How Do You Have The Best Family Vacation Of Your Life?

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If we are friends on Facebook you will see from my personal profile Mary Starr Carter that my family and I have had an amazing summer. We traveled from Florida to Central NY this summer to stay on Oneida Lake in a little town called Constantia. Along this journey we have attended three conferences one we flew too in the state of Utah for. We even made a trek over to Canada to visit Niagara Falls with our Mississippi family.

NiagaraFalls

When we were planning this adventure we knew we wanted quality family time, a restful vacation, and exercise. For 41 years our summers have been filled with work, work, and more work. We realized our kids are growing fast and we want to make lasting quality memories with them.

It took us 41 years to have the best vacation of our lives. Here are some tips to help you have the best vacation of your life.

DECIDE

I am actually an indecisive person. It gets me in trouble and I will tend to put things off. But this year with the help of my decisive husband we DECIDED we were going to spend the SUMMER together.

You could also call this a GOAL. Do you have a goal of what you want to do this summer or next VACATION? Making the decision is the first step here is the next…

PRIORITIZE  

Work together with your family to decide what is most important to you. It may be relaxing on the beach reading books, it may be seeing as many sights as possible, it may be traveling to visit friends, it may be visiting historic places. You have to know what is important to those who are coming and of course with different personalities you might plan a combination of things so everyone gets to enjoy something they love.

For my husband and myself it was family time, exercise, and making memories with our kids.

Here is a picture of Jay on his bike. He biked 372 miles and ran almost 100 miles while we were gone. He loved it!

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PLAN & PROBLEM SOLVE

Once you decide and prioritize, you are ready to start planning. It’s important you prioritize first because you will need to make decisions based on those priorities. Here is an example:

We had to make a decision and plan when we attended our conferences if we would bring the kids with us or if they would stay home with a sitter… when we went back to our priorities we realized that making memories and being together was a priority even though it would be hard we would bring our kids with us to the conferences.

We made this decision knowing that the level that we could participate at our conferences would suffer but we decided to make that sacrifice because our priority was being with our kids this summer. Does that example help you see why priorities are important to set when planning a vacation?

Problems and challenges will also arise while you are planning, but keep in mind a problem is just a task to accomplish. I learned this from my mentor Dani Johnson and it has helped me a ton.

Here are 5 tips to help you with your vacation.

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1. PROBLEM HOW DO I GET THE MONEY

Another problem that commonly comes up is how do we pay for our vacation? This actually stops most people before they even start… I CAN’T AFFORD IT… I DON’T HAVE THE MONEY…

Or others use credit cards to splurge and suffer the consequences later. When I was 22 my girlfriends and I decided we were going on a cruise. I didn’t set up a plan or problem solve how I would get the money. The result was the beginning of credit card use that I would rely on until I got control and learned how to manage and plan for expenses and get out of credit card debt.

So to solve the money problem and to avoid getting into credit card debt here are some ideas for you:

– Get a part time job, lawn or cleaning service, bake goods or make crafts and sell them at shows.

– Re-allocate your monies… instead of doing $600 worth of landscaping this summer use that money towards your vacation and plant a pretty weed garden. Stop buying things that aren’t a necessity.

– Read my friend Claudia Looi’s eBook:

save over $2000 to travel or buy anything you want

1 Simple Way to Save Over $2,000 to Travel or Buy Anything YOU Want

–  Start a Home Business and use the money for your travel. And once you are in a home business you can plan a meeting or two in the locations you travel too and now your mileage and travel can be a tax deduction.

This is a picture of my sister in law and niece visiting Niagara Falls for the first time ever. They used family members’ airline miles, saved and had several garage sales to afford their vacation.

NiagaraFallsWaterfalls

Here are 2 more tips that can help you have the best summer vacation ever!

2. SAY NO

Last summer when we spent 2 and a half weeks in Central NY, we had so much planned including multiple meetings, visits with friends and associates, after we had just spent 3 weeks on the road for work. It was really really really intense. To the point that my husband suffered serious adrenal fatigue that took him months to recover from. It was too much.

So this summer when the invitations to come and speak or even visit friends started coming at me I said NO.  I simply said this summer is about spending as much time with my family as possible… AND THAT IS WHAT WE DID.

This is a picture of my kids having an awesome time with their cousins. They loved spending time with them.

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3. WE SAID YES TO HEALTH

Learning from last year’s mistakes we knew there were some important things we needed for everyone to stay healthy and happy. Good sleep, decent food, and exercise. My husband is training for a triathlon. He gets out almost everyday on vacation to exercise. He bikes 20 – 60 plus miles 3 times or runs 4-13 miles.

I made it a priority to walk or jog 3-4 times a week, in hotels I go to the gym, and I even made it to my favorite Central NY gym Metro Fitness East for some group classes. We did our best to plan out our meals. Shakes have been a staple to help keep us getting all the good nutrition we need especially when your Italian family invites you over for dinner, it’s a picnic food day or you know you will be eating bonfire smores that night.

