Trading Less Stuff For More Memories

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that vacations and such are a very big thing for our family.  We love to camp.  An annual trip to an indoor water park is almost required.  We’ve had a couple of great trips down to Florida.  We have really come to notice how our family just works so well when we’re on the move.   Over time, we have created many more memories through our travel than in many other areas of life.

Experiences Turn Into More Memories

After our last trip, we sat down and talked as a family.  Even though our kids are young (7 and 5), we talked to them about our trip and how great it was.  We also talked about how much vacations mean to us.  Part of our discussion centered on how many things they remember from our various trips.

The kids got it right away.  They started talking about trips that we’ve taken for as many years back as their young minds can remember.  Remember that time at Disney?  Oh yeah, and that one time at the water park!

It was really cool to watch.

Tossing Out The Idea Of A Trade Off

We talked to the kids and pointed out that trips seem to create more memories.  They fully agreed. They got the point right away that even though they’ve had lots of cool gifts along the way, that they are harder to remember as time goes on.  Ask them about a gift they got three years ago and they might remember it, but bring up a trip the same time, and they’ll definitely throw out some recollections.

That’s pretty cool.

So, we brought up the idea of, as a family, starting to cut back on gifts.  We wouldn’t eliminate them altogether, but

Image from MorgueFiles courtesy of Lash.

instead of, for example, six gifts at Christmas, maybe we get three.  The difference would be put aside so that we could make sure that we have the means to travel.

What do you think they said?

It was an enthusiastic YES!

Putting This Into Practice

Our kids birthdays are coming up in the next couple of months. We started talking about plans for their birthday, and our daughter (the five year old) brought up, without prompting, that she would be getting fewer gifts.

And she was 100% cool with it.  She totally got it!  That brought a warmth to our heart.

So, we’ll see how things go.  The kids agreed.  My wife and I even agreed with each other that we’d cut back.  Our ten year anniversary is coming up this fall, and we already discussed instead of getting each other a bigger gift, which is something we’d been talking about, that maybe we would…..

…take a small trip instead.

🙂

Bet you saw that one coming?

Readers, how do you balance ‘stuff’ with ‘experiences’ in your household?  Have you ever made an active and conscious trade-off as we’re putting out there?  Please let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.  Thanks so much for reading.

 

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Breaking Down Our Madeira Beach Vacation

A couple of weeks ago, I was enjoying life a little bit more.  As they say, life is always better at the beach!  We took a family trip down to Florida.  Here are some things I thought I’d share about our Madeira Beach vacation.

Familiarity Helps

We rented a condo that worked out great for us.  What really helped is that we’ve stayed in this condo complex before.  Back in 2010 we took a trip, also with my in-laws and stayed in a different unit.  On top of that, this area was where my wife and her family vacationed when she was a girl.  So, knowing so much about the area in general was a big help too.  Familiarity definitely helped improve our Madeira Beach vacation.

We Saved On Travel But Added Stress

Originally we were planning to drive, but ended up flying.  However, since all public schools in Michigan are off at the same time, the airlines all jacked up their prices flying out of Detroit.  We found some great fares out of Columbus, Ohio, which was about a four hour drive.  Saving money was great, but the added stress of driving kept me on edge.  After all, it would only take one accident along the way to take away our cushion.  Luckily, we were fine, but I was nervous.

Walking Distance

Because of our familiarity with the area, we knew that we could survive without a car.  And we did just fine!  We

Madeira Beach Vacation 2017

ended up taking Uber rides wherever we needed to go. All told, our Uber rides added up to about $125 plus tips, which was a significant saving over renting a car to drive while there.

Pool And The Ocean Added Up To Fun

We had warm, sunny weather for most of the trip, which was great.  However, a good portion of our trip was very windy.  This made being near the water very difficult with blowing sand.  But, having a pool right there definitely kept us exactly where we needed to be.  Having both options was great.

