I am on the Holiday Road
This week I am on vacation with my family in Cape Cod, and I am actually on the ultimate frugal vacation because my dad rented the house where everyone is staying, plus he supplies a bunch of the food and alcohol. In case you didn’t read about my dad before, he is one of my frugal role models, and his frugality over the last several years has led to his ability to sponsor a family trip like this for his family every other year.
Clark Griswold = Ultimate Frugal Vacationer
The song Holiday Road is actually the theme music for the 80s classic family vacation movie, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and it is probably one of my favorite movies of all time. Despite the fact that the movie is 31 years old, I think that any parent can relate to Clark’s desire to give his family a good old fashioned family vacation, and any kid can relate to the hell of being subjected to a long distance car trip.
The funny thing about this movie is that Clark gives us a great example of how to plan a frugal family vacation. Instead of taking his kids on an expensive vacation to Hawaii as they want, he informs them that they will be taking the family station wagon (aka the family truckster) cross country from Chicago to California to visit Walley World, a Disney Land type theme park.
We Could All Be a Little More Like Clark
Unless you are like my friend, Kim, and can manage to go to Hawaii for mostly points, a Hawaiian vacation is definitely an expensive undertaking. A car trip in which you camp out or stop and stay with family along the way is a much more frugal approach to a family vacation, and a reminder to all of us that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy some good old family fun.
A few years ago, pre-frugalie days, we promised my son that if he stopped sucking his thumb that we would take him to Disney World on vacation. Miraculously on his 5th birthday, just as he promised, my son literally stopped sucking his thumb and never looked back. Because he kept his promise, we kept ours and took him to Disney that summer. Like most parents, we wanted to give him the vacation that we never had, and we wanted him to have an amazing experience.
So we reserved a room in the Animal Kingdom Lodge that overlooked the Savannah where we could watch giraffe roam out our window first thing in the morning. We visited each of the parks while we were there and enjoyed the fabulous cuisine in the various parks each day that we stayed. On our last day, to give ourselves a break, we planned to spend the afternoon at the hotel pool, and to our surprise and chagrin, my son’s favorite part of the entire week in Disney was the hotel pool.
My Frugal Vacation
The following year, we planned a family vacation over Memorial Day weekend that got cancelled at the last minute, so I quickly scrambled to pull something together. We ended up staying at a Hyatt Place hotel with no pool, we visited a low end indoor water park and ate dinner for less than $20 every night at the Cracker Barrel across the street from the hotel. This trip cost significantly less than the week at Disney, and on the drive home my son declared, “This was my favorite vacation ever!”
So what is the lesson from the song, the movie and my experience? We should not worry about spending money on vacations to impress our children or to impress ourselves. When all is said and done, your kids and family are just happy to have the time with you. This week, I am giving my family my time. I worked hard last week and the week before to make sure that I could mostly unplug and enjoy everyone and that is what I am doing. Your time is the most frugal vacation solution and it’s truly the only one your family wants more than anything.