Author Topic: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?  (Read 6080 times)

AgentCooper

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Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« on: November 13, 2015, 10:23:55 AM »
Traveling and experiencing other places, nature, hiking, waterfalls, etc. while the kids are young and still living at home is high up on my list of priorities, coming second only to Actual Needs.  One of the most important things in my life has always been travel.  Ive had the privilege to tour 18 countries and 42 states.  Some of the highlights of my life have been crossing the country by car, stopping to camp for 1 to 3 nights any time I felt like it.  My fondest childhood memories are of family trips. 

I have read in the blog that MMM is a big fan of domestic, outdoorsy travel.  This year I opted out of the cruise ship travel my wife had been wanting, and instead convinced the family to take a 3-week-long camping trip.  We loved it.  But, we spent $4,500 on that trip!  Not so many years ago, campgrounds charged $10 a night.  On this trip, through 9 states, we found that the camping is now ridiculously expensive, at $40 per night in most parks we visited this summer.  I think one place was $30, but some were $60 and up.  We go to national parks and state parks when possible, with the occasional KOA or private campground as a last resort. 

Do the principles of mustachianism require forgoing all travel while were saving for retirement?  Any tips for making camping cheaper?

charis

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2015, 10:33:13 AM »
I can't imagine how you spent $4500 on a three week camping trip with sites at 40-60 bucks a night.

AgentCooper

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2015, 11:35:20 AM »
I can't imagine how you spent $4500 on a three week camping trip with sites at 40-60 bucks a night.
Me neither.  I had a lapse - vacations are my weakness - and I paid for the trip with a credit card.  It took me a while to pay it off, with some interest as a result (about $60), and cost me some hard-won savings to get the bill down to zero.  I didn't keep track of my pre-trip or during-trip expenses.  But as with my overall budget, I find that having to list it out will probably help me realize where my spendy errors were.  So let's see....

(Some of this won't be repeated next time, as for example, we can use the same tent next time).
$150 New Tent
$120 for sleeping bags
$30 camping pillows
$50 stove and cord
$50 various camping gear
$100 special clothes for the trip (that's another weakness of mine; I don't travel without buying clothes)
$1140 for regular food budget we would have spent at home anyway
$200 special/impulse camping food treats purchased at grocery stores
$50 toys and car entertainment for 1600-mile trip
$500 for dining out, which averaged about once every 3 days, the rest of meals were made at camp
$100 for various unplanned road snacks bought at gas stations
$500 entrance fees to various attractions (museums, natural wonders, gate fees)
$130 Stayed in a cabin one night during a thunderstorm
$130 Stayed in a hotel one night during another thunderstorm
$180 Most expensive campground for two nights @$90
$25 Least expensive campground for one night
$680 for 18 nights at average $40 per night camping fee
$120 car repair
$245 unsure/not recorded/Miscellaneous
$4500 Total

Edit:  So $1140 for 3 weeks of regular, eaten-at-home food for 6 people is apparently exorbitant.  More on that here:  http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/how-fear-is-impacting-our-grocery-budget/

So let's say this trip cost $3360 for 3 weeks, since we would have had to eat even if we stayed home.  I still find that shockingly high.  Seems I could find a way to get that down to $1500 or $2000 if we made entirely different choices about what kind of trip it would be next time.  Still, does it make any kind of sense to drop major funds on camping trips when you are trying to retire early?
« Last Edit: November 13, 2015, 11:43:47 AM by AgentCooper »

Scandium

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2015, 11:52:01 AM »
I can't imagine how you spent $4500 on a three week camping trip with sites at 40-60 bucks a night.

Having issues with this math as well. You spent $214 per day. At $60/night accommodation is only 30% of expenses, there's still $150 left. Where did this go? Driving? Assuming a 30 MPG car you could drive 1,200 mi/day for $100. So $50 food?

edit; budget posted while I posted. I'd say take out all one-time expenses like tent and gear, assuming you'll use it again. What are your costs then..?
« Last Edit: November 13, 2015, 11:56:23 AM by Scandium »

boarder42

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2015, 11:53:45 AM »
PLANNING

what you're missing is planning ahead.  plan your camp sites, plan your meals... with 6 people planning everything is the only way to keep those costs down.  Park entrance fees are high.  you can however by a national park pass for 120 bucks thats good for a year. we did a 10 day campervan trip thru 5 national parks. 

