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Vacationing on a Budget, Part 1: Tips on Deciding your Destination


It seems like as soon as our last vacation / time off is over, we start trying to plan our next vacation.  Scott and I usually wind up taking a trip to Maine every couple years, run up to Tennessee more frequently at that, as well as try to plan an "us" vacation every year- sometimes more than one.

However, we're very indecisive.  We start out at one idea, and then get off on another idea. And then another.  You can imagine how fun it was wedding planning.  Here is our thought process on deciding where to go for our "us" vacations.  I've made them as generic as I can, even though we have a few destination ideas in mind already.

Decide When You Can Take Your Trip: Take a look at the calendar.  Do you always spend Christmas and/or Thanksgiving with family?  Is work really busy for you a certain time of the year?  How much time do you need to save for your trip?

Scott has very specific times of the year that he has to be around and working.  We always spend Thanksgiving in Tennessee, and Christmas seems to be rotating between Maine, Tennessee, and Florida.  That leaves 4 months at are totally free, and 1 month that works if we stay within the southeast.

Decide How Long You Want to be Gone:  We have about the same amount of vacation time a year.  However, they accrue differently- this is something you'll want to get ironed out from the start.  It would suck if you have an extra week free that your spouse doesn't.  And you realized it after they've used up all their time.

Maybe you would like two long weekend trips a year, instead of one 7 days trip.  Maybe you want to go big or go home.  Decide before getting all excited for a 10 day Alaskan excursion when you only have time for a 4 day weekend.
Fenway Park, Boston, MA

Take into Consideration what You Want Out of Your Trip:  We have two totally different methods of deciding where to go.  He wants to vacation somewhere he could see himself/us living.  His list of vacation destinations include Texas, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, and Colorado.  When it comes to narrowing it down more than that, I get to do the research as to where we should focus on.

I want to go somewhere I have no intentions of ever living.  As a result, my list looks something like Chicago, New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.  I think I'm drawn to large cities such as these for a couple of reasons.  I don't want to live in a city, but I am drawn to the the lights of them.  I can easily pick out a rough list of things to do (because who doesn't want to see the Red Sox play at Fenway?) without actually having to do much research.  Research tends to overwhelm me and before you know it, I have a list of 30 things to do, and only 5 days to do them in.

Make a List of Pro's and Con's: Be Rory Gilmore and make a list.  Each of the ideas above have their own special "thing" that would be great to do.    Cities (even for the short term) make him a bad travel partner.    You're sure not to run of of things to do in LA or NYC.  That could also get expensive very quickly.  We both like National Parks and historical aspects of an area.

We like road tripping a lot- an added bonus is that we sometimes can bring the dogs. Driving also allows us to see more of an area at our leisure.  It's less expensive than flying, but a portion of our vacation is stuck in a vehicle.

Mount McKinley, Salt Lake City, and Charleston
via, via, via
Put It All Together and Narrow Down Your Choices:  It's like a big Sudoku- you'll only get the perfect fit one way.  And it can be so, so irritating getting to that point.  After much deliberation, we have narrowed our choices of vacation destination down to 3 spots this year.

  1. Alaska- True, we haven't narrowed down where exactly.  I think I've mentioned that we both think we could live there.  We watch every show with Alaska in the title.  It would be a ''go big or go home" trip for 10 days.  We're debating on flying into Anchorage, and then driving out to more remote locations.  We'd do a lot of hiking, and a lot of exploring and picture taking- I'll be getting a few more stamps for my National Parks passport.  It would be a late August or early September trip.
  2. Salt Lake City- This is the fly in/fly out location, and we'd be renting a vehicle.  Also a 10 day trip, but we'll be trying to pack a lot of western National Parks in.  We will also have the flexibility to stay an extra day or two at one location if we so desire.  The appeal of Salt Lake is that we have found some very cheap flights in the past.  It would be an August-September trip as well.
  3. Charleston- We always keep a location closer to home as an option for a number of reasons.  We may decide that we need to use vacation money for something else during the year, and flying might be out of the budget.  We would only need a 4-day weekend to make this trip work.  Because of this, it can fit into our schedule at any point.  Neither of us have ever been there, and it has the historical aspects that we both enjoy.

As you can tell by the title, this is Part 1 of a series I'm planning.  Be sure to check back for the rest of the series- from here, each post will be geared to what we need to consider when deciding between these 3 destinations.  I know that hardly makes any sense, but it may become more clear as they come out.

Linking up with All Kinds of Things for Tuesday Talk and Oak &Oats for Week's End


  1. Biana Perez10:30:00 AM

    Great tips girl!! My vote is for Charleston - it's one of the best cities I've ever been to and the food at every restaurant is incredible! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

  2. In all reality we'll probably do Charleston on a long weekend anyway...we just need to decide if we want a "big" trip this year, too!

  3. I love this post - and such a good idea when you want to go so many places!
    Charleston is amazing - you should check it out :)
    Jessie @ Ivory Tower Diaries

  4. Tif Fannin11:09:00 PM

    Charleston is an EXCELLENT place for a budget vacation! I seriously went twice last year because it was so affordable.

  5. Yeah we keep flip flopping between going for a long weekend and checking things out, and wanting an all out exploration out west or Alaska, if we can find tickets cheap enough!

  6. I haven't been to any of those three, but i'd love to go to Alaska, maybe you get to see the northern lights!?

  7. That's what we're hoping, but I'm not sure we'll be going during the right time of the year! (IF we were to go this year, that is)


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