We go on vacation every year, and have for a while now. In my opinion it's important for our family. I know not everyone agrees with me, but I think I personally need the time away from home to recharge, and spend more time enjoying my family. Even when our vacations are just to my parents' house in Missouri, it helps us recharge and relax. Plus of course, it's awesome to see family. We live 1100 miles from "home" for both my husband and me, so we don't get to see our families nearly as often as we would like. Elliott and I do manage to go home every year, and Carl is with us most of the time, but sometimes he's just not able to take the necessary time off from work.
This year, we were planning on just going home again. We were planning a trip to Kansas City for a few days. Our parents live in the Springfield area, so Kansas City isn't that far away, but we had planned on spending 2 or 3 nights there anyway, so we could do more stuff.
However, my husband recently found out that he will almost certainly not be allowed to take any leave next summer (2014) if we are still here. He will most likely either be sent to another base for a while, or will be left here, where they will be obviously short manned because so many will be elsewhere. We were planning another Florida trip for next summer. My son is really into Super Heroes and Lego blocks, so we were planning on doing Universal Orlando and LegoLand, while he still loves those things. However, we have been talking over the idea of doing the Florida trip this year instead. We normally have a pretty extravagant Christmas, and my whole family is on board with the idea of clearing out our Christmas savings account in late June for a July vacation to Florida. We were also planning on buying a 3D TV within the next few weeks, and have decided instead, to put that money toward a Florida trip as well. So if we can come up with another $500 by the end of March (about halfway between now and the trip), without cutting into debt repayment, or any of our other savings goals, it looks like the Florida trip might happen this summer!
Our goal for a Florida vacation is to spend at least 9 days in Florida. We would like to do 4 days at Universal, and 2 at Lego Land. We also want time off to sleep, swim, etc. When we went to Disney World in 2011, we took 2 days to spend at Downtown Disney, or just in the hotel doing nothing, and they really helped us to spend lots of hours in the park enjoying everything, without feeling burnt out and too tired on the days we did go to the parks. We would like to do something similar this year with a Universal and Lego Land vacation. We also want to go back to Downtown Disney. Last time we were there, we didn't get to explore it as much as we would have liked. If it's just my guys and me we will probably also visit Sea World one day, since we can get free tickets there, through the military as well.
Our Florida budget will be whatever money we save between now and then, along with what we were planning on spending on the 3D TV and 3D blu ray player, plus the money that we would have in our gift fund by the end of June. We also will be applying our Missouri vacation budget. Based on my preliminary research on hotel prices, ticket prices, and factoring in gas costs from North Dakota to Missouri, and then on to Florida and back again, we should have enough money to cover 10 days in a hotel, and the tickets I mentioned earlier, plus almost all the food we would need. The extra $500 that I'm trying to come up with between now and March would be used to buy the food we would need from a grocery store to buy snacks for our hotel room, and spending money. Then the $500 we would save between March and the time we left would be our "just in case" money, in case we went a little over budget on food or souvenirs, or something comes up and we need an extra night in a hotel, etc.
We also have invited both my younger sister (the one who lives with us now) and my sister who went on vacation with us to Washington. If either of them (or both!) goes with us, we will be able to do it a little more cheaply, since gas (and most likely hotel stays, although we might have to upgrade a little, and end up without much savings) will be cheaper per person then. If they come, we might even be able to extend our vacation, and possibly even hit up Disney World again!
To save $500 in the next few weeks we have made a plan that includes:
We will use more coupons and cut our grocery budget down. We haven't been using many coupons at all lately, and I would like to get back into couponing anyway. Using the money for vacation, is just added reason to do so!
We will also spend less on entertainment and eating out. Our entertainment budget is quite large, and should probably go down anyway. It certainly will for the next few months!
I'd also like to save on gas, but don't really see that happening until after basketball season is over in the middle of February. Every Saturday Elliott has a game, over 30 miles away, so I can't really cut that trip out at this point. I'm hoping to drop our trips to Minot down to just once a week (on Sunday, for church and shopping both) after basketball, and save a few dollars a week that way.
We are also thinking about selling some stuff, but that might have to wait until June when we can have a yard sale.
We're also planning on putting any extra money from my husband's second job (a pay period with an extra day, training pay, etc) into our vacation fund. Normally it would go into our Christmas fund, so it ends up in the same place, but when projecting our Christmas fund total, I went based only on the amount of money that would be taken from my husband's check each month anyway.
Also, any money I make online will be added to the vacation fund (also usually goes to Christmas).