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Posts tagged with: cheap vacation

Cruise 2016 Update

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Remember when I first told you all about my plan to set sail in February 2016 on a cruise with my family in celebration of my Mom’s 60th birthday? Well I’ve got some updates….

Initially, the plan was for this cruise to be a 100% surprise for my Mom. The entire family was in on it and the loose plan was for my stepdad to tell my Mom that he was going to take her on a trip (she would surely assume they were going to San Antonio, as they regularly do), and then drive down to Galveston where the cruise ships dock. The rest of us would surprise her there on the dock. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!!!!!!

Well, the more planning we were doing, the less likely it seemed that this would stay a surprise. There were so many logistics involved (e.g., making sure she had enough time off work, making sure she packed appropriate clothing and swimwear, etc.) AND some of you commenters planted little seeds of doubt in my mind. You mentioned that maybe she’d prefer her dream cruise vacation to Alaska ALONE with my stepdad. And then I had a conversation with my Mom where she mentioned that since she’s gotten older she much prefers the MOUNTAINS over the beach (since when, Mom?!?!) The point is…I started second-guessing myself.

So after a LOT of phone calls with my sister, internal wrestling, and careful thought and consideration we came up with a plan. My sister was having my Mom and Stepdad over on Mother’s Day and made a little craft to present my Mom. First, the card:

Your 59th was pretty crappy.

All we want is for YOU to be happy!

So your 60th is all about you.

And now its your turn to choose.

Then my sister presented her with three envelopes. Inside each envelope was a different vacation: a ship to represent the family cruise, a mountain to represent a mountain-oriented family vacation, and a picture of Alaskan wildlife to represent the Alaska vacation.

My sister explained what each picture meant and what the vacation would entail (we did a lot of research on each of the trips so sister presented all the information of where we would stay, what we could/would do, ports of call for the cruises, etc. etc. etc.). My mom was shocked and surprised and didn’t know what to think. She said she needed some time to think it over and let us know by that same afternoon that her choice was the same one we’d originally made: Family Cruise 2016!!! So it’s on.

Skipping forward….

One of the BIG things about this vacation, to me, is that it be paid with 100% cash. I am very excited and working very hard to make it a complete debt-free vacation.

Another thing is that this gives me a really concrete goal: have all consumer debt paid in full by the time we set sail! I’ll still have student loans to contend with, but it will feel so satisfying to be able to make the trip down to Galveston in a newly paid-off car!!!

And a final update – the cruise is booked! There was a $1,000 deposit, so I wanted to wait until we had that saved up in cash. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that cruises can book up so far in advance. We were originally going to cruise in February 2016 (I thought 9 months in advance was plenty of time to book), but we’ve had to push it back to April 2016 to get the accommodations we wanted (two absolute must-haves were 1. adjoining rooms for sister & I so we could let kids nap in one room and have adults in the other, and 2. A 6:00pm dining time, since the kids are already asleep before the 8:30pm dining time and they need to EAT before bed!) Apparently, those two things go fast so we pushed back the sail date a couple months to make these things happen.

All in all, I’m super excited. I’d wanted this to be a big surprise for my Mom, but I think it’s better this way since she’s now been part of the planning process, has been able to voice her opinion of what matters to her (e.g., she wants an upgraded larger room), and has time to adequately prepare (basically diets all around for every one of us, lol).

So there’s the update.

We’re now officially booked (paying all cash, thankyouverymuch), and I’ve now got extreme motivation to be consumer debt-free by April 2016.

I know some of you were interested in the exact costs associated with this vacation. To give some additional information, we will be sailing on Royal Caribbean cruiseline. Our itinerary is an 8-day/7-night trip to visit 3 different countries (set sail from Galveston, docks in Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico). We are paying for four people (no, kids aren’t free), but are all staying in a single room. We chose an interior room (I’d really wanted an exterior for the extra square footage, but settled on the interior since it was cheaper and we could be adjoining with my sister’s family). The total cost including taxes, port fees, and pre-paid gratuities is $2496. This cost includes all food on the ship (there are options to pay for dining at certain on-board restaurants, but the free options are already delicious, gourmet, and FREE, so we won’t pay extra for food). We will, however, budget additional money to pay for any miscellaneous expenses that come up, including souvenirs, possible excursions (e.g., they charge money to go to the beach at the different ports of call), and any food we eat while visiting the different countries we’ll be visiting. In total I’ve planned to set aside $4,000 for the trip, which should be MORE than enough. I’d rather have extra money set aside and end up being able to make a debt payment with leftover money after-the-fact rather than come up short on cash. So that remains the plan.

