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#1 of 20 Old 11-04-2012, 07:14 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I love the idea of travel. I haven't had the chance to go many places yet, but I have dreams of visiting places all over the world. I just don't know how this fits into our life now with budgeting and going cash-only (except bills, which are on automatic withdrawal from our checking account). The only thing I can think of is to have a vacation fund that we put money into every month, but it seems like it will take forever for us to get even enough money for a plane ride, let alone the rest of the trip. Are there any other ways to go on trips without occurring debt? Any tips for saving money and still having a great vacation? 


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#2 of 20 Old 11-04-2012, 07:27 AM
 
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Start a vacation fund.It may take a year to get enough (for a flight type of vacation).

You can always budget road trip vacations too.

 

Log on to kayak dot com, and learn (see what the price for a destination is now, in 3mths, in 6 mths, and learn the best times to fly by following monthly, destinations you are interested in). Costs are up, but there are definitely better times to travel throughout the year ...I have seen flights to Puerto Rico as little as 250 up to 500, for instance.

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#3 of 20 Old 11-04-2012, 08:25 AM
 
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If you travel off season or a last minute trip you can save up to 70%. Using a smaller airport or staying somewhere just outside of a city are other ways to save. I plan far in advance and watch the prices. I always get good deals on vacation trips.
 

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#4 of 20 Old 11-04-2012, 12:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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How do you find out the best times to fly? I know that ticket prices change based on how far you are from the date, how popular travel is at that time, and if they have just a few seats left on the flight. I wish there was a big database of the lowest prices ever are for a specific flight so I could see what I'm aiming towards. I signed up for updates of flight prices to Portland (somewhere I'd like to visit again) through Kayak, so hopefully that'll help. 

 

We've done road trips in the past, but my husband is pretty anti-road trip with two small children (3.5 years and 10 months) because when we went to Vegas (about a 7 hour drive) for a wedding, our toddler screamed quite a bit. 


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#5 of 20 Old 11-04-2012, 01:00 PM
 
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Its best, IME to buy tickets 6-8 weeks out. Flying Tues/Wed sometimes Thursday for the best prices. For hotels, check out booking.com - they have hotels, motels and hostels all over the world, and the same prices (sometimes better) than priceline. 

 

As far as prices go, I got DH & I tickets from Columbus to Brussels for ~ $750 last year in February. Tickets from Pitsburg to Madrid in July were ~$1200. A year and a half ago, I got tickets for DH & several buddies from Columbus OH to San Francisco, CA for ~$250 each (all these are round-trip). Once you know where you want to go, just start checking prices at different times and see how low they go, then buy when you're ready. 

 

 

When you're traveling, avoid eating out - goto the local grocery store and buy bread/meat/cheese/fruit/etc and much. Carry water bottles and fill them up in bathrooms, at water fountains, etc.

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#6 of 20 Old 11-04-2012, 06:16 PM
 
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Flying is its own type of stress, so might not be much easier than driving. Yes, cross country, etc when driving would be days, but having to get to the airport several hours early flight then dealing with getting a rental car on the other end and you easily have 4+ hrs without even considering the flight time.

That being said, I've found the 3 big money eaters are the flight, rental car, and hotel.

So think of trips that you can use public transit and/or sleep cheap (camp, hostel, with friends/family)

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#7 of 20 Old 11-05-2012, 08:10 AM
 
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This is really far-fetched, but it worked for us...

 

About 12 years ago, I got a quote for needed dental work for $3000. Instead of paying the dentist, I enrolled in an intensive Spanish language school in Cuernavaca, Mexico. For one month, tuition was $700 for myself and my 2 Dumplings, then aged 4 & 5. The school arranged a family homestay for a little less than $1000, including all meals. 3 plane tickets were $250 each or so, and I had money left for the dentist (about $120 for all I needed, by a sweet dentist trained in the US) and some souvenirs. We had an amazing experience, learned some Spanish, and my teeth are fine! I spent only money I would have spent anyway.

 

Since I have had kids, I lived in the Caribbean, Costa Rica, and spent a month volunteering in a refugee camp in Thailand.

 

More recently, I got a certificate to teach English as a Second Language. I am volunteering at the local community college, getting experience teaching a group of 12 international immigrants. I love what I am doing, but it is all in preparation for my retirement travel plans - to travel internationally, teaching ESL. Probably in 5-10 years. Maybe 2 years in China, then in Argentina.

