Summer is almost here and it’s time to hit the road or air to see a little bit more of the world! Traveling can expand a person’s mind, allowing them to dream bigger and see the world from a new and sometimes better perspective. Here I will talk about travel plans, travel tips, and travel websites that can save you money and headaches while vacationing.
The first big trip we took as a family was a group trip with another family to Atlanta for my daughter’s 10th birthday and my son’s 18th. While we were there, my children recognized how large the African-American population was, which was something they didn’t see in our city. When they saw an entire team of African-American police officers on horseback, they couldn’t stop talking about how cool it was. As we walked through the African-American Museum, they were taken on an emotional journey; they left Atlanta with a new outlook on the possibilities of their future because they saw people that looked like them doing things they had never seen before.
The following year, Makhyli and I visited LA. This time, it was a trip with only the two of us, and I must confess, it was scary as heck. I had never planned a trip by myself or traveled bearing the full responsibility of everything, so it started out on a weak foundation and was built on pure ignorance. I booked our stay in downtown LA where the blocks were lined with tents of homeless people and the streets littered with trash. We had to drive for hours in the treacherous LA traffic to get to all our activities because I didn’t think to check the location of anything while planning the trip. I got two parking tickets because although street signs are written in English, the instructions were impossible to understand. It was over 100 degrees of miserable mugginess the entire time we were there, so we spent most of the daytime hours inside. The pressure was overwhelming, and I didn’t have anyone to turn to while we were thousands of miles away from home. I had to figure everything out while pretending I didn’t feel completely stupid for being so ignorant; I also didn’t want Makhyli to feel afraid or let down.
Although there were a lot of issues with our trip to LA, we did have fun and I didn’t let it deter me from planning more trips. I learned some lessons, and since then, we have traveled to many places and bonded over many “firsts” together. We saw our first Broadway show in New York and hung out in Times Square until the wee hours of the morning. We were in awe of the bright lights and excitement on the Strip in Vegas. As we visited the monuments in DC, Trump’s brigade raced through the streets of downtown. We walked Michigan Avenue for hours in Chicago, people-watched, and ducked in and out of countless shops and restaurants. We took our first subway ride together, were in the studio audience of a major television show, and chowed down at the restaurants of Food Network stars. Always down for the next adventure, we scoped ice skaters at Rockefeller Center, shook it up at Power Plant Live! in Baltimore, and tasted soda from all parts of the world, at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta. When the burps died down, we started a tradition of going to the zoo in every city we visited.
Traveling is so much fun, and creating memories is priceless. Discovering other nooks of the world can be exciting and eye-opening, but vacations can be expensive and tough to plan. Below are some ideas and resources to help plan a fun-filled vacation for the girls:
- Before you do anything, do your research. If you aren’t sure where you want to go or how much a vacation will cost, sign up for some newsletters that will dump ideas and prices in your email regularly. Airfarewatchdog; Smart Traveler; and Travel Ticker are all great options. You can also ask your social media friends for some recommendations. This is particularly helpful when you have specific questions about a destination.
- Be open-minded and flexible when planning. If financing your vacation is your primary concern, let costs guide you to some of the best deals, then decide from there (vacation packages can be found using some of the resources above).
- Book your hotel first. You can always cancel the hotel if you can’t find a flight for a specific day, but it’s not always easy to cancel a flight. Check Priceline; hotels.com; Airbnb or other similar lodging sites for discounts.
- Book your flight a minimum of 25 days in advance, but no more than 150 days. Different resources may say tickets are less expensive on certain days, but from my experience, there’s no truth to that (trust me, I learned to check every detail before booking anything after LA). It’s best to stay within the parameters set above to purchase plane tickets when they are cheapest.
- Instead of a hotel, I usually book through Airbnb. It’s less expensive, and you get to experience the neighborhoods of a city and live like a local. Most of the locations have a full kitchen so you can cook your own meals instead of eating out each day. The site also has reviews of the city, neighborhood, and property that you can read before booking. Airbnb recently started to offer unique experiences such as private paint parties, cooking classes, etc you can purchase for your trip as well.
- Check for Groupon deals before the vacation. You can generally purchase these deals months ahead of time, which can alleviate a financial burden during the trip and help you plan your itinerary beforehand. Make sure you read the fine print or call the specific location if you are uncertain of anything before you purchase. You can also purchase your entire vacation on Groupon as well so you may want to start your search there.
- City Passes are offered in eleven major cities in the U.S. These allow you to purchase several major attractions for a discounted price. They can also be purchased several months in advance. We purchased these for Atlanta at an amazing price and weren’t even able to do all the activities, there were so many.
- You can plan weekend getaways less than 100 miles away. This is a close enough distance to drive in a short time and will allow you to save on transportation costs. Road trips are always fun and seeing the landscape can be breathtaking. Search cities within 100 miles, see what they have to offer, grab your stuff and go!
- If a vacation is a priority, reducing costs in other areas even temporarily can aid in building a nice vacation fund. Switching to a less expensive cell phone plan, skipping the regular coffee shop stops, foregoing any unnecessary clothing purchases for several months, and eating in as much as possible, can fill your piggybank fast and help pay for a wonderful vacation.
- If your daughters are of working age, they can get a job, sell unwanted clothes or do something creative to help raise money for the vacation. Setting a goal to take a vacation together will give them the incentive to pitch in!
Hopefully, these tips are helpful in planning a wonderful, fun, affordable vacation where you and your daughters can experience bonding over many firsts together.
(Check out our new book CHANGING DIRECTIONS)