I’ve had some people suggest that we travel a lot. Why yes, I guess we do. Compared to many friends and a whole lot of family we do take off in an airplane, car, bus and our own two feet quite a lot. I don’t see this as out of the ordinary, but other people do. For me it is just a way of life. It is how my brain works. I have to be going somewhere at all times. If I’m not physically moving in that direction than I have to be planning towards moving my feet towards unknown domestic or foreign soil.
So when people look at me and wonder how we can travel so much, I look at them and wonder how they can’t?
Sure there are lots of excuses we can all use, money and vacation time being the biggest ones. These are both tough obstacles to get around to be sure. Let’s tackle vacation time first.
If you are living in the USA, 2 weeks vacation is a luxury to many employees, if they get paid time off at all. Then again, an astounding percentage of people don’t take the vacation time they are paid for. They simply can’t find the time to take off even though it is part of their benefits package when they take the job. By not taking your vacation you are basically handing your boss two weeks of your pay. You just lost money at a job you claim doesn’t pay you enough to take a vacation.
Paid time off: If you do get paid time off, use it. Stock piling it for a rainy day really isn’t doing you much good. Your family needs you to relax and unwind. Your kids need your undivided attention, if only for a day. Weekends at home don’t count. Chores, errands and random other tasks get in the way. It’s too hard to relax with so many of life’s stresses in front of you at all times.
How do you stretch those measly days into a truly relaxing holiday? Well, the government gives everyone an allotted number of national holidays. Most companies adhere to these public holidays and give their employees the day off. Take advantage of them. Have New Years Day off? Take the family away that week. Instead of using 5 vacation days, you will only have to take 3-4 days off. This is the main way I have stretched our vacation time over the years.
No paid time off: Sadly this is part of a bad economy and an even worse mentality of corporate America trying to get all they can from its employees, especially those earning minimum wage. There is a way to get around this though. Start planning ahead. True you may not be able to take a week off, but can you take a day or two? Start putting a little money aside each month from your paycheck to cover the money you would loose by taking a day off. See how fast you can save up. Cut out your morning latte and cut back on the amount of cable TV you have. Every penny saved gets you one hour closer to a day off.
Money is a huge obstacle and on everyone’s mind these days. Many people are just trying to put food on the table. The idea of that luxury, all-inclusive trip they see being advertised on the back page of the Travel section in the newspaper seems like a far off dream only the incredibly wealthy can afford. Maybe that’s true. Having never been to an all-inclusive resort I wouldn’t know. Who says that is the only way you can travel with your family though? Do you have enough for a tank of gas? You do? Then head out in any direction and drive for 2 hours to see where it will take you. Growing up we used to love driving down to the Jersey Shore for a day of fun in the sun and sand. My family was in no way wealthy, pretty much the opposite, but we managed to get to the beach a few days every summer. Let’s look at other ways you can make your dollar stretch.
Who do you know? Growing up my great uncle would let us borrow his cabin on a lake in New Hampshire for 2 weeks every summer. This was my mother’s little slice of bliss each year. We never could have afforded a trip like that on my father’s salary, but with a free place to stay we could swing it. All we had to do was put gas in the car, fill the cabin with our favorite foods and try not to kill each other on the 9-hour drive up. Don’t think you know anyone? Start asking around. You have 500 friends on Facebook, can you swap houses with one of them for a few days?
Where are you spending your money? If you are penniless at the moment or in a jumble of debt but dream of taking a little adventure look at how you are spending your money right now. Are there ways you can cut back?
- Netflix vs. Cable TV
- Homebrewed coffee vs. lattes from Starbucks
- Thrift and consignment shop clothing for your growing kids vs. brand name and designer looks
- Pack your lunch for work vs. buy your lunch every day
- Individual cell phone plans vs. family plans
- Clip coupons, shop sales and buy generic brands vs. all name brands
- Use what is in your refrigerator and freezer vs. buying excess food you end up throwing away
Now that you have looked at ways to save for your trip, look into your travel options. Depending on how much you can sock away you may have more options than you think.
- What is the cheapest airplane, train or bus ticket you can buy to get you out of town?
- How far can you go on a tank of gas?
- What cheap lodging options are there? Camping, cabins, motels, hostels? Start looking.
You can yell all you want that here I am on my high horse lecturing people how to travel as much as we do. I do travel a lot, but I’ve looked at all areas of my life to see how I can make it possible. Travel is priority #1 in my house (after feeding the kid that is). We all have different priorities, but that is mine.