Friday, April 1, 2016

Saving for a Family trip Abroad

My husband has an art degree and I work at a school. For a decade, I was a stay at home mom.  We are super thrifty and own it. I buy used clothes more than I buy new clothes. Ebay and goodwill are my friends. I cook most of our meals from groceries I bought at Aldi, which generally saves me 25% over other grocery stores. We don't buy new cars. 

It is a rare splurge to have professionally done hair or nails at our house. We say no all the time to our children. Thankfully they have a dress code that helps with staying on budget for their clothes. They wear hand-me-downs and ride hand-me-down bikes. They go to the park or play in the yard instead of Monkey Joes or something with a cost. We probably only go to the movies twice a year. Instead we wait two months for redbox. We don't have cable tv. Name brands are rare in our house. 

Making our home a real estate investment, got us into rehabbing distressed properties about 11 years ago. Our last four homes were foreclosure fixer uppers. This has been helpful income. We've tried unconventional things. Some worked great others were a lot of hassle without much payoff.  Recently, I went back to work, but we continue to live a thrifty life. On our trip eating out most meals and paying daily for entry to attractions will feel a bit against our nature. 

We are using Airbnb to stay in condos verses a hotel. With so many people we would have had to purchase two hotel rooms and split up. For the same nightly cost as one hotel room, we are staying together and have a kitchen and multiple bedrooms. I wish that we'd have used Airbnb last year when we went to Mardis Gras last year.  Likely it would have saved us hundreds. Live and learn. 

When I was in college and went to Europe with my sister we stayed in hostels and loved it. When I went with just my husband, we stayed in economic hotels. Going with our kids, we can't go that cheap because we can't trust them to keep their shoes on. Book early to get the best Airbnb deals. We noticed that five months out, the supply left was drastically reduced than when we had looked even six months out. Out of curiosity two months out, there were only six options left with high pricing and bad location. 

In general when we are on vacation, we eat out for lunch but cook dinner at our rental. Obviously the lunch menu is cheaper, but we find our kids behavior is better at lunch than when they are tired from a long day and not far from their bedtime. For the later reason in particular, we generally hit restaurants for lunch and people rave about our children's good behavior.  We keep the whiny tired super meal to ourselves. 

We found it is cheaper to fly than take the train for travel within Europe. This made me so sad- but for this trip, we will not have Eurail passes. We downloaded an app on our phone for passport pictures. I think you can get them made for $12 at a drugstore. Anything times 6 adds up. So while it was only a savings of about $70, it helped stomach the couple of hundred that we spent on passports. I am a light packer. I had a 4 day business trip last summer where I only took a backpack and my roommate was stunned. Instead of paying for lots of luggage, everyone is taking their clothes for ten days in a carry on backpack. We might need to purchase extra socks or toiletries, but I've been on longer trips with just a backpack.  Outside of saving some luggage fees, it is wonderful only having to keep up with a backpack.

We are in a nice easy spot where all of our kids are potty trained and none are driving.  Our youngest is six. In two years, we'll have an independent driver. In three and a half years, we'll begin the process of paying for college for four children. You never know, this might be the only time we feel prompted to pay for our whole big family to explore our big world. 

Why Travel Abroad with your Family?

Why do it, it's so expensive?  The kids will never remember. You would be wasting your money. Perhaps these thoughts have crossed your mind. I want to expose my family to another continent mainly for them to gain a mindset that people that don't act just like them, talk to just like them, and look just like them are uniquely wonderful. I want them to lean into the person with the accent. I want them to 100% know that they do NOT know it all. That the world is chock full of awesome that they will never fully absorb in their lifetime. I am okay if they don't remember the name of one historical place we visit.

We live in a downtown area with varied socioeconomic make-up. About a mile from our house you can find deep pockets of generational poverty. Through local programs we have served the homeless. Our kids have spent the night with us as overnight hosts for a local program that supports homeless families. They play with the kids for their parents to get a break.  Our children have also packed meals for Stop Hunger Now to make a difference in global poverty. Locally we try hard to not only model how important it is to serve others, but to find ways for our kids to serve others.  A benefit for me in serving others has always been to be more thankful for what I have, whether my health, my home or my next meal.  I pray that this is a takeaway for my kids as well.

Our four kids are being raised in a small suburb of Charlotte that is full of wonderful people. They go to a great charter school. They love to go camping, to the beach and to nearby festivals.  They have parents that are engaged in the community. They attend church. They play sports. They play in the creek next to our house. (It's more a city storm drainage than creek but they love it.) They go to camp for a week each summer. There is a LOT of focus on them.  I want to provide them perspective that they are not the center of the universe.  They are each merely one person in a huge world. One person going in a direction with God propelling him forward can make a monumental difference.  My children must respect and work with people of all walks of life to be successful. What better way to help that lesson than to show them first hand that the origin of that accent that makes that person a little bit difficult to understand is a phenomenally awesome place full of adventure, beauty and rich history?  I am out to help God shape my children into leaders that are empathetic to the different shoes that we all wear, by showing them just how different the paths can be.

What better way to take some of the teen-know-it-all out of your teen than to watch them try and order a meal in Paris when they have only had two years of Spanish. :)  What better way to bond with your teen than to get lost on an adventure together?  I figure we will get literally lost but I mean that more in a sense of being lost in the magic of Paris or Rome. My oldest two kids get nervous when we get lost or are off schedule. This does NOT bring out their best self.  I hope they realize on our trip that one survives getting lost and perhaps that unexpected path creates something worthwhile on occasion. I want them to not only embrace the journey but seek out what is new and different. Perhaps they won't come back transformed, but I'm hoping their perspective will broaden to lean into the person with the accent.