Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Intentional Travel continued


O.K., I realize that some of you, after reading yesterday’s post, probably rolled your eyes and thought, “Yeah, but travel is expensive!”

I agree. And I disagree.

See, when you make travel a priority, you begin to realize that there are lots and lots of ways to make it happen. No, it’s not as cheap as staying home, but it’s also a whole lot more fun. Staying home can be fun—if you like cleaning out closets (and if you like cleaning out closets, could you please come to my house? I have a whole bunch of closets that need some attention.). But travel is more fun.

And travel is definitely do-able if you remember these three things: Plan, Research, and Go.

Plan
Do you have a dream? Do you envision taking your kids somewhere really great? Maybe it’s to visit some missionaries like we did or maybe it’s to take them to Australia to experience the Great Barrier Reef. Whatever your dream is, don’t give it up. Just plan for it.

When we caught a vision to take our kids to Brazil we knew it was a huge endeavor. And we knew that the plane tickets alone would cost way more than we could afford to spend at that time, so we began to figure out a way to make it happen. We got ourselves a Visa card that was connected to a Frequent Flier program and we used that card for everything, including groceries.

Of course, using a Visa card for everything may not be in the best interest of some people, especially if you have a hard time budgeting. So I’m not saying to necessarily go out and spend up the Visa card—no way! But we had a budget and knew how much we could spend on stuff, and we paid off the Visa at the end of every month.

Believe me, it took years to rack up enough miles to get three free tickets. YEARS! But in those years we continued to save (we finally saved enough to pay for the other two tickets)and to plan for our trip. We didn’t give up.

After purchasing the tickets we knew we’d need to save for food expenses, passport fees, and other miscellaneous expenses while we were there. We didn’t need to pay for lodging because we stayed with our friends.

Before we knew it, our little dream became a reality and we were on our way to Brazil. And truly, that trip was so worth it (even if I did get sick and have to take massive doses of the strongest antibiotic available when I got home). Our girls got so much out of seeing that part of the world and participating in the work our friends did—they still talk about it today. None of us regret taking that trip for a second.

Research
Now, if you’re a luxury traveler, you can just shut your laptop and stop reading right here because you won’t get anything of value out of what I’m about to say. But if you’re still not convinced that you can afford to travel with your kids, read on. With careful research, you can afford to take your kids out of town, even overseas.

I’ve already talked about using those all-important Frequent Flier miles, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to be in at least one, if not two, FF programs. But it’s also important to research your program—find out other ways besides flying that you can earn miles. Sometimes just going out to dinner can earn you extra miles. Or staying in a hotel. Do a little research to find out how you can get the most out of your FF program.

Lodging can also be done cheaply if you’re willing to plan ahead and be flexible.

London is probably one of the most expensive cities in the world for lodging. It’s outrageous! But there are many deals to be found if you use hotel websites such as Priceline or Hotwire. You will have to pay for the room up front (which, to me, is a bonus because you won’t have that expense to deal with once you get home), and they usually have a no-refund policy. Once you’ve paid, you’d better go use the room because you won’t be able to get your money back.

Again, this doesn’t bother me. Other than catastrophic illness or death, I can’t imagine a reason why I wouldn’t want to go to the greatest city in the world.

For my upcoming trip to London, I got my hotels through Priceline and Hotwire. The first place we’re staying cost us only $89 a night through Priceline (I’ve stayed there before so I know the neighborhood and I know that the hotel is just fine). That same room, if booked through the hotel, would cost about $140 a night and that's even with a special they have running right now.

Travel websites often offer forums where seasoned travelers give tips to not-so-seasoned travelers. I have learned about 2-for-1 deals in London on many attractions through these forums. I’ve also learned about which museums and attractions are free. I’ve learned the best time to book train tickets when they are at their least expensive. And I’ve learned about how to find coupons for restaurants. So take some time to read a few travel forums—it will definitely be worth it for you.

Just a little research will cut down the cost of your trip substantially, helping you find some great deals. They’re out there, they really are—you just have to find them.

Go!
Now that you’ve done your planning and research, all that’s left is for you to go. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be worried that your house will burn down while you’re gone. In fact, don’t even think about your house while you’re gone.

Just go and make it a great experience for yourself and for your family.

So tell me, if you could go anywhere, where would you go?

3 comments:

  1. Shelly, I so agree with you that well-planned and intentional travel is great for our kids, and so worth it. The vacations we've taken with our kids are probably our most precious memories and definitely some of the best bonding times we've had. We haven't yet done anything out of the country, other than a family mission trip to Mexico, but we've been to some great places in the states and loved every minute - including our recent trip to California.

    We also have taken advantage of FF programs through our credit card and through an airline. And we use Priceline and hotels.com for hotels. We either buy or borrow from the library guide books about the place we're going and do lots of research so we know where we want to spend our money and time and where we don't.

    It may or may not be your cup of tea, but don't forget about the benefits of camping too. We haven't done a lot of extensive camping with our kids, but I did when I was growing up. Traveled across the whole country with a pop up camper for four weeks one summer - absolutely unforgettable and easier on my parents' teacher salaries.

    Yea for travel! A worthy investment for our kids and families!

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  2. Thanks, Kay. You make some great points! As far as camping goes . . . I know that's a great alternative for many families. There are some fantastic national parks that are definitely worth seeing--you can do that so cheaply if you camp.

    As for me, "I love not camping." :)

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  3. Oh, I hope someday to be able to use one of those points credit cards wisely. After we finally paid off our last credit card last year (we had a big problem for many years), I thought we'd just keep one card and use it for this kind of purpose. Except we don't have that kind of discipline - or at least we didn't then. I'll probably try again in a year or so, but with some stricter rules on myself to keep us focused on the reason for the card!

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