There were a few nights that we or the kids were still wound up from the day so we would take my favorite sleepy time immune building supplement Immupro. We are also taking our supplement routines daily including Ningxia Red, Mineral Essence, Multigreens, NingXia Nitro and Mindwise plus essential oils and our new pain cream for sore muscles. In 60 days we were away from home and our routines and no one has gotten sick, thrown up, or suffered any terrible hurts that have stopped them from being active. God’s grace on us, combined with our efforts, have kept us healthy so far.

4. LESS IS MORE

This is a picture of the camp we stayed in most of the vacation. It was small, filled with spiders, a dead mouse, and the toilet worked some of the time. But it was also filled with so much love, fun and peace.

Camp

I know everyone is different and some individuals love to pack as many adventures as possible in their vacations and others just want to CHILL. But when I say less is more I mean the following.

Spending more money doesn’t mean more fun. For my kids, I initially wanted to take them to the parks, zoo, etc. but they actually had a ball just staying at our camp. They would roll down the hill, run around barefoot in the grass, and watch the wildlife for their entertainment.

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Get the most out of your adventures as a family or couple or single but really taking advantage of all the FREE things there are to do first. What amenities does the hotel or camp place have? Would your family be happy swimming everyday?

And I have to admit even bringing some of our DVDs and watching a kid’s movie some nights or PBS in the mornings helped us stay sane.

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5. IT’S NOT EASY BUT IT’S WORTH IT

A family vacation isn’t always easy. Airports, driving thousands of miles, bathroom stops in the middle of nowhere, and feeding your crew are some of the stressors of travel.   There will be days you just want to cry, where you just want to sleep in your own bed, shower in your own shower, and cook on your own stove. But in the end you will create memories that will last a lifetime.

My kids won’t forget their time at Grandpa’s this year. All the work, planning, and problem solving are so worth it when you see those amazing memories on your Facebook feed. LOL!

Here is a picture of Sarah Grace and Grandpa.

GrandpaSarahWalking

So what are you waiting for? It’s time for you and your family to enjoy life more. Make the decision today about your next VACATION… you need one!

How to Find the Best Deals for Summer Vacations

how to find the best deals for summer vacations

How to Find the Best Deals for Summer Vacations

By: Claudia Looi

“Lost $416!” Monitoring air ticket prices is almost like the stock market. I don’t get it right all the time when it comes to purchasing airline tickets. Have you? My husband and daughter said, “Just go make more money and recover from the losses!”

You see I had been looking at ways to get the cheapest and best airfares to St. Petersburg Russia with a stopover at a European city. Icelandair came into the radar during that research with a price of $574 per person. Not bad because Lufthansa and some of the American carriers were offering over $1,000 without any free stopovers.

On a busy content writing day while doing research and writing for a client on Tips to Buying One Way Tickets to Europe the price on Icelandair was $470 from Boston to St. Petersburg. That was an incredible deal and I thought we might have to travel from New York City to Boston to save a few dollars. Curious, I checked for pricing from New York City and it was $470 too.

I patted myself on the back and said good job. The air miles we accumulated will cover three tickets instead of two. Which means for a family of four we would pay $470 for airfares from New York City to St. Petersburg Russia with a stopover in Iceland. St. Petersburg is our final destination in Europe. We will start our overland tour from Russia through Mongolia and China.

Did I take advantage of the price? Unfortunately no. Why? I was procrastinating and ended with a $574 ticket per person two weeks later.

If you are like me – you love sweet deals for leisure and pleasure. The question is where and how to find the best deals for summer vacations. Here are 4 ways that helped me save money:

One: Credit cards reward points
Credit cards can be your tool to saving money if you pay off every month without owing a penny. When the kids were little we had a ToysRUs credit card for free toys. Now we use cards that offer “no hassle miles” rewards.

Capital One Venture One card has no annual fee; no foreign transaction fees and you earn 1 ½ miles per dollar on every purchase. You can use the points to fly with any airline, stay at any hotel, any time. When you open a new account you immediately earn 20,000 bonus miles. Check it out here.

The Business Gold Card from American Express OPEN offers up to 75,000 Membership Rewards points redeemable for up to $750 in gift cards at select stores after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.

You get 3 points on airfare purchased directly from airlines, 2 points on purchase for advertising in select media, shipping, gas and more and 1 point on other purchases. Points can be used for flights, hotels and vacation packages through americanexpress.com/travel and there are no blackout dates or seat restrictions.

There is an annual fee after the first year. American Express has a variety of credit cards. Find out more here.

We have used airline miles from American carriers for air tickets and hotels. And credit card reward points for airline tickets. Do your homework and find out which card suits your needs.

Two: Sign up for alerts and newsletters
I subscribe to a few alerts and newsletters from various travel websites. Travelzoo.com, airfarewatchdog.com and booking.com are three of my favorites.