Renting A Condo Was Great

We had a really great condo that we found.  It was two bedrooms.  Each bedroom had a TV.  Having a TV in the kids room was great because they could have some down time after coming back tired from being at the water.  It was also fully furnished and had lots of supplies needed for the pool and water.

Supplies When Renting A Condo

The condo had just about everything we needed, but we ended up forgetting a few things on our shopping trip.  Paper plates, napkins, and salt and pepper were all things we would have liked but didn’t think of.  There was nothing we didn’t have but lots of things we would have loved to have had.  We made a list!

Eating In And Eating Out

We ate at a lot of different restaurants, but also made quite a few meals in.  This mix kept our costs down a bit, and made a good mix of ‘on the go’ versus enjoying the moments.  We ate all of our breakfasts in, and then would generally have lunch or dinner out.  It still wasn’t exactly cheap but it kept things in check.

We Loved Our Madeira Beach Vacation

If you can’t tell we loved our vacation.  All of us came back tan.  We all came back tired. Our son came back with a sore ear from all the swimming.  All told, those are all signs that we had lots and lots of fun.  And we did.  So much so that we already put a deposit on the same unit for next year! And did I mention that repeat visitors get a 10% discount?  Woo-hoo!

Readers, do you have any great family spring break stories?  Please let me know what you did in the comments below.  Thanks so much for reading!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Planning Our Spring Break Trip To Madeira Beach, FL

Our last big family trip was to Disney World in November 2015.  It was great and we had a great time.  As soon as we were done, we started thinking about our next trip.  We didn’t want to do anything as big as Disney, but we wanted to do another trip to Florida.  This time we were thinking Spring Break.  In order to give ourselves time to catch up financially, we targeted the spring of 2017 for our trip.

Well, spring break is almost here, and we’ve gone ahead and planned most of our trip.  Here are some of the details.

Picking Our Spring Break Destination

We knew that we wanted to do a beach trip.  Our family loves camping in the summer and most of our trips seem to be centered around the beach.  We both have had various trips in the past to Florida, so we initially looked at two locations.

  • Panama City Beach. I did a six month assignment in 2005 down in Panama City.  During this time, I fell in love with the beaches and knew that a vacation there would be awesome.  I had a good feel for many of the areas and was able to get a good start on looking for places.
  • Tampa Bay area (Maderia Beach, to be exact).  When my wife was younger, they did family beaches to this area.  We actually went a few years back with my in-laws.  My son was only a baby and my daughter hadn’t
    Image from MorgueFiles courtesy of Lash.

    even been born yet.  Still, with us having been down (my wife many times), we again knew the ins and out.

We actually started planning last fall and the price comparisons weren’t even close.  Since we were limited to the week that the kids are off for spring break, we knew we’d be hitting peak times.  The pricing for comparable units (we planned on renting a condo) was about 30% different.

So, Madeira Beach it was!

Lodging

Our lodging was the first thing we addressed.  We knew that things would be pretty full with us competing with peak spring break times. There were a few different options along the beach and near a popular boardwalk and started contacting owners or managers.  We ended up finding a unit in the same building where we took our last trip.  The pricing was pretty high, but we knew that it would be going in.

We put a deposit down and were able to cross a big item off of our checklist.

Transportation – Driving

When we started planning the trip, we said that we would drive down. With every 4-5 hour trip we took, we lamented on how things would go for a 19 hour drive, which is about what it would take.  Our plan was to do a considerable amount of driving at night, splitting time for the overnight hours.

Our driving options would likely be centered around renting a minivan or SUV to get down there.  I have a pickup truck and it would be ill suited to drive down with all of our stuff.  My wife does have an SUV but we are leasing, and putting the miles plus the wear and tear were just not something we wanted to do.

Renting a minivan or big enough SUV looked to be around $700-1000 for the time we were looking.  Additionally, we factored gas to cost at least another few hundred.

Transportation – Flying

We started looking at flying.  For our last two trips to Florida, we’ve flown Delta.  Their prices were ridiculous.  It would cost around $3,000 to fly down there.

