Adventures on Purpose: Overcoming Stumbling Blocks
By Bonnie Anderson, Domestic Budget Goddess
Part II of “Adventures on Purpose”
Learn how to manage your time, money, and ambition to make those vacations happen.
Family vacations are put on the back burner for numerous reasons. Soccer season leaves very few weekends open, the dishwasher needs to be replaced taking any wiggle room out of the budget, and the thought of doing the loads and loads of laundry afterwards makes you nauseous. Each of us has our own stumbling blocks that we need to get through to make it happen.
Going on vacations as a family is not something that everyone looks forward to. It’s hard. It takes planning. It takes money. Time. Energy. However, hopefully you read my first post in this series and have decided to make vacationing a priority in your family, so now what?
The first thing to do is figure out what hurdles are holding you back. Some possible obstacles you may need to overcome are:
You might think there isn’t enough time, money, or ambition to have an exciting adventure with your family. It might be a combination of these stumbling blocks that keep you from taking the plunge and packing those suitcases.
Regardless of your personal deterrents, there are ways to overcome them. I have compiled three tips for each of these stumbling blocks that will turn that mountain into a molehill.
1. Plan ahead, even years ahead
This is something we started years ago with our extended family. We made a schedule. We decided that every 5 years we would go on a “mega vacation” with just the adults. Planning out 5 years ahead of time has given us time to get work off, plan for baby births (if that’s even possible), and save up enough money. We schedule it so far in advance that no one should EVER have an excuse not to attend. At least there hasn’t been one so far.
If 5 years seems too far out, try 2-3 years. My 10-year-old son has every major vacation planned out for the next 8 years (at which point he will be 18 and then we aren’t allowed to travel anymore without him). His goals may be lofty but at least it is on the schedule! The point is that you are scheduling it and have made a goal to make it happen. No excuses!
2. Piggy back on business trips
My husband travels about once a week for his job. It is always somewhere within driving distance. So, when it is a desirable destination, and works in our schedule, we pack up the van and take a road trip! He doesn’t have to take time off work and the gas and hotels are usually paid for. Bonus!
While daddy does his work we either hang out in the hotel pool or go exploring on our own (when I feel like I can conquer 5 kids solo.) My husband likes the company we bring and my kids have become expert hotel breakfast and pool reviewers.
Now that I am a writer for Traveling with Monkeys I will be taking my job on every vacation that we take as a family. New adventures will turn into new travel tips that I can share with all of you.
Make your job work for your family instead of your family being held captive to your job. Is there a way that you can count your vacation as a “travel expense”? Maybe you can still work remotely while on vacation? Get creative.
3. Learn to be spontaneous and don’t over schedule
When you find out that the kids have a long weekend because of parent teacher conferences, jump on it! You don’t have to plan years or even weeks ahead of time to make vacations happen.
This last summer I was lamenting that my kids hadn’t seen their grandma who lives 1,400 miles away in 9 months. My baby was almost 1 and she was 3 months old the last time she saw her. I looked at my husband’s schedule and knew that he wouldn’t be able to cancel scheduled work meetings to go on another family vacation after our long trip to Maine.
Although it seemed like madness, I decided to spontaneously drive the 1,400 miles, by myself, with 5 kids. I was desperate for “grandma time,” so I cancelled swimming lessons and made a plan. Since this was a sporadic trip anyway I decided to surprise my mom. We left a few weeks later and showed up on her doorstep, unannounced. The result was the most epic Facebook live video you will ever see.
Being spontaneous creates time that you didn’t know you had. When you are spontaneous you are sending a message to your kids that our family does fun things and makes time for each other regardless of how busy we are. However, we try not to make ourselves too busy that there isn’t an opportunity to be spontaneous without missing something important.
Living in a house with 5 kids there is always something that needs to be fixed, someone needs a new pair of shoes, and unfortunately groceries don’t just appear in the refrigerator (although they do seem to disappear, weird how it doesn’t work the other way around).
At the end of the month there really isn’t a lot of money left over in the family budget for the “fun stuff” that we WANT to spend our money on. I have compiled a list of a few unique tricks to get over that budget hurdle.
1. Monthly Saving
This first method is for the master budgeter, the person who is dedicated enough to set money aside every month for an upcoming vacation.
My hat goes off to these people. This is not me.
However, this method really works well for those that are disciplined. This method can also save you money in lots of other areas in the process as you strap down the hatches and keep that vacation goal in mind. Those that use this method are constantly looking for ways to save money in other categories so that they can put in larger chunks of money every month. This is smart and can be very effective.
There are lots of ways to track your budget to make this work. I have used online budgeting websites such as Mint and YNAB. They are awesome tools to help you make that vacation goal happen.
2. Tax Return
Ok, I’ll admit it, the real reason I have lots of kids is because that child credit on our taxes is actually pretty nice. Am I right?! In celebration of our children being born, we put that tax return money to good use and vacation with them!
