Sunday, March 24, 2013

Take that Dream Vacation.......even on a Military Budget

So, I just don't want this to be another just about cooking blog, but also ways of Living Well. Here at LW, we've taken plenty of nice vacations, even on my income.  I've never had a vacation as a kid, but I try my best to take my kids to nice vacations at least for a few days a year.  And here's how:

Save Money:  Yes, it is important to save money.  For our very first family vacation to Walt Disney World, I saved money.  I knew what I wanted, how much it was going to cost (minus food) and saved as much as I could before hand for food and toys.  For $1500 (yes, our family was much smaller back then, who would have guessed), I stayed at a WDW Value Resort, and have 7 day park hopper passes for 3 of us!  We were able to eat for $500 more, even though my husband paid for it later because he ate a lot of hotdogs.  Because we were at the resort, we didn't have to pay for parking, or gas to get to the parks, and it was the very first year that WDW introduced the Fast Pass.  Also, by being resort guests, 3 days a week, there were Disney Character meet and greet breakfasts that we were able to attend.  A full 7 day vacation for about $2000!  Of course, that was 11+ years ago.

Travel During the Off Season:  Early Spring or late Fall are awesome times to travel, although not always a good time to travel because of school, but great for hotel rates.  However, there are those 3 day weekends that your kids get from school that you can use to travel on.  Mini-vacays are just as fun, and so much more affordable for school aged kids.

Research Vacation Homes:  This is the best yet!  Since I have been stationed in Germany, I've had the luxury of renting vacation apartments in both Paris and Berlin!  And, it was awesome.  We'd normally eat lunch out, and I'd cook a small breakfast and/or dinner if we weren't dining out.  It is absolutely the best way to vacation in the most wanted vacation spots for such a large family.  We did get a week in Paris for $1200 overlooking the city!

Use your Tax Refund:  Yes, every year Uncle Sam pays us back some of the money that we over pay in Taxes.  We've used it to pay our credit cards, and a few times, pay for our vacation.  With any money left over, you can invest, or start a savings account just for vacations.  

Plan, Plan, and Plan some more:  I can't stress this enough.  A dream vacation just doesn't happen, you have to plan it!  The best way to give your family the vacation of their dreams is to plan, way in advance.  Sometimes, you'll snag deals.  By planning in advance, you can create a dream itinerary that'll suit everyone in the family.  Also, by early planning, you'll know which days has the best prices for the attractions that you want to visit.  You'll also need to know when the attractions are closed.  For instance, the Louvre Museum (in Paris) is closed on Tuesdays, but most Museums in Paris allows visitors under 18 in free.  Some restaurants (like Applebees) give a military discount only on certain days.  And some restaurants are booked months in advance.  My husband has done a great job at planning our vacations for my R&R leave to Cocoa Beach, FL and Berlin.  But, he's done it months in advance.  

Beware of Discount Ticket Vendors!  Many discount ticket sites sell tickets that can't be used by any other person that who purchased them.  For example, WDW uses a thumbprint machine to verify that the person who is using the ticket is the same person who purchased if you go to a street vendor, you may get a discount ticket, but it will be invalid.  However, you can always find deals online, special group rates, and military discounts.  Also, for WDW, Sea World, and many other theme parks; military members, retirees and their families get a free day at the park, or very discounted tickets.  For non-military, look around for discounts, but be careful where you purchase the tickets.

I'm including some links to vacation rentals so that you can plan your Dream Vacation for your family this summer, all on a Military Budget.  

Orlando Vacation Homes (w/pets)
Berlin Vacation Homes
Paris Vacation Homes
Vacation Homes in San Francisco
Asheville, NC Vacation Homes
New York Vacation Homes

These are just a few.  Have fun planning your dream vacation for your family!

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