photograph by The Teachers Wife
When we got married 7 years ago we had so many grand dreams, Ireland, Egypt, secluded islands, cruises, vacations…..little did we realize that they were simply dreams….weren’t they? Before kids, when we lived in Illinois we both had great paying jobs, but we never thought to set aside money for traveling. I think we just got so busy jumping into our newly married life and were so happy that we didn’t think of much else. A few years later we moved to Florida and found ourselves living on a meager teacher’s salary….with baby #1 on the way!
We were happy- even if we didn’t have much money. Now that we have two kids, a blog, babysitting for extra income, a master’s program, special therapies for my oldest son, and now preschool for my oldest- money and time are at an all time low. A few years ago my husband and I came up with a game plan on how we could still afford a really nice vacation- no matter how much we were currently making. Are you in the same trap that we were thinking we could never afford a fabulous vacation? Find out how we were able to save up for our trip last summer to Niagara Falls, Canada – for only $20 a month!
My husband and I are best friends. We’ve had a very special relationship since day one, and we cherish any second that we get together by ourselves. With two children and no family close by to help, we don’t get to go out on dates very much at all. So we decided that every 5 years we would celebrate our anniversaries and years of marriage by planning a getaway together- just the two of us. That means we had five years to plan babysitting if needed, five years to save, five years to dream. This was not an option-it was survival.
Our goal every single month for 5 years was to set aside $20 – that’s it. No matter how little you make I’m sure that you can find $20 to scrimp somewhere once a month. On the good months, we saved more than $20 if we could. When tax return time came around, we tried to set aside a little bit of money for our vacation fund if we could afford it. If you only save $20 a month- every month- for 5 years, that’s $1200. It may not be enough to travel the world, but it’s certainly enough for a nice vacation on a budget-at least if you’re up for a good road trip!
We drove from Florida to Canada, dropping our kids off at grandma’s house in Illinois on the way up. We used Hotels.com to purchase most of our hotel nights cheaply. For us (within reason) we do not care so much about the nicety of the hotel because we spend our days jam packed out having fun. As long as it has a clean place to stay with decent reviews we’re good to go. I used Restaurant.com when it was 80% off and various reward point programs to purchase certificates to get our meals at least half off. That saved a ton of money! Plus we also packed a whole bag full of food and treats that we could eat if we were hungry on the go. Many of our locations to visit were free since we hit a lot of state parks, but we did splurge a little and purchased a combination attractions ticket in Canada. It was amazing! Other than our honeymoon this was the best vacation we’ve ever taken!
So now, we’re saving for our trip for our 10 Year Anniversary. Where will we go this time? I don’t know, but I would love to go overseas….we’ll have to see how much we can scrimp together by then! We spent 5 nights in Niagara Falls with meals, attractions, and everything for under $800 – not including the cost of gas to get there from FL. Which we used gas rewards and gas gift cards we had saved throughout the year. Five years may seem like a long time away, but if you’re really on a tight budget start saving! A little bit DOES add up after a while. Save at least $20 each month, put in some extra from your tax returns, and save the money from any birthday/Christmas gifts too! Before you know it you’ll be able to plan a fun-filled vacation without touching your budget!