At this moment it is 19 degrees outside, cold, and very uncomfortable. There’s not much to do besides stay inside, watch some TV, and be cozy with the heat on. This is probably the best time to ponder where to vacation next because you’re already in front of a computer and booking a flight is probably on the lower cost of the spectrum.
So what is there to do when you’re on a limited budget but still want a full, rich experience? Turn off Instagram first because you won’t find the answers there. These people on Instagram are on a whole ‘nother planet, but anyway, here are some ideas and you can modify them as you wish. These are simply to get you started and should be somewhat budget friendly.
- Camping/Hiking. My family absolutely LOVES being outdoors. I wasn’t too thrilled about it at first, as I’d rather sit at home and plug away in front of a computer (my face and hands are tanned from the monitor glow). But camping is probably one of the richest experience to share with younger kids. Let me explain. If you are like the 98% of households today, your kids have been exposed to some type of babysitting device. You know what I mean, the iPad is the best childcare invention of the century! So by going to a place where there isn’t WiFi – the kids are somewhat forced to be screen-free. I say “somewhat” because they can still nag the $hit out of you and beg to use your phone (which has cellular service).If you find someplace really remote, you won’t be unplugged 100% of the time. But that’s okay, some data connectivity to kill waiting time while camping is acceptable. Just don’t be like the campers next door who brought a TV, plugged it in the back of their truck and hooked up video game consoles to it. They’re missing the whole point of it all. Camping is supposed to allow you to experience nature and the bare necessities. Nothing else compares to its unique experience. And the chance to unplug, if only for a few days, is worth it.I have a large family and at minimum we need a large 7-seater SUVs to cart all of our stuff from one location to another. If you’re also going to camp with a large family, I must recommend an 8-person or 10-person tent. Alpinecove.com sells the Chinook Titan Lodge for 8 people. This is Chinook’s largest tent and it is high-quality with very durable nylon floors. The olive green color will also help you blend in with the environment. This weighs about 35 pounds, so it isn’t ideal to go hiking with, but if you’re going to a campsite, it should be fine. We also pack a bunch of flashlights and knives to the camping site, the kids love finding sticks and branches to cut up and throw in the fire. I pack a Ka-Bar Becker Combat Knife, because it simply looks cool! It comes with a nylon sheath that you can attach to your belt. I have other recommendations but I’ll make a separate camping and hiking checklist about this later.Do expect to spend between $300-400 for a week’s worth of camping, that would pay for the camp ground rent, fuel, some food and supplies for the week. You’ll save a lot of money if you already own the big essentials (tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, folding chairs, lamps, etc). Otherwise, the first camping trip is the most expensive camping trip.
- The beach. Going out for a week on the coastal shores is almost always a relaxing adventure. Unless of course you have young babies who can only stand the heat of the sun for only 15 minutes at a time and are always hungry! Luckily, my youngest child is 4 years old, so he can play on his own with medium supervision, and can practically entertain himself for hours. Which frees me up to take on challenging ventures. But, a beach trip can be some of the best budget friendly destinations out there.If you’re close to the beach (within 3 hours) you already know this, but if you have to fly to a destination, you probably won’t be able to save as much because airfare is very costly today. Here’s an example, a Southwest Airline flight from Detroit, Michigan to Baltimore (BWI) will cost $312 per adult. These are the cheapest flights at less than prime time. I picked August 3rd 1:00Pm Departure to August 7th 3:25 Arrival. A family of six will need to pay a whopping: $1,872.00 for the flights alone! Forget the rental car, hotel, and food. You’d end up spending over $5,000 for a week on the beach! So a beach trip is impractical for those not in driving distances. But if you are close, you can rent a small vacation home from AirBnB for between $600-1000 a week, then you can buy your own food and cook in the kitchen, further saving you money on eating out.
- Go on a cruise. There are smart ways to approach this and I’m still trying to figure the optimal money saving technique. But, the one thing I learned the hard way is that if you’re going on a cruise that would require you to leave the country, have your passport already. Nobody told me how hard it truly is to get a passport if you were born overseas but immigrated 28 years ago as a child. We went about it incorrectly from the beginning and that mistake costs us about $3,000 of the non-refundable deposit part.Now, Costco Wholesale Warehouse sells vacation packages, and we found them to be reputable source for near wholesale prices. You can visit their Travel site and check it out for yourself. Just don’t believe the pictures of paradise where they show the locations, but there are no people in it. Believe me when I say this, but these places are filled with people during the prime peak vacation season. If they actually took a realistic photo of what you’ll see when you go on your trip, I don’t think they’ll sell as many vacation packages. But Costco is a good company, and if there are any problems, they’ll bend over backwards to make things right. I highly recommend using them to book your next cruise.
Whenever I’m anywhere away from home for more than a day, I bring a few essentials with me. My headphones and a rugged backpack for my laptop and other accessories. I think a tough, durable, nylon backpack is essential when you’re on the go. I’ve had leather backpacks before and I found that they carry additional weight. If I’m carrying my camera too, the backpack tends to bulk up and become uncomfortable to wear. I used to have a Canon T-Series DSLR, then I switched to a mirrorless Sony A5000 and I couldn’t be happier. That camera is lightweight and takes outstanding pictures. For traveling, that camera is essential. I can’t say that it’s small enough to fit in your pocket but you can attach a wrist or neck strap to it to help you carry it around. I highly recommend the Sony A5000 as I’ve been using that for about 4 years now.
Good luck with your vacation and destination search!
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