 

I have traveled quite extensively, both as a tourist, and as a semi-resident, in Europe, Asia, and Central and South America. For my family and me, the longer stays were much more meaningful. I got to know people, and their cultures. I made lifelong connections, and learned a bit of several languages. I know not everyone could or would want to do things this way. Just wanted to suggest the idea of a different style of travel - avoiding resorts, hotels, and most typical tourism expenses.
 


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#8 of 20 Old 11-05-2012, 09:28 AM
 
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My first suggestion doesn't address your "all over the world" desires but we did something different this summer, we were tourists, as I called it, in our own home town.  We researched musuems, lakes, state capitals, zoos, national and state parks, etc. within a reasonable driving distance and planned trips based on easy to reach destinations.    I planned picnics most days.  While some of the things we did were not my first choice of activities, I really had a great time once we got moving.  Just throwing that out as an alternative idea for the near term to scratch that travel itch.

 

To address air travel trips - Both DH and I have travelled a lot before we met each other and we continued to travel quite a bit over the past 20 years and started our son on planes at 3.5 months old. 

 

After starting your vacation fund, start thinking about what type of vacation your family would enjoy. 

 

I travelled Europe extensively in my teens and early 20s, spending a day or two before moving on to another town but there is no way I would want to do those trips with a small child.   My dad knew how to stretch a penny and I have very fond memories of going to local stores and markets to buy food for meals.  We would picnic, eat in our room or in the car.

 

At this stage in my life, beach and nature are the idea vacation.  My husband shares this feeling so we head to islands and coastal desitinations. 

 

Sometimes really great fares come at a hidden costs if they are to destinations that have high accomodation costs or require a rental car. Not all places are kind the budget traveller but you don't know that until you get there. I rememer a trip to the Caribbean where we literally could not feed ourselves out of the grocery stores (really just small markets). One day we spent hours driving from store to store just to get the most simple of ingredients to make a meal. (very simple ingredients, we weren't being picky) When I shared this frustration with an island resident, she explained to me that yes, they spend a tremendous amount of time and energy just shopping for food. 

 

Something I will look into for the future is renting an apartment.  Check out http://www.ricksteves.com/  He has fantastic tips for budget travel.  I like listening to his podcasts.  It will be a number of years until we can do a big trip to Europe but I like hearing about different tips and ideas.

 

All-inclusives can be a very reasonable way to travel to Mexico, especially if you book through one of the big agencies like Apple which package the vacation with flights.  I have sort of a like-hate relationships with all-inclusives.  I dislike the resort style of vacation but we really enjoyed a recent trip to Mexico.  (as well as one to the DR years back)  We stayed at a Spanish-owned resort that caters to Mexican and European travellers.  The food was varied and foreign.  The staff was fantastic.  Our then 5 yo had a blast learning new words in Spanish.  Excursions were reasonable.  We travelled off the resort on our own a couple of days.  (the safety of this may depend on location)

 

I have noticed over the years that super cheap airfare deals are becoming more scarce.  Airlines are cutting capacity and moving towards smaller planes.  I don't mean to be negative but don't get discouraged if you can't find "great deals" like you may read about.  Often, those flight times can be challenging, like a super-early departure, long layovers, etc. that just might not be feasible for family travel.

 

I like Kayak for a planning tool.  I hear good things about Yapa too.  I think (but may be wrong) that these two are the most comprehensive of all the ticket sites.


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#9 of 20 Old 11-05-2012, 10:03 AM
 
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Piggy backing on some of the above points:

We did get decent priced trips to Turkey in the summer / peak time (2011).  BUT there was a significant price savings (a few hundred dollars difference) in ticket price if we went the day after school ended (end of june) or the last week of august/beginning of sept, compared to the rest of the summer.  We also took advantage of lower priced ticket ... with 10hr layovers in Paris (on the way there) and amsterdam (return). We left the airports and did some site seeing in both cities. (Me and a 1.5yr old and an 8 year old). Those few hours in both cities are memorable. 

Right now, the cheapest ticket to Turkey (for instance) has a 10hr lay over in Russia. 

