Something about the 40 degree breezes of early March makes me dream of vacation. I don’t know if it was growing up in a tiny town, or the two thousand mile trek across the country in my mom’s Volvo, or maybe something else somewhere along the way that instilled in me a love for travel. Wherever it came from, it hits me every year about this time… that desire to get away and see something I’ve never seen and live life a little differently for a while.

My kids have inherited that same love for adventure. They love hotels, road trips, and exploring new places. We have a dream that we will visit all 50 states with them before my oldest leaves home. I don’t know if it will happen, but it is a dream.

So what does all this have to do with our habits? I want to share with you some of the things that we do, some of the habits that make it possible for us to travel a little more than our budget would seem to allow.

Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. Road trips can be very cheap. Bring along a tent to camp, bring cereal, fruit, etc… for snacking, and limit your dining out to once a day or less. Remember, this is supposed to be an adventure that will bring your family closer.

If tents aren’t your thing, what about a free hotel? We very rarely pay for hotels. Now, some of you Dave Ramsey fans (I am one myself) will scoff at this, but we buy everything we can with a credit card that earns us hotel points. This is not a habit for anyone who is not very disciplined with credit. We use it as we would use cash, with a strict budget, and it is paid off every month so we never pay interest. If you can’t do it in that way, then I wouldn’t recommend this method. But basically we earn 1 hotel point for every dollar we spend. If my husband has to travel for work, the points accumulate faster. We went to Italy last year for two weeks and stayed in 5 star hotels for free. We’re planning a road trip to Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone this fall, and 90% of the hotels will be free.

Okay, so maybe the credit card idea is a little scary to you. It can still be done with some advance planning. We all dream of that trip to Disney, or that cruise, or that trip to Paris, or whatever. But as long as it stays in the dreaming phase, it will likely never happen. We sat down with pen and paper and made a list of all the places we’d like to go. Then we built a little chart on the computer that includes vacation “dreams” over the next 10 years. We also included important events and the ages of the kids to help with the dreaming. Here are a couple years  from our chart…

2016   15, 13, 9        West Coast Road Trip
2019   18, 16, 12      Roller Coaster Tour Road Trip      Harrison graduates

It is a guarantee that our plans will change. Things will come up, life will happen, and our list will be revised again and again. But having a visual of what we hope to be able to do helps us to make some of these dreams become reality. We had dreamed of that 10th anniversary trip to Europe since before we got married. If it had stayed a dream it would have never happened. But we planned on it, saved for it, and it became reality. We have a bit set aside each month that goes toward our vacation savings. We also add to it whenever we can with bonuses or tax refunds.

I think travel is an important part of the family experience. It helps to keep us from growing up believing that the whole world is the same as what we see out our front door. And the struggles and laughter and the ups and downs that go along with a family trip build memories that will last a lifetime.

Next week – what about when Mom and Dad need some time away?