Spending the least amount possible on my vacations while maintaining a feeling of luxury gives me a deep sense of satisfaction. It allows me to relax more on the trip itself. To achieve this, I first have to get rid of the “I can’t do/afford what I used to” way of thinking. That’s no way to approach planning for NOW.
Sure, I could totally play that game. It would begin with childhood, when all our trips were first-class flights, restaurants and hotels. Parenthetically, I grew up thinking that all airline seats were like first-class seats and was truly perplexed when I realized there was this thing called economy class. But I adjusted…
In more recent memory, I could indulge in thinking about the fabulous trips I had when married, etc. However, I have made a decision to be thrilled about each opportunity I ever had. Furthermore, I look forward to the next, great opportunity.
And luxury, oddly, isn’t about the money you spend on a trip. In my opinion, a big part of luxury travel is the feeling of ease and subsequent enjoyment. Sometimes it’s the little things in life that can create that sense of ease and enjoyment. Any planning we do to reduce hassle makes us feel more nurtured and gives us more bandwidth to focus on fun.
Here are some of my favorite practical ways to enjoy travel as a single parent:
PLANNING ON A BUDGET
- Hotel or Rental? Compare renting a cabin, house, condo or efficiency suite to a standard hotel room. When you bring along the kids, having a kitchen (even if it is very rudimentary) can save lots of money! Also the common areas that come with a rented condo or villa are lifesavers on rainy days or days you just want to do nothing. I can almost always find rentals in awesome places that make my trip cheaper than a hotel stay.
- Think “Off-Season.” Summertime? Rent a ski chalet in the Rockies. Winter? Go to a beach that isn’t in Florida (because winter is high-season in Florida…). Think Charleston, Hilton Head, or the Outer Banks.
- Midweek Savings. Want to go to a hotel because only a hotel will do? Or maybe you really, really want to spoil yourself (and maybe your kids, too)? Try traveling to a three star or above resort or hotel in the middle of the week during off-season. I am always shocked by the difference in pricing.
- Book Flights in the Sweet Spot. When making plane reservations, timing counts if you want the right deal. Try scooping up domestic flights 4-6 weeks in advance. If you try to buy them too far in advance, they might actually be more expensive! For international, try booking 10-12 weeks in advance. Play around with time frames when you do your pricing research and see if you detect a pattern in the price changes for tickets.
- Zip Lock! Use zip lock bags to divide categories of clothing like underwear, socks, t-shirts and sundries like deodorant, dental care and medicine. It’s worth purchasing a variety of sizes. An environmental alternative is to purchase multi-use packing pouches from somewhere like Target’s travel isle. Although, I will reuse those zip lock bags many, many times. They come in handy for day trips in the car, the beach or boating.
- Purchase and pack sunscreen in advance. Usually, you can purchase it more cheaply away from a trip destination area, and it’s more convenient to have it on hand from the get-go.
- Hats. Always pack baseball caps for yourself and the kids, even if you think you won’t need them. They take up very little space.
- Sweater, Sweatshirt or Jacket. Always, even in the summer, bring a wrap that you can wear in air conditioned spaces. Sweaters and sweatshirts also make a make-do pillow or blanket in a pinch.
- Swimsuit! I always have a spare swimsuit in my bag, even in winter or on a trip where you wouldn’t typically think “bathing suit.” Indoor swimming pools, jacuzzis and saunas may call out to you on your journey.
- Empty, lightweight tote. Pack an empty, light-weight satchel or tote bag. It’s great for a beach bag and you never know when you might need one. Another approach is to leave some room in your suitcase or back pack that can be used for extras.
- Those little luxury supplies. Bring travel-sized bath salts, small scented soaps and a container candle with a lighter. I just discovered that Burt’s Bees has a candle product at Walmart. The more natural smelling scented candles come in different-sized cans with lids.
- Stackable containers. I love packing lots of loose stuff or groceries into plastic cartons from Walmart, Target or Home Depot (or any discount store), the ones with lids. These are never a waste of money and I have come to rely on them in car travel. It’s a great way to declutter your car on a trip and stack when you pack, meaning the boxes can be stacked on top of each other for efficiency.
- Entertainment. Audio CDs or downloads that everyone in the car can enjoy. My daughter and I just listened to To Kill a Mockingbird together on our long drive.
- Hydration and Snacks. Have water bottles and portable snacks in the car. This cuts down on stops and gives you more control over the nutrition content of the snacks.
- Emergency Supplies in Carryon. Even if you check your bags, always pack a carryon backpack or small suitcase that has one day’s change of clothes (even if you only include clean underwear and a shirt), all your medicines (stored in a clear zip lock baggie), toothbrushes, toothpaste (buy travel sizes), hair brush or comb, moistened towelettes gentle enough for faces, travel-sized contact lens paraphernalia and deodorant. Each one of my kids must carry one.
- Wear layers. Have some kind of sweater or jacket to wear on the plane if it gets cold, which it can do even in the summertime.
- Snacks. Bring some packaged dry food, like protein bars, especially when traveling with children.
- Cleanliness. Hand sanitizer (travel sized) and a small pack of tissues. No need to get too graphic here, but, for example, I have been on flights when the bathroom sink wasn’t working and there was no way to wash hands.
- Hydration. Last, but not least, even if you balk at the prices, buying some bottled water for the flight once you clear security might be a good idea, especially for a longer flight.
Again, luxury travel is not about the money. It is the feeling of ease it encourages. With a little bit of foresight and creativity, I have been able to manage that same feeling even through the worst of economic times and even when packing for a tribe of kids and driving long distances. Remember it’s the little things that create relative ease and luxury, like that audio book and the organized car. It’s having the water exactly when you want it on the plane. It’s having your meds, toothbrush and deodorant when you reach Timbuktu before your luggage does.
So, bon voyage and enjoy the journey!
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