My Facebook friends will comment on recent vacation photos with remarks like "Again?!" and "Weren't you just away?" Sure, I work in the travel business, so you could say I am always in "vacation mode." But I am also married to an accountant who packs his own lunch and carries his own thermos of coffee to work. We're raising three kids — one in college, two on their way — there isn't loads of extra money for fun.The only way I can make a case for a vacation is by scoring a deal here and there and insisting that these "windows are closing," meaning we won't have our kids with us much longer, and opportunities for family travel will be over. I will also flat out refuse to cook or make a bed until we get away. Whatever works!
Being in the travel industry for over 20 years, I have learned how to make vacations happen where others may think it impossible. A few tips:
- Think ahead
Look at your school calendar and see where the breaks are. You know in advance those days off are coming. Our district calendars are posted through 2015. Did you know we have a great break April 2013? It is far enough away from Easter to avoid crowds and late enough in April to avoid peak pricing. It's a nice break — a whole week — where do you want to go? Which brings me to....
- What's on your bucket list?
Imagine the experiences you want to have with your family. National parks? A cruise? Theme parks? Different experiences are better at different ages. Have a mental timeline and then plan for it! Put it on the calendar! Windows are closing! Windows are closing!
- Save mileage points
More and more, airline ticket prices just keep going up. You can save that expense by using miles. You’re buying groceries and gas, dining out, paying for your cell phone bill anyway. Why not use a card that will reward you with miles? We are traveling to Hawaii this summer, and I was able to get four out of five airline tickets for FREE, just using miles I had been saving.
- Deposit early, know refund policies, pay in pieces
Did you know that with Disney Cruise Line, you pay a lower price the further out you deposit? Also, if the cruise rate goes down before final payment, your total cost can be adjusted lower, and your deposit is refundable until 75 days in advance. Guess what? I already have a Disney Cruise planned for my family for 2013, with a refundable deposit. The cruise has already gone up $800 since I deposited, but I am protected at my original price. I have also been making monthly payments to lessen the blow at final payment due date.
It has been proven that looking forward to a vacation is just about as powerful as actually GOING on vacation. There is a term called “holiday anticipation.” A recent study showed those in the planning phase of a vacation had a higher happiness score than those not going away.
So, while the windows are opening and closing and the coffee is being brewed, I am excitedly daydreaming about how refreshing that Mai Tai will be. Maybe I can find coupon. Aloha!