Then we found Southwest Airlines.  We’ve never flown but have heard great things.  They’re cheaper.  You don’t pay for bags.  And, the prices were a lot more reasonable.  Still, flying down from Detroit would cost around $2,000.

My wife did some reading and someone suggested checking different airports.  We looked at the other airport in Michigan that they fly out of and the pricing was no different.  However, we started looking at airports in neighboring Ohio and the difference was staggering.

We ended up finding a deal where we fly in and out of Columbus (about a four hour drive) for a total cost (with all taxes and fees) of $1,220.  This is a non-stop flight there and a quick (1-hour) layover on the way back where we don’t even switch planes.  All at times that were ideal.

We decided to do this and sign up for a Southwest Airlines credit card that will give us 50,000 free points.  This, combined with our mileage, will likely earn 1-2 free flights the next time we want to fly down to Florida.

A Night At A Luxury Resort

The pricing on our flight had us flying down one day earlier.  If we would have flown down on the original day we’re staying, it would have cost around $300 more.  So what are we going to do for a day?

Stay at a brand new 4-star resort for a night.  The room we’re staying at would normally go for $475.  How much are we paying?  Not a penny.

Last spring we surprised my son with a one night trip to Great Wolf Lodge for his birthday.  It was just for him and he loved it, as this is about his favorite place in the world.  We stayed one night and we were having such a good time that we decided to rent a room at a nearby hotel so we could stay at the water park until the end of the day.  We booked online at a Howard Johnson a couple miles up the road.

When we got there, there were huge problems.  The manager was rude to us, rude to his employees (he made someone cry in front of us) and the place was filthy.  We ended up walking out.  I contacted Wyndham, the parent company, and explained what had happened.  They provided me a free night at any Wyndham location in the United States.  So, when we found that we could use the points on our early arrival at a 4-star high rise on Clearwater Beach, we jumped.

Other Costs

We won’t have a car while we’re down there, but that shouldn’t be a big deal.  We’ll take Uber rides from the airport to the hotel to the condo and back to the airport again.  We can probably use them to go out and make a grocery store run when we get to the condo.  Everything else we need is within walking distance.

We’ll have to pay for parking at the Columbus airport, which is around $7-10 per night.  This is a welcome surprised since Metro Airport (Detroit) is at least double that.

All in all, we are really looking forward to our vacation.  We love the beach. The kids do as well and we’re excited to show them the ocean, as well as build some more great family memories.  Since we’ve worked hard to find savings in multiple areas, we’re excited to have a great time on what looks to be an affordable budget.

Readers, do you have any spring break plans or big trips planned?  How have you saved money?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

9 Random Things On My Mind Or Going On – What’s New With You?

It’s a good thing that the days get longer in summer because you need every minute of light and then some.  It’s funny because I have found my ‘falling asleep before bedtime’ spot, which happens to be on one of the couches in the living room.  If you see me heading to that couch anytime in the evening, it’s a sure thing that I’m going to fall asleep.  Here are some random things on my mind that I wanted to share.  Let me know what you think and what’s going on with you.

  1. The mad rush of special events is coming to a close.

    -Starting with Mother’s Day, it’s one opportunity to celebrate after another, which doesn’t end until Father’s Day (which is often delayed from a celebration standpoint).  In between those two we have my wife’s birthday and both kid’s birthday, plus we also have a lot going on with the end of the school years, dance recitals, and everything else.  Don’t get me wrong, we love celebrating every single milestone, but when they come so fast and furious all at once, we have to remind
    ourselves to stop and take a breath so that we can really enjoy and make the most out of each special event.