 

There have been times I have waited before purchasing and then noticed that last minute deals dont really exist anymore and ticket price was highest just before travel time. Purchasing 6-8 weeks before, or even WAY before if you can commit, are when one seems to have the best price.

 

Beware, though, purchasing the airline ticket is one cost, but extra charges add up - national flying, $25+ fees for checked bags, no free food served.

 

If you can get a credit card and earn airline points that may be helpful. OR get a airline member card and learn their ways to earn points via other minds of purchases (this is painfully slow, but maybe one day enough points will have been earned to get a free ticket somewhere).

 

Learning prices, was based on following ticket prices of places I wanted to go. I have a few national places I'm interested in and would go when the price was the lowest.   If you choose a destination, then search that destination low season / high season. Ticket prices are surely to be less during low season. (Make sure you actually want to go there on off / low season though, weather may not be very good for travel)

 

Mamarhu! AM interested in learning more about how you did what you did ... did you go with organizations or on your own? ....How did you manage to get months off for the trips?  I have also applied for ESL certificate for the same reasons as you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mamarhu View Post

This is really far-fetched, but it worked for us...

 

About 12 years ago, I got a quote for needed dental work for $3000. Instead of paying the dentist, I enrolled in an intensive Spanish language school in Cuernavaca, Mexico. For one month, tuition was $700 for myself and my 2 Dumplings, then aged 4 & 5. The school arranged a family homestay for a little less than $1000, including all meals. 3 plane tickets were $250 each or so, and I had money left for the dentist (about $120 for all I needed, by a sweet dentist trained in the US) and some souvenirs. We had an amazing experience, learned some Spanish, and my teeth are fine! I spent only money I would have spent anyway.

 

Since I have had kids, I lived in the Caribbean, Costa Rica, and spent a month volunteering in a refugee camp in Thailand.

 

More recently, I got a certificate to teach English as a Second Language. I am volunteering at the local community college, getting experience teaching a group of 12 international immigrants. I love what I am doing, but it is all in preparation for my retirement travel plans - to travel internationally, teaching ESL. Probably in 5-10 years. Maybe 2 years in China, then in Argentina.

 

I have traveled quite extensively, both as a tourist, and as a semi-resident, in Europe, Asia, and Central and South America. For my family and me, the longer stays were much more meaningful. I got to know people, and their cultures. I made lifelong connections, and learned a bit of several languages. I know not everyone could or would want to do things this way. Just wanted to suggest the idea of a different style of travel - avoiding resorts, hotels, and most typical tourism expenses.
 


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#10 of 20 Old 11-05-2012, 12:58 PM
 
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#11 of 20 Old 11-05-2012, 02:16 PM
 
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same advise: Pick the cities you are interested in going to and then follow the pricing of tickets. After 6 months (or longer) you will have an idea of the lowest and highest. And then expect to probably pay a bit more the following year.  From the east coast, I have flown to seattle, sandiego and colorado, puerto rico, for 300 so that is my price marker for going west - although now, I have not seen these prices lower then 350 Florida - 258. I wont to that place unless I can get close to that price (buying for three). I have seen ticket prices for 500+  to all the same places.  Going during school break is more expensive, by a few hundred, so last year we flew out on a tuesday instead (and did miss a couple days of school).

Hotels, I check hotels.com. And then compare that price to the actual hotel website - but mostly I am flying to places where friends live and stay at there place, or rent a cottage together.

 

Also, of course, summer time may be the only time to travel, so start saving now.


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#12 of 20 Old 11-05-2012, 07:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone! This has been super helpful. I think that unless we're going somewhere really far away that I'm going to try to talk DH into driving. Sure, 2 days of driving to get to the ocean sucks, but with the price of tickets and all the other fees you all are mentioning, it doesn't seem so bad. I'm definitely going to use some of these tips for the future though! I'm excited for the day that we can travel internationally. Hopefully that's not too far off. :-D


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#13 of 20 Old 11-06-2012, 06:17 AM
 
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I love travel too, but traveling with kids especially ends up being more work and less vacation IMHO.

Some of the BEST times i've had personally and with the kids has been localish via car.

