As the primary logistical planner and money manager in our family, it is my job to set a vacation budget and stick to it. While I try to cut corners where ever possible, there are absolutely times when splurging can be absolutely worth every penny.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
-Mark Twain (Maybe)
While many things can be a total waste of money, unique or once in a lifetime experiences are not one of them. When you die, you are unlikely to be on your death bed and say, “Man, I really wish I woulda saved more money instead of seeing penguins in Antarctica” Regrets are much more likely to be based on things you didn’t do in your life than things you did. There are some obvious exceptions such as any action that lands you in jail, so let’s try and avoid that. So even though you are trying to stick to a budget, splurging for that once in a lifetime experience is not the time to be penny pinching.
Over the years, we’ve stayed in some pretty interesting places in an attempt to save some money. These accommodations have ranged from sleeping on the floors of friends of friends dorm rooms and sketchy motels to say the least. However, when we were in Dubai, we decided to throw caution to the wind and splurge for a stay at the Burj-Al-Arab, the world’s most luxurious hotel. This is the sailboat shaped building that is in all the pictures of Dubai.
While pricey, it was without a doubt one of the most memorable things we have ever done and worth every penny.
When going to a concert or show, what’s the point in going if you can’t see the show? This may be more of a problem for me as I am only 5’3” so bad seats not only mean I am likely too far to see anything, but I am also likely going to be too short to see as well. When you go and see that band you’ve wanted to see your whole life or are going to see Hamilton, you want to be able to see the show and not just a bunch of singing ants on stage.
When we went to see the Colors of Light show at California Disney, from all the reviews we read, it stated that the viewing areas made it very difficult to see the show. The reviews even further stated that if you were short, you would be lucky to see hardly anything. So we ultimately decided to splurge for the dining package that allowed us a priority viewing area. We were very glad we did, as when we got there and saw the viewing area, there was no way our family would be able to see the whole show from the standard viewing area. As painful as it is to spend money just to get a better view, it can definitely change an experience from a mediocre one to one you will talk about for years to come.
The Bulkhead Row
When traveling with small kids and especially babies, I cannot emphasize just how imperative it is for you to get the bulkhead row if possible. This is the HOLY GRAIL OF AIRLINE SEATING! Not only does this allow you to breath easy in the knowledge that there is no seat in front of you for your children to kick, it also gives you the freedom to make a makeshift playpen by blocking of the floor with bags. This lets your baby have some room to crawl and play on some longer flights. On some aircraft models, such as the 787, more often than not there is a baby bassinet they can attach to the wall to allow your child to sleep in as well.
If you have a layover longer than 2 hours, you should strongly consider the paying to go to the airline lounges in the airport. Airline lounges shield you from the hustle and bustle of the airport for a couple hours, and the free snacks and beverages make it a great value. You can often find day passes at significant discounts from online auction sites like eBay. Just make sure that you read all the rules and restrictions regarding the day passes.
Also, some of the lounges have child play areas. If there is a child area in the lounge, then this is truly a no brainer. You can typically find out what amenities each specific lounge has by going to the airline websites.
Accommodations with Two or more Rooms
Traveling with a family can be stressful. Keeping the whole family on the same sleep schedule while traveling will only make it even more stressful. Who wants lay in bed for hours while their child sleeps in? Not me! While most of the time it is not cost effective to get accommodations with two separate rooms, in the days of AirBnB and VRBO, accommodations with multiple rooms are more affordable than ever. If the price difference is within your budget, springing the money for a room with two separate sleeping areas is money well spent. Being able to let your baby sleep a couple extra hours while everyone else showers, eats and gets ready is priceless. It also comes in super handy for nap times, allowing you to let your baby/toddler nap while you can be in another room can make your trip significantly more enjoyable.