For example, airfarewatchdog.com sent me an email this week with a list of best airfare deals from New York City. I’ve been thinking about going to Bermuda and the fares have been favorable for the last few weeks. Look at this:

Hamilton, Bermuda on American Airlines is $339 per person round trip. That is an amazing deal. If you are thinking of going to Manila Philippines, it is $931 per person on China Southern Airlines.

Travelzoo.com sends me weekly emails on the best cruise, flight, show, hotel, dining, and tour deals from different travel companies to anywhere around the world. This week I received a few amazing deals.

This looks like a really sweet deal for someone living in Vancouver or Northwest United States (taken from Travelzoo.com):

Norwegian Cruise Line’s last-minute 7 nights Alaska cruise offered by cruise.com. We love Norwegian and I would grab this deal immediately if I had no prior tour arrangements. Imagine $299 per person for an oceanview cabin? I’m sure you have seen deals like this but when you get to the site, they are usually higher than advertised!

I’ve used and subscribed to Travelzoo.com since their first email over a decade ago, and their deals are genuine. Since this is a last minute deal, it means you have to be flexible, act fast and are able to travel on the dates given.

To prove this is genuine here is a screenshot of the deal from cruise.com. It was available at the time of writing:

The Norwegian Sun takes you from Whittier Alaska to Juneau, Sawyer Glacier, Skagway, Ketchikan and Vancouver.

If you don’t like cruises, in the same email was a 4 nights stay at the Jewel Dunn’s River Beach Resort and Spa with round trip airfare for $629 per person. You save 65% in this all-inclusive seaside resort in Jamaica. Yes! Jamaica and all inclusive means all meals are included. (From CheapCaribbean.com)

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Three: Drive or fly
For those who prefer to travel locally there are ways to find out if driving or flying is cheaper. All you need is the right tool. TravelMath.com’s cost to drive or fly tool will show you how. For families in Washington DC wanting a summer vacation at a Miami beach or a Miami family wanting to visit Washington DC, all you need is to type in these cities here.

You will get a fly or drive score depending on the number of people in your family. A lower score means it is cheaper. This is an example for a family of four from Washington DC to Miami:

This score takes into consideration time spent on the road, wear and tear of your vehicle, fuel efficiency and more.

The score changes if there are only three people in the family. It is almost the same price for driving and flying.

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Four: Hotel or apartment rentals
I love hotels but when it comes to saving money for a large family, renting an apartment is the way to go. Prior to traveling to South America, I had only stayed in hotels while traveling. I remember needing to get two rooms for our summer vacation in London when the kids were 11 and 8 in 2006.

Now with peer-to-peer rentals and the share economy concept, vacationers are able to save more money on accommodation. You can check out airbnb.com, booking.com and nyhabitat.com. Airbnb.com is our favorite. We have used all three while traveling in South America and now in New York City.

NYhabitat.com caters to New York City, Paris and London apartments only. Bookings.com has a variety of hotels, apartments and bed and breakfast places around the world. AirBnB.com is available worldwide and has shared rooms, private rooms or the entire place for rental.

We have rented a houseboat in Brooklyn through AirBnB.com for two weeks. That was one of the greatest experiences in New York City. You can read it here. For a little over $1600 our family of four stayed for 13 nights in the houseboat. That is around $400 per person for 2 weeks or $31 per night in New York City!

While writing this article, I found an apartment at the Miami Beach for eight nights that accommodates 8 with free parking, a fully equipped kitchen, free WiFi, washer and dryer, air conditioning and more for $1672 through AirBnB.com.

Multi-generational families, friends or business associates can get together for eight nights at the beach for $209 per person ($26 per night per person). If you cook all your meals in the apartment you’ll save more.

Screenshot taken from AirBnB.com.

These are just some of the ways I get my savings for summer vacations and traveling around the world. I have a lot more!

Think you can’t take a summer vacation? With research, flexibility and an open mind, you may just find the best deal and enjoy the best summer vacation the whole family will talk about in years to come. Don’t forget to read our eBook on Your Guide to Staying Healthy While Traveling with Essential Oils (currently in the eBook bundle sale- 4 eBooks for $9.97)

And that’s the wonderful thing about family travel: it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.  ~Dave Barry

Note: None of the above links are affiliate links, which means we are not compensated for recommending these websites and their services.

Claudia Looi is a content creator and freelance writer, world traveler, mom of two teens and wife of a traveling nurse. She and her husband sold almost everything, and have been traveling and embracing a ‘nomadic’ lifestyle since February 2013. You can find her at http://travelwritingpro.com/

 

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to diagnose, prescribe, treat or cure any illness or disease. It’s strictly for informational, educational, or entertainment purposes ONLY. The products I talk about are not meant to diagnose, prescribe, treat or cure any illness or disease. Any information I give you about them is for informational or entertainment purposes only. They have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA. Please seek the qualified health professional of your choice when making health decisions for yourself, your family and your pets.