I also drive up to chicago from dallas atleast 1x a year it seems to visit my family (my 5 sibs, 30+ aunts and uncles, 60 first cousins...etc. ALL live in chicago area)

 

One of the best non kid times I've had was when my sister drove down to visit, and I didn't have my kids for a weekend (ex had them) and we decided on a whim to drive to austin because i'd never been. We stopped and took pics by this funny airstream trailer selling cupcakes, had bbq, and checked into a cheap hotel with a nice pool. We went downtown the next day but I can't handle heat so we went back to pool, had plastic cup margaritas and relaxed. The next day we went jetskiing which i'd never done. I keep reminding sis we are overdue ;)

 

And I payed for my dad to fly down in aug before school started so I could attend a class in round rock and still take the kids. We drove and work paid for a really nice extended stay type hotel room so we had a living area, bedroom, and kitchen. There was a nice (small) pool and free breakfast and dinner like things. I think I expended maybe 50 bucks outside what my work paid for, dad got to hang with the kids for a week (they did tire him out!) and since I got out of class fairly early we hit rudy's bbq (my dad's FAV) went go karting, saw the huge population of round rock bats, etc.

It was a REALLY fun time!

 

Its really more about the mentality than the destination I find. Especially since kids can be unpredictable, one is cranky, one is not into doing something....

my parents couldn't afford squat, let alone vacation, but they saved up for several years and we all drove our econoline 12pass van up to ely minnesota from chicago and stayed in a cabin for a week. we swam and played and just had fun.

I still really want to go back there someday!

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#14 of 20 Old 11-06-2012, 07:13 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lactatinggirl View Post

Thanks everyone! This has been super helpful. I think that unless we're going somewhere really far away that I'm going to try to talk DH into driving. Sure, 2 days of driving to get to the ocean sucks, but with the price of tickets and all the other fees you all are mentioning, it doesn't seem so bad. I'm definitely going to use some of these tips for the future though! I'm excited for the day that we can travel internationally. Hopefully that's not too far off. :-D

 

We have driven to Florida two times (from central new york)! ITs crazy but fun and worth it. Stopped in a couple interesting cities for a few hour break. The road trips are definitely worth it, rather then not going at all.

 

And I agree about the local weekend trips as the PP mentioned.  Not being a local, it took me a long time to figure out nearby hidden gems (caves, glass museum, hiking, quaint villages,); I found some on my own by reading and researching, but once my kid hit kindergarten, I met lots of people and learned of more local destinations...which are totally worth it too.


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#15 of 20 Old 11-06-2012, 08:37 AM
 
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Another tip for driving vacation is to make the trip part of the vacation. So if it would take 12 hours to get there, break it up in to 2 days and research the destinations and tourist stops on the way there. The kids get out and run around and you get to have some fun. 

 

I even do this without the kids. I drove with my mother, brother, and SIL from South Dakota to Mississippi for my nephews graduation several years ago. We drove straight through there stopping only for gas and bathroom breaks and switching drivers. But on the way back I told everyone that I just couldn't handle it and we needed to plan one or two fun stops. Yeah it made a long trip longer. It made what would have been a middle of the night return a early morning return home. But it was very much worth it.


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#16 of 20 Old 11-06-2012, 08:59 AM
 
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DH and I are big into road-tripping, but I agree, it's a whole new ballgame with kids. 

 

We just drove from Pittsburgh to Key West, FL (about 3,000 miles round trip) and had a great time, though. 

 

We traveled without an itinerary, and took our tent and camp stove. Because we're self employed, we were able to travel after Labor Day and therefore didn't need reservations. Florida was empty. No snow birds yet and no families since school was back in session.  We have a small car (Honda Fit) so gas wasn't even that bad. We camp when the weather is nice, which is pretty cheap. However, with the kid, and me being 7 months pregnant, I was not all about camping in bad weather. So, if it was raining, we stayed in a hotel. We have a rewards card at Hampton Inn and just always stayed in that chain. A little pricier than some of the other interstate hotels, but they have a big breakfast and you earn free stays pretty quick. 

 

For DD, who is 3, I had several bags of goodies to rotate to her. (markers = terrible idea in the car, but live and learn. At least they were washable.) Magazines that she could rip up to her hearts content. Her favorite thing was books on tape. We got them from the library and she happily listened for up to an hour at a time. 