I know the whole idea of a cruise while still in a mountain of student loan debt is controversial so I won’t be bringing it back up a lot. But I stand by my thoughts in this post where I described how and why we came to this decision. I’ve also had a couple commenters ask if we plan to do any type of celebration once we pay off all consumer debt. I think the cruise is celebration a-plenty. Yes, it’s technically for my Mom. But it will be fabulous to pay for the cruise all cash and know that – for my family – the trip also marks an important milestone in terms of being committed to NEVER acquiring additional debt in our lives (big exception: we still plan to buy a home at some point!) Sooooo…..consumer-debt free by early 2016! That means we’ve got some serious work to do on our car loan! Better get to it! ; )

What do your 1-year financial goals entail?


Trip to Austin, The Numbers

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Good Monday morning, everyone! Thanks for giving me a few days to recover from my illness! At first I was sure I had the flu because I had all the classic symptoms (body aches, pounding headache, chills), but it went away after only about 3 days and Dr. Google says flu symptoms (particularly fatigue) tend to last longer than that, so I have no idea what was going on! I’m just glad I’m on the mend and seem to be getting better! Thanks for your suggestions about where to find a good chicken noodle soup! I really appreciate it! : )

Now, onto a little analysis of the costs of our trip to Austin…

  • One night hotel (we did the same thing as our last road trip – stopping mid-way on the way there and driving straight through on the way back) = $140
  • Dollar Tree road-trip toys = $6
  • Food and Drinks (in cooler) = $35
  • Food and drinks (purchased on trip/fast food) = $40
  • Gasoline = $88
  • Total = $309

Say what???? How is it that low???

Welllll, hubs’ Mom ended up generously sending him a gas card to use for the trip. We used it about every-other fill-up, plus gas ended up being CHEAP (we scored $1.84/gal at its lowest). So that’s why that’s so low.

Aside from that, we didn’t end up paying for anything while in Texas. We never went out to eat and the only activities we participated in were free (insider tip for those who live in Austin-area: we went to Rock’N Lights near Dell Diamond, and it was INCREDBILE! They try to make you do the drive-through for $20/car, but you can park and walk through the Christmas Town for free! They had free hot chocolate, free donuts, free pictures with Santa, and all kinds of additional super cheap things! My MIL paid for both toddlers to have a pony ride for only $2/each! Way fewer crowds than the Zilker Trail of Lights and so many fun photo ops! A Must Do for next year!)

We were only in town for 6 days and so much of it was jam-packed with visiting families (we have my mom’s side of the family, hubs’ family, + my Dad ended up coming to town for the holiday so we had the equivalent of 3 separate families to visit) that it turned out to be a good thing because we didn’t have any time to run around spending money on miscellaneous things.

So there you have it. A $309 cross-country road trip. Not too shabby!

Did you go out of town for Christmas or New Years? How do you keep expenses low on road-trips?


VA to TN to GA – First Leg of Trip Done

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Bear in mind that I am writing this Saturday as I anticipate a busy couple of days so I’m predicting how this is going to go. I will update with exact details if I get a chance.

Updated Thursday morning with reality…initial post is in plain text with updates in italics below the different segments.

This evening we will arrive at one of my favorite places on earth…The Lakehouse. It’s a cabin owned by my extended family on Lake Hartwell in Georgia. It’s secluded and rustic, away from everything and absolutely glorious. We will have completed the first leg of our journey. And the best part, it’s FREE lodging for the remainder of our time away from home.

We actually got here Wednesday morning and our friends drove down with us to hang out for the day at the lake.  As I anticipated the water was still too cold to swim but the kids did jump in a couple of times before heading off to the beach to skip rocks or to the patio to play UNO.

My youngest at 2, sitting on the "beach" at the lakehouse.

My youngest at 2, sitting on the “beach” at the Lakehouse.

Here’s what we’ve done and spent thus far:

Sunday – Picked up Cadet (15 year old twin – eldest) from his mini boot camp weekend and got on the road towards TN. We needed to arrive by Monday afternoon to drop History Buff (15 year old twin.) My goal was to get to Knoxville to sleep but I’m not sure we will make it that far since we have a solid 9 hours of drive time once we have Cadet. Dinner in the car from food we brought from home.

