Ever since Miss Moe came to terms with Santa and company (about 9) we have changed how we handle all birthdays and holidays. What do you get a child in a material world that has everything she needs? I know this is a very good problem to have. Our solution is to look for experiences that we can enjoy as a family that will leave us with cherished memories and make us better people in some way.
But, what about the actual “unwrapping” of a gift? Well, we actually assemble a poster board of our planned experience, and she unwraps the poster last. This is something she looks forward to every time. Many times, she’ll open her gift and we’re leaving the same day, so her excitement is palpable. Her other gifts are consumables for the trip or other things she’ll need for the experience (i.e. if we’re going to the beach perhaps a new suit, towels, and goggles). All of our family knows we do this, so her souvenir/spending money is always provided by extended family (kids spending their own money are a lot more selective with their shopping needs). Some of our trips are a lot more expensive than others (I’ve been tracking the costs for years). This is a huge, massive spending area for us. And, it’s not something I’m willing to sacrifice completely to cut out of work early. It’s a part of who I am. We’ll treasure these memories forever. The costs include everything from flights, entertainment, accommodations, souvenirs, and food.
- New York City – $2,000
- Drove to New York City, stayed for four nights and took four people to a Broadway Show (Newsies), saw the 5th Avenue Christmas window dressings and Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
- Puerto Rico – $3,350
- El Yunque Rain Forest (only tropical rainforest in the United States).
- Costa Rica – $5,000
- Trip for four to Costa Rica, rented a car and stayed in AirBnBs across the country for 9 days. This may have been a favorite. Our big splurge was the scariest, most exhilarating zip lining we’ve ever experienced. Also had an unfortunate stand off with a gang of wild monkeys. Just FYI, smiling at a monkey is a sign of aggression.
- Paris – $7,000
- Included flights, hotel, all entertainment and food for 9 days.
- India – $8,000
- This is one of those trips that will stay with you forever, and marks you. I’ll write more about traveling to a developing country and why it’s important another time. I loved it, I hated it, glad I went, and don’t want to go back. None of that makes any sense, yet, all of it is completely true.
- Niagara Falls – $1,670
- Drove to Niagara Falls, stayed in a hotel for 3 nights. Walked the whole area on foot (someone brought new shoes and had the blisters to prove it), did the famous Maids of the Mist and Behind the Falls adventure for all of us.
- Iceland – $3,720
- We tried to see the Northern Lights, but it was cloudy (an excuse to try again some day). The best part? Riding Icelandic ponies through lava fields….
- Theme parks – $300-$1200
- Drivable (Hershey Park, Busch Gardens, Kings Dominion). Depending on if we stayed overnight or not and how many days and how many were in our party. We did these several times for birthdays, etc.
- Outer Banks beach (OBX) – $2,500
- This is heaven. A week on the beach. That is all. My favorite place on this Earth may be Pea Island.
- Seattle, Victoria, Northern California – $3,600
- Thanks to some free accommodations with family most of the time and a steal on the airline tickets this was ten wonderful days of relaxation.
- Sailing Caribbean – $11,100
- Mr. Moe wanted to learn to sail for his 40th. So, that’s exactly what we did! This was by far our costliest trip, but he is now a licensed sailor and it was his dream.
- We chartered a boat with a licensed instructor and sailed to St. Thomas, St. John, Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and Norman Island.
- Cape Cod – $1,500
- We drove back to where we met for our 20 year anniversary with kid, dog, and all. Toured the beaches, walked Provincetown, and had a very relaxing stroll down memory lane.
- Berlin and Amsterdam – $6,000
- We met up with friends in the area, then norovirus ripped through all of us one at a time. Someone was always sick, which was horrible. But, I’m glad we saw Christmas Markets, the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Anne Frank Museum.
I’ll be the first to admit, a lot of our extra funds go to travel. A. Lot. We could have done a lot of these with less money, but I’m not going to cry over spilled milk and may have only tweaked them a little bit.
So, while we look at saving money where we can – if we have to work a bit longer in order to fund some amazing experience we can have as a family, this is something we aren’t afraid of doing. I wouldn’t trade these memories I’ll take with me my entire life to exit the workforce sooner. We could have traded all of this and be retired probably by the time Miss Moe takes off to college, but we’re all so much richer for it.