, 2009 at 12:20 am

    How about Miami? Great beaches, great cheap Cuban food (oooooh! yummy!), great people watching. Like Brenda said, prices almost everywhere are amazing and I bet a ticket between NYC and Miami would be reasonable. Non stop flights and way shorter than the horror flight between NYC/Seattle. That’s a hellish one. If you had more time, you could rent a small car and drive down to the Keys. Google Dry Tortugas National Park. We did that trip when I was a teenager and I still remember how fun it was….. Can’t wait to see where you go! Fun to think about!

  • Becca March 22, 2009 at 3:02 am

    I’m not a good flyer (this will change, I must see New York!) so I tend to train it everywhere…I’ve just come out of university as well so I’m quite broke. I think it’s magic spending time in the countryside. I guess I’m lucky as there are loads of hidden gems in England & Scotland in particular. It’s fun to pack a bag jump on the train and spend a few days wandering over the hills and not wearing makeup 😉

  • patricia March 22, 2009 at 6:59 am

    what about houseswapping? we live on the cape, you can walk to town and several beaches from our house, etc. we would love to do a swap but everyone seems to have a cat (and we are both so allergic)…my dad did it several years ago, too — with an irish family, they loved it and he got another trip to ireland (plus it included the vehicles in that case)…it worked out great…

  • Fiona March 22, 2009 at 7:16 am

    Chime Gabriel. I think Montreal is a great idea. Or Toronto, which is straight north of you and where you could do tourism things (like the Royal Ontario, with its collections of Asian art!) and cultural things (amazing outdoor market, for instance). There’s a beautiful lake district up there, too. Lake Rosseau is lovely.

    But even without passports for the girls, you could visit the coast of Maine early in the season. It will be chilly, but beautiful and great for walking. Warmer but also a bit wild is the eastern shore of Maryland. And there’s a lot of history in both places, if you’re so inclined.

    We use to rent apartments and houses, and have had lots of luck with it in Paris, Seattle, and elsewhere. It’s generally much cheaper than a hotel and you can often get useful baby stuff. Plus, you definitely get a kitchen.

  • sarah March 22, 2009 at 7:56 am

    when i was young my parents always took us to st. john, usvi… if you are up for a little adventure, say at maho bay- great little eco cottages along the hill with gorgeous beaches, etc. it’s a fun, safe easy little island with kids. and, flights are relatively short and inexpensive nowadays!
    for a spring/summer trip, i couldn’t recommend the cape more. but then, i grew up there! dennis is a lovely little family town with VERY kid-friendly beaches. house rental prices have dropped dramatically for this season too. please feel free to drop me an email regarding either place, i have loads of suggestions and contacts!

  • shannon March 22, 2009 at 10:18 am

    i was going to suggest the house swap too. someone may be just soo excited to spend some time in NY at yoru cute place.
    If that is not an option, there is always the beautiful New England coast. Boston, childrens museum, aquarium. Up the coast to Maine, southern Maine beaches. Old Orchard Beach has a boardwalk and carnival type atmosphere. All drivable. Renting a cottage in Maine is an idea. Good luck!

  • Claudia March 22, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    As I´m talking from Brazil, unfortunately I can´t give you
    tips of short and cheap trips to the beach, but I can assure and agree with you that this is the best thing you and Mark can do for you and girls. Actually I´m on vacation at the beach right now with my family (husband and 2 kids) after 2 years of “vacationless” and we realized that ‘vacation’, longer or shorter, is necessary and extremely healthy. I hope you can find a destiny that can fit in your conditions that you are proposing and have a lot of fun with the girls!

  • selkie March 22, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Edgewater Farm B&B (they have a shallow indoor pool for girls) in Phippsburg ME for a long weekend: gorgeous beaches to walk very close by, JelBlue gets you to Portland from NYC. Go to Solo Bistro, in FUN city of Bath.

  • Janet Rhoads March 22, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Look up the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. Specifically The Round House at Casuarina Bay. That is where my husband and I went for our honeymoon and it is AMAZINGLY beautiful. Its affordable and very off the beaten path. The whole week we were there, we saw about 10 other people on the beaches and only 2 on our own section of the beach….for miles! If you decide to go here, email me and I will be happy to tell you a bunch of different things to do there!

  • laura March 22, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Oh, the coast of Maine is just wonderful. Specifically York Beach. I’ve only been once but have been wanting to go back ever since. We also love Santa Fe – but it’s not for the frugal.

    Our vacation destination the past three years has been NYC. Just got back yesterday in fact. Looked for you at the flea. 🙁

  • Gabriel March 22, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    maine is great. but might still be a bit chilly for that long weekend in may-june. it’s perfect in august. definitely fly jet blue to portland and then rent a car. i’ve also thought about maybe taking the cheap chinatown bus to boston and renting a car there to drive up to maine. sure beats that long drive through connecticut.

  • Alicia March 23, 2009 at 2:32 am

    I grew up outside of Boston (the duck tours are super great for kids), so I do suggest there or the cape, and as others have said, the Maine coast, or you could also do Burlington, VT, which is a beautiful town, tour the Ben & Jerry’s factory which I did once as a kid and it was a blast. Also there’s the NC coast. There’s loads of options! Let us know what you decide.