 

The big lesson learned was that our rest stops couldn't be just about going to the bathroom. We would drive after breakfast for a while and then take a long break at lunch/afternoon, with lots of running around and games and outdoor time. Then we would drive a little further and either stop for the night, or if we needed to make big miles (did over 600 one day!), we would do another long break at dinner time and then drive into the night. 

 

Yes, there was screaming, from time to time. I'm going to chalk it up to building family memories. thumb.gif

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#17 of 20 Old 11-06-2012, 09:48 AM
 
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If your driving, I highly recommend driving as straight-through as possible. DH & I drove to Boston a month ago from OH (~11 hrs each way), essentially straight through. We borrowed my dad's portable DVD player and let them watch movies (OK, mostly they watched Star Wars:The Clone Wars seasons 1-3...). It kept them (mostly) happy and let us drive with very minimal stopping. I remember driving straight through to Colorado to see my grandparents as a kid - 24 hrs in the car. In some ways it sucked, but IMHO its better to have one crappy day in the car than 2 or 3 long days of getting in/out seeing a bit and going on. I just think that sucks.

 

ETA: For reference, our boys ar 3 & 5.5 :)

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#18 of 20 Old 11-06-2012, 11:53 AM
 
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I finally caved (and was in a good enough spot to afford it) and bought a 2 screen dvd player that attaches to headrests. Not a big fan of my kids watching movies for 16hrs, but also when you are the only adult and have ADD...kids randomly asking for stuff or going "LOOK!" out of the blue can be distracting and dangerous!

 

I have a small cd/dvd wallet and the kids and I pick movies and tv shows on dvd for them and eldest (now almost 9) has that and the player you put the movie into at his control.

both kids have kid safe headphones (don't go too loud) and I keep a shallow box of snacks on the pass seat for the kids and myself. I actually drink WAAAYY too much water/fluid on a daily basis anyway. I generally go through around 6+ L of water (less than normal) and mt dew (my habit) during the drive. Kids I generally give them one big sport top bottle of water and a few juice boxes during the trip. I don't stop to eat very much because the trip would take FOREVER otherwise, and there really isn't anywhere to stay halfway though. it's either 1/3rd or 2/3rds and you might as well just drive the whole way IMHO.

I also usually pack the uncrustable sandwiches as they defrost and the kids can eat them pretty easily with minimal mess. Also string cheese, go-gurt, and usually goldfish or the like. Now that they are getting older I expect better snack choices, but healthier options like fruit or hardboiled eggs etc can be hard for little ones to manage without dropping and making mess. goldfish vac up nicely. LOL.

There are several rest stops along the drive that have nice play areas and I usually stop at one or two of them on each drive so we can all stretch for 20min or so.

I pee A LOT because of the ammt i drink, so i've learned to time it pretty well. we drive about half a tank (2hours or so) and stop to pee, then drive til almost empty and pee. I'm usually around 3.5-4 tanks MAX for the 16hrs so it works out to about every 2hrs, and I try and stop somewhere like rest stop we can run around for a bit. We skip actual meals, since I don't eat during the day and really you only have fast food if you don't stray from highway...and even fast food ends up taking you an hour.

I have stopped at a mcdonalds once or twice and let the kids just play (which they are fine with) and I grab a cup of coffee and watch them.

 

I try and pack books and coloring etc for the kids, but they get grouchy with me when I demand an hour or so of "no tv"....but I generally leave pretty early because if you hit the ozarks at the wrong time of the day either the dark or midday sun makes it pretty scary to drive in the hills. Hard to see the roads. So generally no movies until atleast 1st stop (2-3hrs in) and I generally make them turn it off for an hour during quiet stretches and ask them to play car bingo/spy etc type games.

 

16hrs is pretty long esp now that they are older and don't nap....so I don't give them much grief about the movies thing. I figure bad mom for one day over horrible car wreck because a kid shouted and distracted me!

 

I had a kia sephia until 2010 and kids were pretty little then, but I've done the drive MUCH more often since the divorce (2008) and mostly in my kia soul. has decent storage, but I found that esp when we are talking xmas trips.....you need more space and org.

I bought a roof bag www.roofbag.com last year during xmas and it worked out really well. put ALL the clothes and presents and whatever in there. Kept a big box of snacks in "trunk" area to refill my box so I didn't need to keep 12 bottles of water and several juice boxes, dew, snacks, etc all in the front. (plus I worked from home and needed to bring my ip phone, monitor, etc with)

jackets since chicago tends to be pretty chilly during winter (lol), shoes for the kids, and the blankies and pillows all live in the rear when not in use.

