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3 Stress-Free Tips To Enjoy Summer Vacations WITHOUT Going Broke

family vacation without going broke

Save money and everyone gets a vote with these 3 types of vacations this summer.

Summer is coming. You can almost hear the loud music, the papers shredding, and the ecstatic rejoicing – wait, is that the sound of students … or teachers?


Everyone is counting down the days until summer for different reasons. The kids can’t wait to sleep in and skip dealing with that “not-so-favorite” teacher. The teachers look forward to not being ignored and not dealing with that not-so-favorite student.


You might be counting down the days until summer with a mix of relief and some dread.


What will you do with all of that time?

How will you do everything the family wants to and not go broke?


Summer is a great time to make memories, but we know it can be an expensive time if you don’t have a game plan when that final school bell rings. Heading into summer without some kind of a plan is like a trip to the grocery store without a list … when you’re hungry. It may require credit counseling (and a new diet).


We figured out the four of us do best when we have a loose plan for the summer and some dates on the calendar that everyone can look forward to. We can’t afford to do everything everyone wants to do but we found we could categorize our summer time together into three different buckets (and we rhymed them because, why not?). The time falls into three groups: go, slow, and no.


1. Go – Go for the big vacation.

This is your encouraging shove to “go”. Go for it. Take the big vacation of the summer. Get out and go.


Getaways during the school year do not work with our family’s schedules so we plan our big vacation for each summer. We think of that as our “go”.


Go camping. Go east. Go west. Go to Disney. Go visit relatives. Go to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Go find the biggest ball of twine. Just pack some bags and go.


This is your one big trip for the summer. Mark it on the calendar while school is still in session and you all can look forward to the dates without work, homework, or the usual demands.


It can be pricey if you’re not careful, but you are investing in your family. You are making memories with your children. And you work hard and deserve some time away.


You can also use it as an opportunity to teach your kids the value of money. Give them a set amount of cash at the beginning of the trip and let them decide what to use it on. You may cringe when they choose junk food at every gas station you stop at, but they will learn. Either they learn they really enjoyed the freedom to do that or they might regret their lack of funds when they find something they want at the end of the time. Either way, you help them learn: money is finite, money can purchase fun things, and plan ahead because it spends quickly.


2. Slow – Slow down and take a day trip.

Your kids need down time. You have a job you need to be at once in awhile, right? So this part of our summer we call “slow”. No airplanes, no complex agendas, no packing our equipment up the side of a mountain to set up camp. Slow is for a slower type of “vacation”. Think of these as day trips.


You take a Saturday (or some other day you already have time off) and go as a family somewhere close to home.


Every state has fun things to see, museums to peruse, or trails to wonder. Condé Nast’s beautiful slideshow of the Best Places To Visit in the USA: 50 States, 50 Trips can get you started. Your local chamber of commerce or even the American Automobile Association, AAA, offer great ideas for day trips.


Each member of our family picks one day trip they would enjoy. Then we check the calendar and mark the best days to take those short trips. If your kids are anything like our boys they will pick very different places to go. The variety is fun for all of us.


3. No – No need to leave home.

Since kids think “no” is our favorite word anyway, we will use it here to remember the third type of summer planning.


No means no travel out of town. And sometimes it means we go nowhere at all.


Our family likes to make this part of our summer about picking a movie or a nearby restaurant for a treat, but you could truly make it a totally “no go” evening or afternoon. You could choose not to leave the house. Ordering pizza and firing up Netflix is a great example of “no” travel time. You are intentionally setting aside time to be together as family, without going anywhere.


Let each member pick their night and their favorite “no go” option. You could take turns cooking or make something special for dessert and haul out the old Wii or the dusty Monopoly board. Maybe your family would like to share some music together, playing instruments or singing favorite songs. How about old, home movies? The kids may groan, but everyone usually ends up enjoying watching themselves as chubby toddlers and laughing at the fashion choices of mom and dad.


If the youngest picks the My Little Pony game – again - honor her wishes and see if there are ways to make it fun for all ages. A handful of Skittles every time you roll? Or the winner picks a chore to hand off to each loser? The “no” option is intended to help do whatever it takes to spend time together at home or in town (with the delicious option of sweatpants and slippers thrown in).


Summer will come – yea – and go – boo – quickly so try to make the most of your time together. Not everything has to cost money, but don’t feel too much heartburn about money you spend this summer to create memories. You will treasure those times forever, especially after they are grown and gone.


We’d love to hear about your tips and tricks for having fun in the summer without breaking the bank.


Scott & Bethany Palmer

The Money Couple


Scott & Bethany Palmer, The Money Couple, are financial planners, authors, and speakers who help couples tackle money issues in their relationship. Grab a copy of "The 5 Money Personalities: Speaking the Same Love and Money Language," and be sure and take the FREE online Money Personality Assessment







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