Budget Woes: Is Vacation a Necessity?

With the start of another year, many are reflecting on personal and familial habits that may need to be re-examined. For families, the top slot on this list is often the family budget.

The budget tends to burst at the seams comes January. December can bring, “It’s a little much, but it’s such a perfect gift for —-,” and, “We can’t stick to the grocery budget, it’s the holidays and we’ve got things to bake/cook and memories to make.”

Every January we sit down with the budget and cut the fat. It’s not that difficult of a job. We know what we’re comfortable spending in each category and it’s easy to see where we are falling short. We look at the numbers and plan out the next year for our family. We think about each month and what our needs will be and everything runs smoothly – until we get to the summer months and one budget category jumps out.

That category: Vacation.

Should we take a family vacation?

No matter how much (or little) money there is, we’re frugal. It’s just how we live. What we have we save because we know there’ll be a time of need. There are student loans that could be paid or a home that could be saved for. Do we spend a large chunk of money over the course of one week in the summer?

The answer for this family is a resounding YES! For us, a vacation is a necessity and something that needs to be budgeted into our lives.

A few years ago my husband, who struggles with a chronic health issue, had a complication after a surgery and I had to rush him to the hospital. There was a serious question as to if he would live or die. I called a few friends to sit and pray with me as the doctors worked and I waited. During that time I didn’t think of our budget, the student loans or if I’d gone over on cell phone minutes. Instead, I was haunted by something my husband had recently shared with me,

“My favorite thing in this world is when we’re traveling and you all fall asleep in the van. I love to drive my sleeping family.”

This memory was interrupted when the doctors came to tell me they had found the problem and that my husband would make it. My friends smiled and looked at me for tears or leaps of joy.

There were tears, but the only thing I could think of to say was:

 “I want to go on vacation for our anniversary.”

Our favorite things are important, especially if they help bond us as a family unit. For us, it’s vacations. They are the thoughts that haunt us when we are reminded that this life is temporary and they are the first memories of our very young children.

There is something to be said about cramming five people into a mini-van and living out of a cooler for five days every summer – if it’s done together.

We’re not millionaires over here, so vacations mean other sacrifices throughout the year. We can do vacation on a dime. My husband and I even play “fun games and challenges” to help ensure vacation is possible for our family. You can make dinner for five out of a cooler for consecutive nights and those “free weekend if you take our timeshare tour” trips are actually really fun – and they serve lunch.

Taking his three daughters to Disney World is my husband’s dream. Old age isn’t likely for him, so I’m determined to make it happen sooner rather than later. We even have a code phrase for the dream in our home. “Someday, when we go to the Mouse’s House” we say as we dream while attempting to not tip off the children. It’s a bit early to share our dream with them. We’ll wait until the vacation category in the budget can grow. Until that time, vacation will always have a place in our budget, even if it is a small one.

Does your family have a “Mouse’s House” dream vacation? Does your family have a favorite vacation spot you want to recommend?

Vacation: taking time to climb rocks

11 thoughts on “Budget Woes: Is Vacation a Necessity?

  1. Karen Best

    One of my fairly recent discoveries is geocaching (if you haven’t heard of it, people hide small containers with either a paper log or small vending machine “treasures” and then post the GPS coordinates and usually a hint online). All you need is a phone with some sort of GPS (even a car GPS works, or you can get a fairly cheap one for geocaching at Target). We started hunting for them just around town here, but now when we go on any kind of road trip we check online for any caches in the area.

    There are about 10 just inside the Mauston city limits (mostly in parks)–my husband and I pick 2 or 3 on a Saturday and walk or ride our bikes around to hunt.

    I feel like kids would probably love it, since it’s a giant outdoor treasure hunt :)

  2. Krissy A.

    Awww sweet family memories–it’s so hard for me to look at vacations as an investment in our family, but that is just what they are–thanks for the reminder!

  3. Kim

    Have you been to Bay Beach in GB? Great place, and pretty cheap – rides are between 25 and 50 cents for most. You can visit the reforestation camp across the street for some education to make it a day.

  4. Debi

    I think a vacation is a necessity too!!! Every family needs to get away from the “world” and veg together, whether it’s in a tent or at the Mouse House. We have taken our family to MH and did so with a strict budget. It’s those vacations we often talk and laugh over. If you want some specific tips about MH, I would love to help you with that!! Blessings!

  5. Amberly Boerschinger

    Awww…our family travels are some of our best times too. We have a dream that when our kids are in their elder years of high school of taking a long trip to Europe. It seems completely impossible in our current economic life, but we both had opportunities to travel and wished we’d been able to do it with our families. For now we are focusing around WI, then as the kids grow road trips around the country hopefully capstoning their formative years with Europe…you asked for a dream! :)

    We also believe in stay-cations…weekends set aside for everything but housework. We’ve recently decided to start theming our weekends – Kevin requested the Caribbean. Time for some recipe hunting!

  6. Brianne Duncan

    Duluth Holly Duluth!!! There is just so much to see and do up there! My absolute favorite family vacation spot! You can ride bicycles by the lake shore or take a horse drawn carriage ride, climb aboard a big ship for a tour or get on a boat and take a family pizza cruise on Lake Superior. Ride a train, hike some most beautiful trails, or climb up the very top of an old look out tour and see the harbor and lake go on for tens of miles…my top recommendation as I never get tired of visiting my most favorite spot!

  7. Renee

    Joe and I celebrated our first anniversary this past summer. As we looked at our budget, the “practical” side of us was saying we really couldn’t afford a 1st anniversary vacation while the “sentimental” side of was saying that we were never going to get another first anniversary. We ended up roadtripping to Mackinac Island for our first anniversary, and we will never regret it.

  8. Kelley

    Just playing catch up while Husband in on his Crusillo weekend. It’s been too long! We’re at the end of our vacation planning in this home. We’ll be towing a popup camper and camping our way through the free and almost free things to do in New Mexico and Texas. My absolute favorite thing to do with my family is camp in national parks. The kids adore the free Ranger Programs that start with a booklet to fill out and end with a Jr. Ranger badge pinning. Miriam did her first one when she was 2.


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