  • Andrew Thornton March 23, 2009 at 3:12 am

    We travel with Azalea all the time. It was funny because near the end of our stay in Hawaii, I asked her what her favorite part of the trip was and she said, “The plane ride.” I laughed and said, “Well, guess what!??!? You get another one!”

    It can be tricky to travel with children, but totally doable. There are perks. Like, if you want that extra carry-on, but just can’t pass it off as a carry on, the kids count and get their own. You can stuff their bag into your’s and say, “Mommy and Daddy need a favor. Be a big girl and carry this on the plane.”

    Also, kids don’t need much as far as luggage is concerned and if you’re going somewhere warm, neither do you!

    Going to Hawaii right now is actually pretty affordable, especially traveling from a big hub like New York. Greg, my brother-in-law, got us a hotel at a resort and spa for $50 a night in a room that normally goes for $1,500 a night! Crazy! But the poor economy has some benefits.

    Also, do it the way we do it and make part of it a work trip. Not only will you be able to write it off, but you can at least break even on expenses if not make more and potentially set up a lot of future clients. I know there’s tons of craft fairs and festivals and I think you guys would do GREAT! Not only that but you could trade off on who watches the kids on the beach.

  • Jenna March 23, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Thanks for these ideas guys, they’re great. We’re looking into Cape Cod as we haven’t been there, so that seems to be the front runner at the moment. And I think we want to sty in a hotel and not a house. Mia loves the few hotels we’ve stayed in and since we want to rent a hous in August, thought it’d be nice to stay in a hotel.

    Andrew, I’m going to look at Hawaii just for kicks. It’s not the room that is expensive, but airfare sit still pricey for 4 people. Oh and yes! We write off every trip!

  • Tumus March 23, 2009 at 7:44 am

    personally i think people need to stop being “afraid” to spend money. All of our fear is what’s driving this economy into the proverbial “shitter”. I’m not saying you should stop being frugal or putting a bit into savings, but we all need to learn that the only way we’ll get out of this crapper the government has put us in is to show them that we aren’t afraid to keep living our lives how we’d like to albeit a bit on the lesser side.

    So go on vacation and have some fun, spend your money and don’t regret it.

    Personally I like the Outer Banks down in NC, but that could be a bit far for where you want to travel too. We rent a beach house and typically go off season (Sept-March) otherwise house rental is double. If you want something with more to do I love Charleston, SC. Lots of historical venues, the ocean, nice hotels & kid friendly resorts, and good food!

  • Jenna March 23, 2009 at 7:56 am

    I wouldn’t be so afraid to spend money if at least one of us pulled in a steady paycheck every week. Also when you have to pay $1200 a month for health insurance because of the country’s shitty health insurance situation, it makes you think twice, so our fear is not crappy economy-based. Sure, I can get a job, but that would mean paying the bulk of my salary for childcare (plus, I am SO not an office person!). I think we are working toward a happy medium. I’m finally at a comfortable place with my freelance business. Small steps. I would love to check out the Outerbanks, but yes, might be too far of a drive for a long weekend. But I will check it out for future trips, thanks!

  • jennifer March 23, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Chattanooga. It is a really fun place to take the family. There are activities both you and the kids will enjoy and it is not very expensive. The Aquarium is fun and there is good shopping and dining.

  • jennifer March 23, 2009 at 8:19 am

    I always feel like escaping ny this time of year when the end of winter drags on. And in august, definitely. Every year I swear I’ll plan vacations for those two times of the year and we never do, drats! I’m trying to convince Steve to do Vietnam and Cambodia but he’s not biting yet.

  • Heidi March 26, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Believe it or not, Bucks County PA and Philadelphia together makes a nice trip. Especially in the spring – very green and pretty. I recommend Doylestown for its relaxed artiness (and a great first friday), driving around the countryside, New Hope and Lambertville for great eating, small shops, philly for its art museum, excellent (and cost-effective) restaurants, and a great food market in the old Reading Terminal. Check it out on the web.
    And then write to me- I’ll give you the lowdown on all the hidden gems!

  • jean March 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    What about Quebec City? A Foreign country, less than 2 hrs from NYC by plane, looks Europe…

  • Kellee April 7, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Can I just say that I stumbled onto to your page after being obsessed with BabyGadget, and I’m hooked. I’m 19 years old and my roommates think its so weird that I follow a family I don’t even know. Your recipes and lifestyle are so reminiscent of my upbringing. I’m half Chinese half Caucasian and your daughters eat the same stuff we did.

    But to comment on the travel piece, Hawaii is definitely where you want to go. Sure, the beaches and the sun are enticing but it is so family friendly and something you might look into is a house swap, for I know many people participate in that – which would help cut costs. And by eating at the local spots ( which I could give you some pointers) eat meals about 6-7 dollars. I really recommend it.

  • Jean April 13, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Just thought of something else: take separate vacations. I know it sounds weird, esp. from someone who doesn’t have any kids, but my friends started to do that. One spouse goes away with friends and the other stays behind with the kids (with some help of course) and then they would switch.