V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N — In the Summertime!

by Katy on May 20, 2009 · 12 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published column. Enjoy!


Exotic foreign vacation, close-by camping, obligatory family visits?

It may sound a tad early, but now is the time to start thinking about your summer plans. 

Whether you do an elaborate vacation or something simpler, the key to frugal, well organized summer trips is to plan ahead.

My family’s “exotic” family vacation last year was to housesit for my sister who lives up in Seattle, while her family took a week-long Alaskan cruise. We had a free place to stay, separate bedrooms, toys for the kids and most importantly, a Seattle library card. What more can a girl want?

Because I knew ahead of time that my sister’s place would be available, I didn’t plan any other vacations. Had her plans been last minute, then we probably wouldn’t have been able to take a week off to goof around in Seattle.

This year’s vacation will probably be about as frugal-minded, as our current income is somewhat miniscule due to my husband’s career change. (It will increase significantly after he finishes his first year.)  However, this doesn’t mean we won’t be able to pull together a respectable vacation.

They key to a budget minded vacation is to either fly somewhere you can stay for free, or not go too far and stay somewhere cheap.

Our ace-in-the-hole is that our friends own a three bedroom cabin on the Oregon coast that rents out for $65 per night. It’s a bit grotty, but I’ve learned to live with that. I also have a unique situation. My mother runs three smallguest cottages in town that she rents out fully furnished, with towels, dishes, fancy cable, etc. We’ve been known to spend a few nights stay-cation-ing in them. The upside is that they’re free and it’s nice to get away from the responsibilities of one’s own home. The downside is that the houses are only a few miles away from said home.

For those who don’t have mothers who rent out vacation cottages, (that, I imagine would be most everyone except my sister) I’ve heard of people who do house swaps. There are certainly official house swap sites likehomeexchange.com. but it doesn’t have to be so formal. Maybe you and a friend can coordinate vacations to stay in one another’s houses.

The classic budget friendly vacation for many people is camping. If you already have the equipment, or have access to some that can be borrowed, then camping is a great option. (I camped once since becoming a parent, and it made me cry hysterically. It’s not my thing.)

I’m kind of crushing on The Great Wolf Lodge, (a swim resort) that is dab-smack halfway between Seattle and Portland. It’s not cheap, but I could split a room with my sister, and I might be able to rationalize how close it is to Portland as free ticket to spend a bit. (Or . . . maybe they want to comp The Non-Consumer Advocate and family in exchange for a bit of publicity?)

Are you starting to make your summer plans? Will this year’s vacation be a scaled back version? Please share you summer vacation plans in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

chaotic kitten May 21, 2009 at 8:57 am

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Kristen@The Frugal Girl May 21, 2009 at 5:41 pm

We always go to the beach in the off-season…it’s half as expensive, still warm, and way, way, way less crowded.

It’s one of the delightful perks of homeschooling.


Tara Morrison May 21, 2009 at 6:58 pm

This is not our typical summer as we are having a baby smack in the middle of it. So our trips are limited if nonexistent for me( other than a couple quite days in the hospital with just one child). My in laws are coming in for a week to help with the other three kids and I was thinking the biggest help of all would be to have no one home. Although my parents do have a mountain home it is a six hour drive and I have a feeling in laws coming across the country from Washington will have no desire to tack on that much more traveling. We are, however, a thirty minute drive from the white sands of the Gulf of Mexico and after chatting with a friend of mine whose family owns a beachfront house that they could use during the week,I have a plan. She offered use free of charge other than her grandmothers desire for a cleaning crew to come in after their use for a 50 dollar or so charge. So my in laws husband and three kids will be heading off to the beach for two nights and I will be left with a virtually empty house!

The usual vacation we take would occur during June and it is usually me and one child tagging along with my husband to a NYC conference. Plane tickets are usually pretty reasonable and the city if full of cheap or free things to do and EAT. I have an affinity for the city after living there for a couple years. I would also consider tagging along with husband on other trips if the travel is cheap enough. The rooms are always free and they are in much better places than we could ever afford. Last summer I stayed at the Breakers in Palm Beach for 4 nights and let me say they have the poshest GW I’ve ever laid eyes on.