26 bucks per person per day is quite high.  if you're spending 1140 on food at home regularly you need to up your frugal card b/c its obviously carrying over into other walks of life for you. 

Fishindude

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2015, 11:56:53 AM »
Stay away from the campgrounds and you can camp on lots of national forest property and BLM ground for free.
You won't have restrooms, electric hooks ups and shower houses, but you will have a whole lot more peace and quiet right in the middle of mother nature.

CommonCents

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2015, 12:00:18 PM »
I'm shocked you spent $1840 $1940 on food...and regularly spend $1140 for only 3 weeks of food, not even a full month.  What are you eating?  Or are you just throwing most of it away as leftovers?

Fix that, and check the forecast for thunderstorms next time.  (Maybe don't camp during the summer - camp during fall.)  Don't buy $550 in new stuff that you now have.  Car repair probably doesn't fall into the vacation budget.  That'll cut the bill down to about $2300 2200 (assuming you spend $600 for food for 3 weeks), or $733 per week. 

The thing is, a 3 week vacation is always going to be more expensive than a 1 week vacation.  Maybe try exchanging homes with someone next time instead to save on the camping fees.

ETA: Missed $100 of your road snacks.  Hard to keep track when you mention food 4 times ($1140+$500+$200+$100)
$1140 for regular food budget we would have spent at home anyway
$200  special/impulse camping food treats purchased at grocery stores
$500 for dining out, which averaged about once every 3 days, the rest of meals were made at camp
$100 for various unplanned road snacks bought at gas stations

« Last Edit: November 13, 2015, 12:03:54 PM by CommonCents »

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2015, 12:07:28 PM »
A recurring theme in MMM's blog entries, which I like a lot, is the idea that you don't give up luxuries, but, rather, you understand and calculate how often you can reasonably have them. It's about thoughtfulness and understanding the impact and making the choice with intent.

Maybe there's ways to make your trip cheaper (and as mentioned, next one _will_ be cheaper from one-time costs, and some knowledge gained). But the important thing is to know how this affects your short term, medium term, and long term plans.

And I second the advice to check out forestry and BLM lands. Our last 3 week road trip we got probably a third of our overnights at free (seriously!) BLM locations. Some had minimal fees too. They had pit toilets that were fine for us. BYO water, though.

norabird

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2015, 12:22:08 PM »
More careful planning of food and campsites would help you out here.

AgentCooper

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2015, 12:26:55 PM »
Ok so discarding regular food budget and one-time-only gear purchases and car repair, we came out to about $21 per person per day - still high and a result of failure to plan or budget for the trip.  Will definitely check out the cheaper/free camping ideas above, too. 

Will be difficult to convince the wife that she can live without electric hookup for the camp stove.  She already holds - or held, before this year's trip - a fairly negative opinion of camping, in that it is so much work to prepare meals, wash dishes, etc.  She did enjoy this trip so I may already have a successful convert to the idea of staying in a tent vs. staying at a resort or on a cruise ship.

In the places mentioned here...having no showers, no real toilets, no electric or water hookup - that's pretty hard-core camping - a kind that I've never done in my life yet - and kind of sounds more like survivalism than vacation. :-)  BYO water is scary.  6 people per day, just 1 gallon per day per day in the hot southern US, for a week would be 42 gallons of water to tote in with us.  Yeah, she'd never go for that.  A shower every second day would be her bare minimum, for her and the 4 kids, unless there was maybe a waterfall or river or something to allow for primitive bathing.  Maybe we'll give the free/cheaper camping a trial-run at a local forest for a 2-night weekend stay before contemplating a longer attempt. 

boarder42

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2015, 01:12:00 PM »
Ok so discarding regular food budget and one-time-only gear purchases and car repair, we came out to about $21 per person per day - still high and a result of failure to plan or budget for the trip.  Will definitely check out the cheaper/free camping ideas above, too. 

