As a child, my family traveled on the cheap. Most of our vacations were road trips, with six of us crammed into a station wagon with no radio and no air conditioning. My kids have no idea how good they have it now!
After my husband and I had three kids of our own and I quit my corporate job, money was very tight. Our vacations had a strict budget that didn’t include a lot of extras. Thankfully, collecting miles and points from credit card bonuses helped us travel more than I thought we ever would.
Over the years, I’ve loosened the purse strings a little on our vacation budget. We’ve spent money on things we never would have when our kids were younger, and some of those things have been well worth it!
Spirit’s Big Front Seat
While I don’t splurge with miles or cash on business class or first class seats, one splurge that isn’t very expensive is the Big Front Seat on Spirit Airlines. I routinely fly on Spirit to Denver, and the Big Front Seat is usually only $20-$30 extra.
Spirit Airlines has the smallest pitch (distance from back of your seat to the seat in front of you) of all the US airlines at 28 inches (see this reference). So, regular economy seats can feel rather cramped.
The Big Front Seats are like the old traditional first-class seats. They are wider with more legroom (36-inch pitch) and occupy the first two to three rows of the airplane.
Usually when I fly to Denver, it’s just me with one kid. Sitting in the Big Front Seats feels like a splurge. I’m surprised more people don’t do it!
Up until recently, I thought that renting poolside or beachside cabanas was ridiculous. On Disney Cruise Line (DCL) boards, the subject of cabanas comes up all the time. I never understood why there was such a fuss about cabanas. I mean, there are free chairs all over the beach!
But then, on a whim we booked a cabana at Disney’s Aulani Resort. I was surprised by how much I loved it!
There was room for all five of us to sit or lay down. We had access to cold water, plugs for our phone chargers and towels. The cabana had a TV inside and a ceiling fan. A server brought us a fruit tray in the morning and a dessert tray in the afternoon. We all felt very pampered!
So, now I get it. And now I’m one of those crazy people trying to book a cabana on DCL (no luck yet). I did manage to book a cabana on Coco Cay on a future Royal Caribbean cruise before the price doubled.
As some of you have heard me complain about many times on this blog, my husband and I have no help with our kids from family members. We could never drop our kids off at Grandma’s for an evening of quiet sanity. So, childcare on vacations has been very important to us.
Aside from childcare on DCL, we’ve searched for hotels and resorts that provide childcare so that parents can enjoy a quiet dinner. We’ve used Camp Hyatt a couple of times over the past few years (see this post). The cost isn’t cheap, but for us the splurge was well worth it.
When we were a young family on a tight budget, cost was the single most important factor for flights. Whether using miles, points or cash, I always picked the cheapest option. Sometimes, we would have one or two connections and depart very early in the morning.
Now, I look at a few other factors, including whether the flight is nonstop. Flying to Orlando from Dallas only takes a little over two hours on a nonstop flight. But, it can take all day if connections are involved. Plus, with connections there is a higher chance of delayed and canceled flights.
So, if the cost isn’t astronomical, I prioritize nonstop flights over cost. It makes our travel days less daunting.
DCL Bus Transfers
For most of our cruises, we’ve booked a private shuttle or taken an Uber to get to and from the port. On our last Star Wars cruise in January, I decided to splurge on the official DCL bus transfers back to the airport. Now there’s no turning back!
Getting on the DCL bus felt much more efficient and relaxing than traipsing through the pick-up area and waiting for our ride. The cartoons playing on the bus extended the magic of our vacation by about 45 minutes. The bus costs more for my family of five, but it’s a splurge I don’t mind paying for again.
Don’t worry, I haven’t turned into Miss Fancy Nancy. There are still plenty of things that I refuse to splurge on, which I will talk about next time.
What are your favorite travel splurges? How has your splurging changed over time?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.