I would grab my coat and jump out of car and open hatch and pass in the shoes and coats for the kids to put on when we stopped.

 

I always enjoyed going shoeless and coatless during long trips as a kid.

my eldest can generally grab pillows and blankies to pass up for them when they want to snuggle up during the drive.

 

I've done the trip with everything packed but we ended up with stuff piled in footwells, stacked up nearly to roof in rear, and my entire front seat full. When we all drove to chicago then up to south dakota for my grandpa's funeral my dad and brother took his car, and my sis rode with us (nice having another adult to pass stuff and talk to kids! lot less movies needed!) and we gave most of our stuff to my dad who had a trunk and backseat empty.

thats when I decided the roof bag thing would be a great idea for xmas. LOL.

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#19 of 20 Old 11-12-2012, 07:34 PM
 
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My general rule of thumb is if its within 10 hours we drive, if its further we fly. We've gone on several flights with the kids. I've booked red eye flights and I've also booked flights with crazy long layovers to save money but I always end up wishing I spent the money to get a better flight. I've also flown into nearby cities and drive to our destination. For instance, I got a great deal on tickets into Baltimore then we drove down to Virginia beach. I was a bit of a pita but it turned out fine. I typically start saving 18 months in advance of our trip.

Kate~ Mama to two.
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#20 of 20 Old 11-25-2012, 11:24 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JollyGG View Post

Another tip for driving vacation is to make the trip part of the vacation. So if it would take 12 hours to get there, break it up in to 2 days and research the destinations and tourist stops on the way there. The kids get out and run around and you get to have some fun. 

 

I even do this without the kids. I drove with my mother, brother, and SIL from South Dakota to Mississippi for my nephews graduation several years ago. We drove straight through there stopping only for gas and bathroom breaks and switching drivers. But on the way back I told everyone that I just couldn't handle it and we needed to plan one or two fun stops. Yeah it made a long trip longer. It made what would have been a middle of the night return a early morning return home. But it was very much worth it.

 

This is what we did this summer with DS (then 15 months).  We were looking at either flying or driving to a family reunion in FL (from VA) - about 15 hours straight.  Since we ultimately didn't care to spend too much time in FL (took off two weeks, spent 4 days in FL), we decided to break it up into pieces.  

 

On the way down, we made two stops, each a day and a half (so, three legs of driving).  We stayed in hostels, cabins, budget hotels.  It was a great way to explore some exciting new places (some that we'd wanted to see, and some we discovered through guide books).  On the way back, we were going to make two stops, but DS was sick so it was only one.  I treasure the time we spent in those off-shoots as much as our destination! thumb.gif  We got to expose DS to aquariums, old rice plantations, small (forgotten) tourist towns, marshes, virgin cypress swamps, etc.  I felt going off the beaten path a little (read: interstates, lots of touristy places) gave us a richer travel experience.  We also bought groceries and traveled with trail mix, fresh fruit, etc.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaBookworm View Post

 

The big lesson learned was that our rest stops couldn't be just about going to the bathroom. We would drive after breakfast for a while and then take a long break at lunch/afternoon, with lots of running around and games and outdoor time. Then we would drive a little further and either stop for the night, or if we needed to make big miles (did over 600 one day!), we would do another long break at dinner time and then drive into the night. 

 

Yes, there was screaming, from time to time. I'm going to chalk it up to building family memories. thumb.gif

 

This was huge!  We drove during DS' naps as much as possible, but what would've been 3.5-5 hour stretches inevitably took most of the day, because we had to factor in multiple breaks at rest areas to eat a snack, stretch our legs, let DS chase after people's dogs. orngbiggrin.gif  So, that's another reason I like breaking up road trips.  We never felt rushed, there was no screaming (almost none anyway!).  Just brought lots of toys, music, water and snacks.


~ Lucky wife of DH blowkiss.gifand loving mama to DS biggrinbounce.gif (04/11) ~

 

treehugger.gif * femalesling.GIF * ecbaby2.gif *cd.gif * familybed1.gif * bf.gif * namaste.gif *

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