Friday, June 13, 2008

Vacation: it is not an option

Since Memorial Day I have been reading a lot, as in about every day, a post or a news story or a so-called experts bulleted list about budgeting or making ends meet with rising costs. I have a major disagreement with these lists, besides the pack over buy your lunch will save you $2000 a year but that’s another post; every one of them insinuates that your vacation is going to be one of if not your major budget breaker so you should consider skipping it.

I am here to tell you that 1) you do not have to blow your budget on vacation, and 2) you need your vacation for your overall well-being.

So, why is there all the hype about vacations and budgets? There are several reasons why this is a big topic at the moment: it’s the summer travel and vacation season; inflation is moving off the charts at the moment; job security and the perception of job security is at a significant low; and culturally we think of vacation as not only a time to rest and getaway from our jobs and routines but we have been encouraged to reward ourselves for the grind we have endured the other 50 weeks of the year with a mega blow-out trip for which has often not been planned, saved or budgeted.

But the biggest reason for talk promoting not taking a vacation is that it buys into the overall fear mentality operating currently; and let’s face it, fear sells copy and keeps people talking about whatever the fear-monger has in mind. Wouldn’t it would be far more beneficial to the readers and the economy to initiate a discussion about how to take your vacation, and feel rewarded and pampered, and stay on budget or even below it – hey, we love a challenge right?

How does someone or a family take a vacation, act fiscally responsible, and still feel rewarded and pampered? Well it depends on the individual to build their own but it can be done. Here is a starter list of things that come to mind or we have used recently on our trip to Phoenix; feel free to add yours in the comments.

1) Plan well in advance; this allows for getting advance special rates and for advance saving.

2) Set a realistic budget and a club account where you set aside the money for vacation.

3) If your destination is drivable but your car is a gas-hog consider the trade-off of renting a more efficient car and leaving yours at home.

4) Can you go in the “off season” instead of the traditional summer vacation season; though for some places summer is the off-season? Ex: We planned our trip to Phoenix for the first weekend in June because the temperature is starting to climb but not oppressive, the snow birds have left, and hotels are begging for customers (the suite we had for $75 a night was $350 a night just a week before).

5) Do you need to be away in paid accommodations the whole time? What makes a vacation? It’s time away from work, away from routine, away from the phone and the mail; essentially the grind of the dailies constantly interrupting your thoughts. Perhaps taking a couple of days on either end of your “trip” and basing from your home with playing the tourist in your local area is an option. For this to still feel like part of the vacation though stop the mail and stop answering the phone when it rings, and get out of the house to a “day destination” each day.

So it’s your turn; how will you keep your vacation this year? Please share.


Melissa Donovan said...

Sounds to me like these budgeting advice articles you speak of are doing nothing more than encouraging people to be oppressed. Bring your lunch, skip your vacation... How about this: find a way to earn more money! Hmm, what a novel idea.

Your ideas about planning and budgeting for a vacation are excellent as is your entire post. It just frustrates me how so many articles encourage people to go along with whatever life throws at them and to give things up (like vacations).

Raise your rates, ask for a raise, look for a higher paying job! That would be my answer ;)

G's Cottage said...

Making more money is a piece of the solution, however here on the edge of the rust belt that is not always an option since work is leaving at a record pace. And, for homeowners who are not able to sell relocation is not an immediate alternative.

Oppression had not come to mind but it also fits. I was thinking more in terms of our wacko 24/7 society. It started with the challenge to the old "blue laws" of no alcohol sales on Sundays, then stores started being open on Sundays, then they started opening earlier and staying open later, and finally 24 hour in-store shopping "for your convenience;" why do we need such convenience? Because more and more people are being forced to work at hours they used to sleep, and shop, and do their laundry.

It is impossible to do part-time clerking for pocket change. Retailers will only offer 12-20 hours a week but demand 24/7 availability. Not only will I not agree to such ridiculous nonsense from a potential employer but I have started refusing to shop at stores that do not have some consideration for employees. Stores need to go back to closing at 8 p.m., 9 at the latest. Security and theft issues would drop dramatically if nothing else which should influence the cost of things in the store because they would be staying in the store for the real customers.

But the point was that whether a person is religious or not the idea of "sabbath rest" is a biological/physiological/psychological need that as a society we are showing the adverse effects of doing without, and vacations are no different.

Okay, I should get off my soapbox. And thanks for your insights as they addressed other issues I had overlooked.