Furniture, a bigger TV, and exercise equipment might look super tempting when that return check comes, but when you decide to have adventures on purpose as a family, you learn to reprioritize every extra check that comes in, especially the large ones. Putting it aside for a future vacation instead of buying “stuff” will have lasting rewards. Those memories will last way longer than that couch you have been drooling over at Pier 1.
If you need a little more discipline, put that check right into a separate “travel” savings account and don’t think about it until you are ready to take that summer vacation.
3. Extra paycheck or bonuses
If you are on a salary this money saving option might work for you. This is something that I have adopted from my parents.
Stick with me as I explain how this works. My husband is paid his salary bi-weekly. This means that we have 26 paychecks throughout the year. With 12 months in a year, and a bi-weekly salary, that means we have two months out of the year where we get 3 paychecks instead of 2.
12 months x 2 paychecks a month=24 paychecks + 2 bonus months = 26 paychecks
These typically fall about 6 months apart. One is in the spring/summer and one in the fall/winter. My parents used the first extra paycheck for our family vacation and the second one for Christmas or savings. I love this method because it is money that is essentially “extra” for us because all of our other expenses are covered with our expected monthly income.
This could also work if you get quarterly or yearly bonuses. Just sock that money away and you’ll have yourself a trip to Disneyland in no time with no effect on your monthly budget.
Each of us has our own family vacation stumbling blocks.
I’ll admit it. It is so much easier to just stay home. When it comes to vacations I dread the packing, preparing, lack of sleep, car sickness, messy kids, messy car, embarrassing moments, laundry afterwards…I could go on. Every time I get home from a vacation with my kids I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation. I don’t know if you can even call a vacation with kids a “vacation.”
However, after I have gotten through the loads and loads of laundry, vacuumed out the car, and caught up on sleep, I am somehow ready to do it all over again. How is this even possible?!
Here are some ways to help you boost your drive and build up the ambition to do it over and over again.
1. Kill comparisons
It is only human to compare your own family to others. Social media can either drive us to take action or make us sedentary. You may not feel like you could ever conquer a vacation like those you see on your feed.
If seeing all of the grand vacations the Joneses are taking makes you anxious about traveling, stop comparing and start small.
Not every family vacation has to be a huge!
Some of my most memorable vacations were those that were close to home. I didn’t fly on an airplane until I was 12-years-old, and it was a one-way flight from Utah to Idaho. Then I had to drive back in my dad’s work car smashed between my two “cello player” brothers. Making memories, right?
We became master road trippers, and I still remember the exact gas stations we always stopped at whenever we headed down to southern Utah. There were so many places to see just hours from our home; we didn’t have to travel far to get away. Staying close to home takes less energy and planning because you know you can head back quickly if absolutely necessary.
It is energizing to get ideas from others about where and how to travel with your family, but it can also be destructive when it keeps you from taking any action at all. So look away when your friend posts their Facebook photo album documenting their 3-week trip to Europe and check out some destinations from our site that may be a better fit for you family.
2. Banish doubt and don’t live in regret
A sure-fire way to zap your ambition is to tell yourself that family vacations just don’t happen for your family. Believe that you can make it happen and you will.
If you have a difficult toddler who always gets out of their car seat, you don’t think you can afford it, or your sanity is on the line, schedule a date with your therapist for the day after you get home and pack your bags.
The time that we have with children in our home is such a short time in comparison to the time we have without them. Trust me, I’m looking at my son leaving the house in less than 8 years and I’m kind of freaking out. Doubt leads to regret and I promise that you will NEVER regret spending extra time with your children once they have left your home.
You can do it and you won’t regret it.
3. Don’t lose focus
Why have you made family vacations a priority in the first place? If you aren’t sure what your philosophy is when it comes to traveling, go back to my first post and figure out the reasons why you want to travel with your kids.
When you have family goals in mind, whether that be creating memories, building family togetherness, or learning valuable lessons you can use in your home, you will muster up the energy to make it happen to reach those goals.
Every January our family makes goals that we check off together throughout the year. It is important that we have the same focus. They are written out and hung on our refrigerator for everyone to see. At least one of those usually involves traveling somewhere as a family. This year it was to visit Six Flags 6 times as a family with our yearly passes. Although we have yet to reach our goal of 6 times, (which turned out to be a bit more lofty than we thought) we still have that daily reminder on the refrigerator that we want to travel together as a family and are united in purpose.
A book about the importance of play, leisure, and vacation. This a great read if you’re an analytical thinker. This book includes scientific evidence on the importance of vacationing.
If you still aren’t sure what your obstacle is or how you can change your ways, start small and work on being consistent.
If you are consistently making time, finding ways to fund your vacations, and you have the drive to make it happen, you will jump right over those hurdles naturally. In the end your kids will not remember every detail of your family vacations, but what they will remember is that you were consistent and actually went together.
They will remember feeling like the luckiest kid in the world, because that is how I felt every time my parents jumped over those hurdles for me.
Bonnie loves finding a great deal that can get her closer to the next exciting adventure with her husband and 5 kids. Her degree in Family and Consumer Sciences has helped her to claim the title of the “domestic budget goddess” by neighbors and friends throughout Central Illinois and Northern Utah.