Due to an unexpected LONG break at a gas station due to some medical issues (everyone is fine, it’s an ongoing thing for one of my kids,) we bought Subway sandwiches for dinner to allow the rest of us to sit in the air conditioning while we dealt with medical needs.  I hadn’t anticipate this cost, but it was worth it to keep the others occupied and not sweltering in the car. Cost $20

Monday – Spent the night somewhere between Richmond, VA and Knoxville, TN in a hotel. I made sure it had free continental breakfast I’m sure and today we will have had to fill up the gas tank as we can typically make about 7 hours of drive time on one tank in our giant beast of a car. Lunch was a picnic somewhere fun…rest area or touristy spot. History Buff is dropped off for his week long TeenPact camp. We drove on 2 more hours to arrive at my friend’s house in the Atlanta area. Not sure if we will have had another dinner in the car or wait to eat at my friends.

We did make it to Knoxville and made reservations about an hour out…I was surprised that all the prices were the same: Expedia, Hotel site, calling hotel, but we did get the free breakfast and a late check out since we were only a couple of hours from our drop off point for History Buff.  We enjoyed the indoor pool and sleeping in a bit.  My plan for a picnic lunch at a rest area failed miserably when the rest area was closed, so we continued on to our drop off point at ate a picnic on the local library lawn. It was a great family time and of course, I got emotional dropping off my child so far from home for a week, but I know he’s having a great time!

We hurried on to my friends house, checking to make sure it was okay if we arrived earlier than anticipated and she threw dinner in the crockpot with that warning.  However, not sure why, but I did arrive there are fumes, finishing up our second tank of guess much earlier than anticipated.

At this point only money spent aside from gas (on 2nd tank now) was a night in hotel between VA and TN.

Close, but we’ve now used two full tanks of gas, spent one night in a hotel and bought Subway sandwiches at a gas station.

Tuesday & Wednesday – We spent hanging with our friends. (Side note: They homeschool like us and are planning some exciting things so I’m sure it will be fun. And just for the record, this is the same friend I wrote about HERE, so she knows that spending any money isn’t really an option. It’s so nice to have been able to open up and be honest with someone without feeling judged.)

We actually experience the MARTA system in Atlanta (cost $20) and Legoland (payed for by friend as her son’s birthday party.) She did treat us out for two meals, against my protest, and I reciprocated, by my own desire, with desserts. It was a GREAT time and despite all our years of friendship this was actually the first time ever we visited their home, and we will definitely do it again when I am in a better financial place. 

Our kids at the Lakehouse last summer.

Our kids at the Lakehouse last summer.

At this point, looking forward to Wednesday night when we will arrive at the Lakehouse, I believe the only money spent will be:

  • 1.5 tanks of gas since we left home – approx value $120
  • 1 night in a hotel – approx value $100

My parents will be meeting us at the Lakehouse this week, and in a couple of days I will have to drive by to TN to pick up History Buff and drop off Lil Gymnast. I will keep you posted, but for now, I’m going to enjoy the peace and quiet of the lake and get some work done!

We did our grocery shopping last night, spending less than $100 (more than 1/2 was a gift card I had been holding on to for just this occassion,) so all in all with the food we’ve brought from home and the use of the gift card, I spent $45 cash for the food that will last us at least a week here if not longer.  Yeah!


Labor Day!

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Hubby, Baby Boy, and I went to spend the day at my parent’s house for Labor Day. My sister and her family came over as well as my sister-in-law and her kiddos (her husband/my brother has been shipped out to fight another fire).There is always something so relaxing about the craziness of that house. We all seem to yell *cough* talk over one another while pots and pans bang in the kitchen as dinner is being prepared. We spent a good portion of the meal prep talking about the free workout, the Butt Bible, available on our cable network. All of us are too frugal to have gym memberships so we compare notes on any free workouts. Considering the fact that all us girls could hardly walk without wincing in pain, we gave it a thumbs up.

After dinner and dishes were done, gramps and I watched Keeping Up with the Kardashians. OK, so maybe he wasn’t watching. He was chatting about his recent trip to visit our family in Washington state. Hmmm. Great idea for a future cheap vacation?

Before leaving, I robbed grandma of all her garden grown veggies and a loaf of fresh baked zucchini bread. One less trip to the grocery store!