How We’re Funding Our Anniversary Vacation

I recently mentioned that we’re going on a ten year anniversary vacation.  We’re all booked up for flights and our resort.  Since we’re staying at an all inclusive resorts, we are comfortable that we have most costs covered.  One thing with other trips is you get stuck with fees, meals, drinks, etc.  We already have that stuff covered.

But, still, we had to pay for it.  I don’t know about you, but we often fund things like this from several different sources.  That was really true with this trip.

Funding Our Anniversary Vacation

Here are the list of sources that we’re using to piece together the budget:

  • A portion of our 2016 tax refund.  We always put some toward travel, and this year we put some extra for this.
  • A portion of our annual vacation savings.  We fund our vacation savings fund throughout the year, and a little bit went to this trip for the year.
  • A portion of one of my two ‘extra’ paychecks.  We budget for two paychecks per month, but have two months where we get three.  This is often used for funding ‘special’ items and this occasion seemed fitting!
  • Reward money from four different cash back credit cards.  We have four cards that we use to maximize our category savings, and we cashed all four in to put a pile of money toward the trip.
  • Side hustle money from both me and my wife.  Extra money can often help fund some of the extras.  It seemed to fit perfectly.

The trip is going to be fun, though I am stressed as I’ve never flown international.  It’s nice to know that the money aspect won’t be causing too much stress if all goes well!

Readers, how do you fund your vacations?  Have you ever had a special occasion trip like this that you’ve saved for?  Let me know your experiences in the comments below.  Thanks 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.

March 2017 Updates

It’s March!  Did you know that even though Spring doesn’t officially start until later this month, that from a meteorological standpoint, spring has started?  That’s right, from a meteorological perspective, the seasons start on the 1st of the month of the calendar change.  I guess they know something we don’t!  I hope that things are going well.  Here are some March 2017 updates and goals.

Fitness

I recently wrote about some renewed focus on my fitness.  So far this is going well!

  • As of the end of February, I’ve dropped 5.8 pounds.  I’ve also dropped my body fat percentage from 21.0% to 19.0%.  These are both since the beginning of the year.  Both of these numbers make me happy.
  • I’m getting to the gym around 4 times per week.
  • I’m mostly running and walking.
  • I haven’t got as much weight lifting done as I’d hoped.  I had hernia surgeries years back, and the weight lifting has caused some minor pain in the area.  I got things checked during a recent visit, and I haven’t done any damage.  Most likely it’s pulling on the scar tissue.  The doctor recommended that I skip the weights until I’m pain free, then see if I can narrow it down to figure out what’s causing the pain.  If that works, I can eventually cut out just the portion of my workout that’s causing the stress.

Taxes

  • We got our taxes submitted to our CPA, and it was done in record time.  That was the good news.  The bad news is that the refunds were a few hundred dollars less than I’d hoped.  Oh, well!
  • We already got our refunds!
  • The refunds came so quick that we didn’t even have a chance to allocate the money, so we’ll have to do that.

Florida Trip

Our spring break trip is just around the corner!

  • Both of the big bills for our upcoming spring break trip have been paid: Renting our condo and our flights.
  • Our biggest to-do (except for packing) is to plan our trip back and forth to the airport.  We’re actually driving about 3.5 hours to an airport in Ohio.  The flights were about 50% cheaper versus flying from Detroit.
  • We won’t have a car while we’re down in Florida.  We can Uber to and from the airport.  There’s a trolley line that runs from our hotel to nearby grocery stores (we also plan to use Amazon Prime Pantry).  All of the restaurants and beaches we plan to visit are within walking distance.

Other March 2017 Updates

  • Lawn – I’ll be working in the backyard.  Since we had some tree stumps removed, I’ll have to dig out the shavings, fill in with top soil and put some seed down.  We have a number of other spots throughout our yard that could use some fill in, so I’m debating just getting a load of top soil delivered.
  • Fridge – Our basement fridge is one that we borrowed many years back.  It’s a mini-fridge (bigger than a box fridge) but has worked well.  We knew that the owner might want it back, and it’s been our plan to move the old, ugly white fridge in the kitchen to the basement and get a new kitchen fridge.  Well, our ticket was finally called.  Unfortunately, it was about two weeks past President’s Day, which is when you can get some good sales.  So, while we’re not going to rush to buy a new fridge and overpay, we may be down to a single fridge for awhile until we find a deal.  As we’re often at capacity with our current two fridges, this could be troublesome.

Readers, how are things going for you this March?  

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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.