Will be difficult to convince the wife that she can live without electric hookup for the camp stove.  She already holds - or held, before this year's trip - a fairly negative opinion of camping, in that it is so much work to prepare meals, wash dishes, etc.  She did enjoy this trip so I may already have a successful convert to the idea of staying in a tent vs. staying at a resort or on a cruise ship.

In the places mentioned here...having no showers, no real toilets, no electric or water hookup - that's pretty hard-core camping - a kind that I've never done in my life yet - and kind of sounds more like survivalism than vacation. :-)  BYO water is scary.  6 people per day, just 1 gallon per day per day in the hot southern US, for a week would be 42 gallons of water to tote in with us.  Yeah, she'd never go for that.  A shower every second day would be her bare minimum, for her and the 4 kids, unless there was maybe a waterfall or river or something to allow for primitive bathing.  Maybe we'll give the free/cheaper camping a trial-run at a local forest for a 2-night weekend stay before contemplating a longer attempt.

why did you buy an ELECTRIC stove for camping use.  they make perfectly acceptable gas stoves we've used camping for years.

elaine amj

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2015, 01:18:09 PM »
Camping is not always as cheap as most people think - like everything else, it depends on how you camp. We tent camp - but our biggest expense is camping in Ontario. Our provincial parks are fabulous - but the cheapest non-electric rustic site is $40+ a night. OUCH!

I do consider us avid tent campers - but we are not hardcore enough to camp on crown land without a pit toilet at the very least.

Anyway, like on any vacation - you'll find that with your trip, you're typically bleeding at all the "miscellaneous touchpoints". Entrance fees to national parks add up very quickly. Entertainment (museums, tours, activities) all add up so fast. I try to stick to hiking since it is free - but my son in particular gets bored with hiking. He doesn't see a point in walking endlessly to get somewhere to turn around and walk back lol! So i try to mix in some stuff that's exciting for him like white water rafting or horseback riding. That gets VERY expensive. Also, I LOVE canoeing and will canoe for hours on end. So I have to add the canoe rental to our costs too.

Like someone else said - a lot of planning is what is going to reduce your costs. Staying in one spot longer (not switching up as often), not driving as far (save on gas), and careful consideration of what activities you choose. e.g. last trip to Sequoia National Park, I nixed a $40/hr/pp horseback riding jaunt and sent my son on a $10 paintballing adventure (since he could do it himself, we saved on having to pay for the rest of us). My DD and I went on a (free) hike. I also spend a ton of time finding free/cheap activities for areas I am going to visit.

Sometimes a cruise is cheaper :)
« Last Edit: November 13, 2015, 01:20:36 PM by elaine amj »

honeybbq

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2015, 01:18:47 PM »
We vacation in the great outdoors quite a bit, and usually don't spend quite what you do, but we have once.

Seems like quite a bit went to the initial expense of set up which shouldn't be duplicated in further trips. (tent, bags, etc).

Also, if you move around "too much" you risk having to pay many different entry fees to many different parks.  You may be better off with an America the Beautiful pass.

http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm

And paying weekly rates rather than daily when possible.

Stock up on snacks and junk food at Costco before you go. I always eat more and need more "snacks" when I'm outside for some reason.

Get used to the rain. It happens.



Those $90/nt campgrounds are usually really fancy with running water and showers, BBQ pits, etc. Try to keep those to a minimum and look for primitive camp sites. In WA, there are plenty of primitive sights for $10/nt, and walk in sites could be as low as $5/nt.




Goldielocks

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2015, 01:45:53 PM »
Hmm,  Looks pretty good.

You did get a vacation for under $4000 for three weeks, for 6 people.   -- once some of the one time and regular food costs are taken out.  I bet that cruise would have been closer to $5k plus tips, taxis and gratuities, for only a week.

