The Frugal Vacation

My family and I got back from our first real vacation last week since returning from our assignment in China in 2008. In 2009 we we were busy settling into our new home, welcoming our first child, and doing our best to minimize our expenses so we opted to not take a vacation last year. At the time other things seemed much more pressing to us.

Fresh off our vacation I can say that I think we really made a mistake not investing in a vacation sooner. I have been suffering from a bad case of burnout all around and not motivated to do much more than the bare minimum for many months. This vacation gave me a much needed chance to relax, not think about work, recharge my batteries, and refocus on my priorities.

Trying To Keep Our Vacation Costs Low
We opted to look for an off-peak season beach rental for our vacation. We were able to significantly reduce our potential rental cost on VRBO.com by just emailing owners to find someone who was willing to negotiate a lower rent to get their beach rental filled. We were able to secure a 1 bedroom oceanfront condo at a Wyndham Resort on Myrtle Beach for $400/week which we were very happy with.

We were able to further managed our vacation costs by eating out only once during our trip and opted for easy to prepare (and clean up) frozen meals for the week.

Overall the vacation costs were kept down as we avoided malls and commercial areas and spent all week on the beach or at the complex pools. For our dinner out we did a little research and found a local seafood dive that was fantastic.

Vacation Expense Cost
Condo Rental $ 400.00
Dog Boarding $ 118.00
Groceries $ 70.65
Seafood Dinner $ 47.33
Gas (rough estimate) $ 45.00
Total $ 680.98

The one expense that was unexpected and unfortunate was our dog's boarding - we had someone lined up to watch our dog but that fell through at the last minute and we decided to board our dog to avoid a scramble. The boarding costs ended up being a significant part of our vacation expenses and next time we will need to put together a better backup plan for dog care.

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Comments (6)


I'm impressed by how low the cost of your vacation was - great job!

First let me say the amount of money you've accumulated is very impressive and I enjoy tracking your progress.

But this vacation post was especially painful to read, you ate frozen dinners on what was already a cheap vacation? You're doing better than 99.999999999% of the people out there. IMO, your quest has hindered your ability to enjoy life in you're prime (you've more than earned it). I'm sorry if this sounds rude, but life goes by very quickly and you never know what is around the corner... I am all for retiring early and saving a lot more than the average joe, but do you ever wonder if you'll look back on your life and wish you lived a little more along the way?

I save 20-30% of my income each month for retirement but also spend thousands each year on vacations such as trips to Europe, cruises, etc. They've created the best memories and experiences of my life and I would not trade them for anything, especially an extra 100k in my portfolio.

Can't agree more with John ... live a *little* and do all of us a favor on how to balance great financial planning with realistic enjoyment of life

John, Thanks for your comment. I think my wife and I are living pretty good but certainly have room for improvement - at least my wife thinks so. If we spent thousands on vacations each year we wouldn't be able to save 20% of our income for retirement. What we are trying to do is find a balance between saving and spending - our spending is up significantly over the past couple years nearly consuming all our net pay these days. Going down to 1 income so my wife can stay home with our daughter has certainly required us to make some tradeoffs like eating out every night on our vacation.

But our frozen dinners were actually pretty good - we had a Stouffer's lasagna, a frozen pizza, a couple stir frys, etc - I thought we were doing pretty well :-). They were nice meals that were easy to prepare and easy to clean.

Great ideas. But could you have gone to a local market and got some fresh food rather than eat frozen prepackaged stuff? It would probably have been even less expensive.

PollyTravel - Thats a good idea. To be honest it wasn't a priority for us for this trip. We were looking forward to NOT having to cook while on vacation. Running around with our kid all day is pretty exhausting by itself and the last thing my wife and I wanted to do was prepare a meal from scratch.

If we had a grill I would have been more inclined to do that as I enjoy grilling something simple. We opted for the least work alternative to eating out and enjoyed it.

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A personal finance weblog of my journey to reach my goal of $2 million + the value of my primary residence.
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