Dawn May 21, 2009 at 7:41 pm

I am going the camping route, once again. While it is away from home-it is a lot of work. My kids (ages 15 & 13) are very helpful as being a single parent I have a lot of work to do. The 1st day is usually tough as we set up and get used to just the 3 of us, but it gets better. There is always at least one funny story from the trip that we laugh about for years.
The down side is that there could be other campers that party all night and keep us awake (our experience last time). Being a school nurse and off for the summer I can schedule our trip to be during the week when it will be quieter.
I wouldn’t mind a vacation at Atlantis, if someone else was paying, but I do enjoy camping.


Ellen May 21, 2009 at 8:08 pm

We’re driving up to BC (from Portland) to save on airfare and take advantage of the exchange rate. Renting a condo in Whistler. It won’t be cheap, but it beats our original idea of Mexico or Hawaii by a long shot! My husband hates camping but I might take my son by myself or with friends, too.

The Great Wolf Lodge is great fun … be aware that the rates vary in the extreme. If you can go mid-week in the late fall or winter (non holiday), and share a room with your sister, you can get a really good deal. One night lodging includes admission to the water park for the day you arrive and the day you leave, even after you check out (i.e., one night is *plenty*!), for four people. Have fun!


Linda May 21, 2009 at 8:16 pm

We own a camping trailer so our vacations for the last several years have been spent at the beach in our home away from home. The fees are about $40/day, much cheaper than a hotel, & includes hookups…electricity & water. Our trailer has a stove, oven, microwave, & fridge so we can cook our own meals. This year we won’t be able to get away. There is a website that I read about some where and it’s a very intriguing idea for the more adventurous among us. It’s called couch surfing. Once you’re registered, you find people who are offering travelers a place to stay just about anywhere in the world. I don’t know that I’d ever actually do it, but I do enjoy looking through the site.



Teresa May 21, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Had anyone ever seen coupons for Great Wolf Lodge? I haven’t but my friends went “cheap” when they very first opened up and had grand opening specials. Haven’t seen any special offers ever since.


marzapan May 22, 2009 at 7:46 am

My answer connects back to your “can you be too frugal?” query. We do the same vacations every year, visiting grandparents in WA and MA (we live in CA). It is not cheap to fly a family of 4, but the alternative, not spending time with our beloved and aging parents, would be beyond awful. This year I found 4 seats for a three-flight SF-Seattle-Boston-SF trip, all direct flights, for $1750. And we hardly spend money when we are there, so all in all it’s a great deal.


Pennie May 22, 2009 at 8:32 am

Funds are a bit tight this year due to market debacle, so DH and I are each working PT right now (we’re early retirees.)

Have an old but lovingly DIY-fixed-up motorhome; fuel too expensive to go very far in. We had a good laugh last night that we should just plan a “staycation” with it in the back yard. Drop the awning, put out a couple of folding chairs, add a fire pit in the gravel, camp overnight a few days in it and just invite friends over for a nice meal, game of cards and some priceless laughter! 😀


alunatunes May 22, 2009 at 9:02 am

Boyfriend has a fancy little foreign car he’s been fixing up for awhile. We’re taking short day trips (within three hours) to attend car and craft shows. Something for HIM and something for ME!
One day trips don’t require a day off work, boarding the dog or special arrangements.
In 15 years we’ve never taken an actual vacation. Our vacations are always combined with work. A gig at the beach for him is a day at the beach for me coupled with writing and PR work.
It really works nicely!


penelope May 22, 2009 at 1:50 pm

my vacation was planned way back in February. Those were the time where the tickets would be cheap. im going next month on the 18 to Dominican Republic. Im staying over my aunts house and my dads (a combo of both) i cant wait!!!


Debbie May 22, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Ok, I am lucky to live in Ft. Lauderdale, so we will be spending our summer days (8 day of school left for us) at the beach or in our pool.Yes, I do have a pool(going back to Katy’s post about her having a pool put in her yard, ha,ha), but here you need one or you will melt in the summer time. Anyway, I would love to go and visit family in NYC or elsewhere, but I will be an unemployed teacher next year due to budget cuts, so all of $$ we have need to be saved for that rainy day.


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