If you’ve been bumming around my blog for even a hot second, hopefully you’re starting to dream of a mom vacation. But I know what you’ve been thinking. It’s that big, ugly elephant in the room that every mom I talk to cites as the number one obstacle to her solo mom vacay. I see you, Money. You’re trying to hide in the corner and pretend that you’re not an elephant-size thorn in our wanderlusting sides. But alas, you are. You really, really are. Your giant, clumsy feet crush dreams and ruin lives, you big, lovable jerk. (Because yeah, I kinda do like you, after all.)
So let’s get to it, friends. Let’s solve this money problem so you can get out there on your adventure and be nourished and inspired.
1.Find awesome travel deals, of course
First item on our to-do list is to debunk the myth that travel is necessarily expensive. Now, obviously it can be. I’ve drooled over those luxury travel magazines. But it doesn’t have to be. And don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest you sleep in hostels or backpack across Europe. We’re grownups now. We don’t have to do that anymore to have a great adventure.
Of course there are loads of little tricks to save money while traveling, and I plan to write a post dedicated specifically to those tips in the future. But in this post, I’m going to address the big stuff that either holds you back or gets you out there: transportation and accommodation. We can talk about eating cold canned beans from the grocery store later. (Just kidding, we’re not going to do that. Ever.)
Plan in advance
I know last-minute travel deals exist, but people with jobs, mortgages, and children might have a hard time executing spontaneous travel plans. So our best money-saving chances exist at the other end of the scheming spectrum, in the mysterious land of advanced planning.
Here’s an example: I planned a trip to Italy nine months in advance (hey, I was excited). I booked all my hotels through Booking.com, because they have killer rates and I love that they have free cancellation, usually up until the day before check-in (but pay attention to your bookings, because every now and then I’ve seen cancellation deadlines a week before check-in). One of the hotels I scored was an old 14th century farmhouse in the Chianti hills outside Florence. It was stunning: on-site vineyard, a restaurant that served the best food I ate on my entire trip, fully updated and sleek rooms with vessel sinks and fancypants toiletries. It was amazing. I booked seven nights for about $800. Total.
When I checked that hotel about 2 months before my trip, those same dates were $400 a NIGHT. Other hotels from my trip we also more expensive. And it has happened to me with other destinations, too. My London hotel was about $200 a night when booked six months in advance. Three months out it was double. Trust me, it pays to book hotels in advance.
My favorite place for finding cheap flights is Kayak, just in general. But I think one of the keys to traveling on a budget is not being married to any specific destination, and Kayak makes the most of your flexibility with their Explore tool. You select your dates* (or for a broader search, a month or season), set your budget, and then Kayak finds all the places you can fly to within your price range, and puts them all on a tidy interactive map. The deals can be pretty jaw-dropping. I regularly find flights from Washington, D.C., to various Central and South American destinations for under $300!
*Hint: Save money by traveling in the off-season. Spring and fall are always going to be cheaper than summer. Bonus: Fewer crowds.
2. Stay close to home
You don’t even need a plane to get your own mom’s flight out. You can have a perfectly satisfying, rejuvenating, soul-growing mom vacation close to home. Take a short road trip (2-4 hours is plenty), enjoy an audio book in the peace and quiet of your childless vehicle, and explore a city or town nearby.
I always find it interesting that when we travel abroad, we want to find undiscovered, off-the-beaten-path destinations where we can experience the “real” culture of the country (as opposed to the more cosmopolitan, touristy, big-city stuff). But hello, we live around those undiscovered places right here in our own country! Those little Italian villages hidden away in Alpine valleys? The locals think they’re backwards hillbilly hollers. I know, because my family comes from one, and when I visited, the locals in the nearby city made fun of my little village and joked that they didn’t even speak real Italian there. But guess what? To me it was charming and magical. And I defy any American to go there and experience it as anything else.
Within a short drive from wherever you live, there are little places that foreigners would consider charming and magical. They have interesting histories, delicious local food, and little cultural quirks that are just theirs. There are adventures to be had and creativity to be inspired in all sorts of unassuming places, even close to home. Go find them!
Bonus: Hotels in these places are usually very inexpensive.
3. Find the money
Okay, so maybe you don’t want to be flexible, because you have your heart set on a specific destination. And maybe that destination isn’t a 4-hour road trip from your home. Maybe you want to go to Paris.
There are budget tricks for Paris, but “budget” in Paris is still gonna cost you. Is this where the clumsy elephant thorn* crushes your dreams for real?
*(Is it me or is this metaphor killing it–in a good way?)
Hell. No. This is where you own that lovable jerk and show him who’s boss. Maybe you do it through an awesome travel rewards credit card, or maybe you or your partner travels a lot for work and you can use reward miles. Or maybe you can ask for a trip for your birthday or Christmas or Mother’s Day or your anniversary…or a combination of every gift-giving holiday for an entire year.
Or maybe you just have to do it through good old-fashioned budgeting and saving. Tighten up that grocery budget and eat lentils and frozen vegetables for awhile so you can sock away a couple hundred bucks a month until you get there. Cut out your daily latte from Starbucks ($100 a month!). Commit to not eating out, prepare meals at home, and take/send leftovers for lunch. Wax your own eyebrows for awhile. (On second thought, no. Don’t do this one. Please pay to have your eyebrows waxed.) Whatever you can cut out, it will be worth it when you’re wandering through the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul or hiking Machu Picchu. I promise.
I am so passionate about the project of solo mom travel, and I believe that if you want it enough, you can make this happen. Make your dreams known. Share them with your spouse/partner, and start looking for ways to make your travel dreams reality. I can’t wait to hear about your trip!
And hey, I’m always open to new travel hacks, so if you have some, feel free to share in the comments.
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