You had a fabulous time.   There are many ways to make it cost less, but maybe an electric stove, night in a hotel and eating out are part of the whole experience for you.

Not bad, I say.  We typically spend $600+ for fuel alone on a 2 week camping trip, and have started to stay at free sites, but do stay at a hotel one night, too.  Eating out add to costs (my DH hates cooking so it is all me or occasional eating out)..

boarder42

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #14 on: November 13, 2015, 01:52:55 PM »
Hmm,  Looks pretty good.

You did get a vacation for under $4000 for three weeks, for 6 people.   -- once some of the one time and regular food costs are taken out.  I bet that cruise would have been closer to $5k plus tips, taxis and gratuities, for only a week.

You had a fabulous time.   There are many ways to make it cost less, but maybe an electric stove, night in a hotel and eating out are part of the whole experience for you.

Not bad, I say.  We typically spend $600+ for fuel alone on a 2 week camping trip, and have started to stay at free sites, but do stay at a hotel one night, too.  Eating out add to costs (my DH hates cooking so it is all me or occasional eating out)..

thats a hella expensive cruise there at 5k for a week for 6... and you're not bargain hunting you're just signing up for one at that point.

http://www.travelzoo.com/cruises/caribbean/-379-Caribbean-Cruise-w-100-Credit-3rd-4th-Sail-Free-2125400/

here is 500 including fees for 7 nights with 3/4 guest free.  so 500*4 = 2k.  add on 6*7*12 for the required tips 2500... bring your snorkel gear with you or purchase for the first time take cabs to beaches at the stops.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2015, 02:00:11 PM by boarder42 »

mm1970

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #15 on: November 13, 2015, 02:19:04 PM »
Traveling and experiencing other places, nature, hiking, waterfalls, etc. while the kids are young and still living at home is high up on my list of priorities, coming second only to Actual Needs.  One of the most important things in my life has always been travel.  Ive had the privilege to tour 18 countries and 42 states.  Some of the highlights of my life have been crossing the country by car, stopping to camp for 1 to 3 nights any time I felt like it.  My fondest childhood memories are of family trips. 

I have read in the blog that MMM is a big fan of domestic, outdoorsy travel.  This year I opted out of the cruise ship travel my wife had been wanting, and instead convinced the family to take a 3-week-long camping trip.  We loved it.  But, we spent $4,500 on that trip!  Not so many years ago, campgrounds charged $10 a night.  On this trip, through 9 states, we found that the camping is now ridiculously expensive, at $40 per night in most parks we visited this summer.  I think one place was $30, but some were $60 and up.  We go to national parks and state parks when possible, with the occasional KOA or private campground as a last resort. 

Do the principles of mustachianism require forgoing all travel while were saving for retirement?  Any tips for making camping cheaper?
I agree that some of the issue is planning ahead.  I don't know where you lived or where you camp, but that is going to be a factor.

Some examples: my neighbors have a $90,000 camping van (not mustachian!) but it does give them more flexibility, as they can pull over and sleep anywhere.
Depending on where you live, you can rent an RV (for $1000 a week on average) or a camping van for more like the cost of renting a car.

But that's assuming that you want some creature comforts.

I like camping, and we have the gear - tent, a couple of cots, sleeping bags, etc.  But you have to be judicious about where you camp -
National parks are actually relatively cheap, but you have to plan ahead.  I think that Joshua Tree national park is $10 a night (plus $20 to get into the park, good for a week).  (Unless you have a 4th grader!)

Grand canyon is more like $18 a night

State parks in my area are $45 a night, sometimes $35 a night.  But these have running water.

In my area of California, beach camping with water will run you some money.  But back-country camping (first come, first serve) is free.  Picnic tables, pit toilets, bring in your own water.  You do have to pay a pass to enter the wilderness area ($5 a day or $30 a year).  You could easily spend 3-4 nights here (whatever your limit of "baby wipe showers" is) for $20 to $30 total.

Someone already mentioned the BLM areas.