  2. Orlando.

    What to say about the tragedy in Orlando that hasn’t already been said?  I think one thing that many people need to realize is that there’s not one thing to blame that we can grasp and use as a fix.  It’s not just an ISIS thing.  It’s not just a guns thing.  It isn’t just a mental health thing.  Shutting down the borders or taking away the guns or re-opening the institutions are not individual solutions.  In our complex world, there are so many variables with seemingly new ones popping up all the time.  And, what’s scary is that the ever growing polarization is not going to get us closer to figuring out how to stop these events from happening.  I’m dreading the day when we have to try to explain this to our kids.  So far we’ve been able to keep them insulated, but at 7 and 5, we’re running on borrowed time.  This thought gives me sadness on so many levels.

  3. The Costco credit card switch is almost upon us.

    I have never seen so much publicity over a credit card, but the days are nearly here.  We’re pretty much prepared.  I think there are just a couple of small automated payments that my wife needs to redirect, and I’m also thinking of creating a laminated cheat sheet that we can carry in our wallets to direct us on what card we should use to maximize our rewards.  We have a few different cash back cards, now it’s just a matter of maximizing our value!

  4. A possible culprit in my battle against eczema.

    -The other day I went to take a load of clothes out of the washer.  All would have been well except it never got ran.  When I reached in for the clothes my hands came in contact with Oxi Clean, which we use as a supplement for our clothes.  It wasn’t even five seconds in and I felt the familiar burn.  I’m thinking that maybe this is some pretty harsh stuff, and maybe even coming into contacts with clothes, sheets, and towels that have been washed in it have been aggravating my skin.  Perhaps it’s time for a ban?

  5. Amazon price matching policy

    Here’s a tip, if you want Amazon to adjust a price, don’t use their online chat capability.  Technically, Amazon does not have to match a deal if you find a better price after you make a purchase, but they often will as a courtesy.  No such luck when I found an item, on their own site, $20 cheaper less than a week after I made the purchase.  I had two online agents refuse to help and one even ‘hung up on me’ or whatever the equivalent would be for an online chat.  Not to be deterred, I initiated a phone conversation, and this went much better.  They didn’t give a refund, but we have a $20 credit on our next purchase.  That’s good enough for me!

  6. Basketball dreams

    Our son wanted a basketball hoop for his birthday.  These things are something else to put together.  I started, and am about 1.5 hours in.  I figure I have at least another 2-3 hours of work.  Then once we get it in place (it’s one of the portable models), we have to determine how to anchor it.  They want you to fill it either with sand or liquid (it’d be antifreeze in our case) but many people weigh it down by piling sand bags or something similar on top.  Filling it looks better, but piling stuff on it is easier, plus I’d think that emptying it would be a royal pain.  So, we’re not sure on the approach yet.  Any ideas?

  7. Homeowners association

    I served on our board for the last two years but declined to run again.  There’s a very cliquey group of people (think high school) that love to ‘run the show’ from a social standpoint, yet they refuse to run for the board.  It bugs me that they make many requests of the board, yet never include the board members in the social events, so I decided to take a break for at least a term.  I am still working on updating content on the website, which nobody else really knows well.  Since it’s WordPress based (like my blog) this is pretty easy.

  8. Anyone else nervous about the stock market?

    The market had a pretty nice run after the beginning of the year crash.  It seems like the market really loves the low interest rates that are seemingly now just standard policy.  But I’m a bit nervous, as I can’t imagine that will last forever.  Plus, the debt that all of the Central Banks are creating are injecting money that is being used to push the markets higher,mb-2015-06-fire but it’s still debt and what happens when that needs to be paid back?  Or does it? Who knows?  But in any case, it’s a bit scary to me.  It seems like we’re in a situation where everything is hunky dory….until one day it’s not.  I’m not going ‘bearish’ but I’m definitely keeping a watchful eye.

  9. Camping season is upon us.

    One thing that we’ve settled into is our routine for camping.  This is our fifth year with our trailer, and we now have a pretty good routine going.  We did one trip for Memorial Day, and we have another trip coming up this weekend.  After that we have two weeklong trips and a few more weekend trips.  Summer is short in Michigan so we try to pack it in!

Readers, did you  hit the ground running for summer?  How are things looking for you?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.