Not long ago my husband stunned me with this question: “Aren’t you a little concerned that you will lose blog readers because of our fancy trip next year? After all, you market your niche as budget-friendly family travel.” He wasn’t being passive aggressive or insulting, just genuinely curious.
This was fascinating to me on two levels. First, my husband normally doesn’t give a rat’s behind about the blog and its readers (sorry, guys!) He is supportive and all, but he is not interested in the nitty-gritty. And he most certainly would not shed one tear if I shut this thing down for good. I know that to him, the amount I make compared to the hours I put in makes the juice not worth the squeeze. (Ironically, if it wasn’t for the blog and you guys, we would not be able to afford this trip to begin with. So thanks from the bottom of my heart to all of you who’ve used our affiliate links!)
Secondly, I never claimed that my blog focuses only on budget family travel. Long-time readers know that going to Tahiti and staying in an overwater bungalow has been a plan all along. I just didn’t know when I would get a chance to execute it. In fact, when I started writing, I mentioned that one of my most memorable experiences to date was staying overnight in a German castle. And it certainly wasn’t cheap.
Internet (and society as a whole) loves to put you in a neat little box. Are you a SAHM? Well, you must be obsessed with your kids, making cupcakes and watching soap operas, in that order. Are you a middle-class mom writing about travel with kids? You should stick to reviewing road trips and only Holiday Inn properties. Oh, and Disney. We can never have too much Disney, right?
Also, if you happen to have kids and mention them occasionally, you are automatically branded as a “mommy” blogger. It doesn’t matter how many award charts or credit cards I review, I will always be a “mommy” blogger in the eyes of many. And that’s OK. It honestly doesn’t bother me anymore. But I digress…
Back to my topic. When I started this site, it was very important to me to make it clear that we are a typical middle-class family. I went as far as reveal my husband’s salary, much to his dismay. I didn’t want the appearance of making more than $150k per year and claiming that most regular families can travel just like us. In no way am I suggesting that other family miles and points bloggers do it, it’s just that I didn’t want any sort of ambiguity in that area.
And believe me, I have nothing against those who do well financially. I know for a fact that some of my readers fall into that category. When I use term “one-percenters”, it’s not meant to be derogatory. Folks, if you like luxury travel and are able to afford it, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Why would you be? You’ve worked hard, go and enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you can utilize miles and points to reduce costs, that’s even better.
But we are not one-percenters. We are swamped with bills and last year took out a loan on a brand new car, which cost an arm and a leg. Looking at numbers, this is probably the worst time for us to go on an expensive trip to South Pacific. I plan to reveal the costs and be as transparent as possible about the whole thing. Like I said, I don’t want to sugarcoat this expense and yell “You can do it too!!!” when I know for a fact that most middle-class families can NOT do it.
I’ll get into details later on, but wanted to mention just one specific sacrifice I’m making. I’ve decided to cut back on our retirement contributions till next year. I can just picture FIRE (financial independence, retire early) folks having a seizure right now. Don’t worry, I still plan to max out my husband’s 401K due to company match. I’m not that dumb. But that’s going to be the extent of it till I see where we stand financially. Fortunately, you can contribute till April 15th of 2018 for the year 2017. At that point, I’ll reevaluate.
Are you shocked? Well, I never claimed that if you read my site, you’ll get to retire early. In fact, I’ll take it a step further. If you travel like we do with the salary that we make, there is 99.99% chance that you won’t retire early. I’m just a gal who loves to travel, not a financial guru.
I do like to think of myself as money-savvy, relatively speaking. But I also love to explore the world, and I’m willing to pay for it. I wish I could say that you can do it for free, but that’s a load of garbage. Our trip next year will probably end up costing us a total of $7,500 out-of-pocket (conservative estimate). And that’s after utilizing miles and points.
Are we living beyond our means? Many would say that and in fact, I got cold feet and almost cancelled the whole thing. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is an opportunity of a lifetime. My in-laws are old and will never be going back to Australia. Also, next year we’ll be celebrating a major wedding anniversary milestone.
While there is obviously a cost associated with taking expensive/complex trips, there can also be a cost in not taking them. And it manifests itself in the form of regrets. Your future circumstances can change, your health may get worse, many things can preclude you from being able to go after your dream trip ever again.
Granted, travel is not a must. It annoys me how it’s sometimes romanticized and glamorized in the travel blogging world. According to few, if you don’t travel, you are basically abusing your children and turning them into racists. Right. Let’s face it, staying in Hyatts filled primarily with white, well-to-do guests doesn’t exactly promote diversity. Well, unless you are my reader Cheapblackdad. Not judging, because we like Hyatts too!
My point is, most of what we do in this hobby is not a necessity. At times it’s better to stay home because travel burnout is a real thing. Food and shelter are essential. And love, you can never have too much love. There is no question that proper balance and having your financial ducks in a row is super important.
But sometimes it makes sense to break the rules. I was debating on going up to Charleston to see the full solar eclipse. Ultimately, we decided to stay home because we have way too much going on, plus, kids just started school. When I saw the photos and videos of it, I regretted not taking advantage of this very rare and unique opportunity.
I told my husband that in seven years we are taking the kids out of school and going to Quebec to see the next solar eclipse. That city has been on my “to do” list anyway, so I’m planning to kill two birds with one stone. My kids will still be living at home, and I plan to turn it into an epic adventure. The cost? I don’t care what it will cost. We’ll drive to Canada if we have to. Although going to San Antonio instead doesn’t sound so terrible either. Well, I have seven years to ponder that one over.
Last week we got terrible news that my husband’s cousin in Oregon unexpectedly passed away at only 42 years of age. He and his wife lived in the path of totality and no doubt, looked forward to witnessing it from their own backyard. He died only two days before the solar eclipse. I debated on whether I should share this information with you because it feels wrong to exploit something like that for a blog post. So I won’t go into any more details.
I think that ultimately, it relates to my message. It’s good to be financially savvy and stay out of debt. It’s good to plan for the future. That’s certainly my goal. But sometimes it’s OK to break the rules just a little bit. This trip next year feels like my own version of total solar eclipse. And I’m going.
Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.