The key for us when we do trips like this (never more than a week at a time for us) is to split it up.  We may camp for a few days, and rough it in an area like Joshua Tree that is cheap, but then move on to a hotel to shower.  Or an Air-BNB.  The key is to give up the idea of flush toilets and running water for every single day of the trip, because that's going to cost money.

I found this video very interesting - a family who camped all summer in a VW for cheap.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Iti4JU5ObU

Gone Fishing

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #16 on: November 13, 2015, 02:24:31 PM »
Where is gas in your budget?

This past summer, we (family of 4) did a week in a national park for $200.  Including food we would have eaten anyway, would have brought the total to around $275. 

We're planning a 4 week cross country trip next summer and I am just guessing our total cost to be in the $2000 range, with our largest expenses being gas, camping fees, occasional hotels and meals out. 

We plan on using a multi-park pass.
Preplanning stops as much as possible.
Limiting moves to once every 3-4 days.
Enjoying the included park activities rather than "add-ons".
Stocking up to the hilt at Aldi before we leave.
Probably restocking once a week a grocery store.
Using mostly existing gear.






Mikila

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2015, 01:05:07 AM »
National Forest camping costs less, and so do more primitive campsites.  Many cost $10 per night.  You could perhaps camp in the national forest for much less, and be very near the Park you want.

If you are interested, check out recreation.gov.  Also, an annual pass is a bargain.  Our public lands are fantastic!

mm1970

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #18 on: November 14, 2015, 11:21:11 AM »
Also, this year fourth graders and their families can get into all National Parks for free!  For the school year.  Guess what we are doing this year??

http://www.nationalparks.org/ook/every-kid-in-a-park

crispy

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #19 on: November 14, 2015, 12:23:31 PM »
Also, this year fourth graders and their families can get into all National Parks for free!  For the school year.  Guess what we are doing this year??

http://www.nationalparks.org/ook/every-kid-in-a-park

Thanks so much for this!  I have a 4th grader so this will come in handy.  We visited four National Parks/Historic sites this past summer and plan to do more this upcoming year.

My girls love being involved in the Junior Ranger program and collecting badges.

Exflyboy

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #20 on: November 14, 2015, 12:31:56 PM »
Come out west and plan carefully. Some of our camping free in wilderness areas in Wyoming and Idaho... And those places were not that far away from civilization to be honest.


MrsPete

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #21 on: November 15, 2015, 09:38:39 PM »
I can't imagine how you spent $4500 on a three week camping trip with sites at 40-60 bucks a night.
Yeah, we did a three-week driving trip out West, and we spent about that same amount -- but we stayed in hotels instead of campgrounds. 
ou can however by a national park pass for 120 bucks thats good for a year. we did a 10 day campervan trip thru 5 national parks. 
When we did the above-mentioned three-week trip, we bought that pass.  I think we paid less than $120, but it was about 5-6 years ago, and it may've increased.  However, I did the math to the penny before I made that purchase, and buying the pass only saved us something like $20 total on our trip ... but the next summer we used the pass again when we went to Puerto Rico, and I lent it to a friend (you're allowed to have two names on the back of the pass).  Lending it to the friend didn't actually make me any money, but she does a great deal for me, and I was glad to be able to save her some money.  So we DID save a good bit with that pass.
Stay away from the campgrounds and you can camp on lots of national forest property and BLM ground for free.
You won't have restrooms, electric hooks ups and shower houses, but you will have a whole lot more peace and quiet right in the middle of mother nature.
My personal camping comfort level includes a bath house with showers.  I don't think I'm alone in this.
Will be difficult to convince the wife that she can live without electric hookup for the camp stove.  She already holds - or held, before this year's trip - a fairly negative opinion of camping, in that it is so much work to prepare meals, wash dishes, etc.  She did enjoy this trip so I may already have a successful convert to the idea of staying in a tent vs. staying at a resort or on a cruise ship.
As a mom, I understand what it's like to find yourself "on vacation" yet doing more work than you do at home!  So help her out.  Do part of the cooking AND the cleaning.  Bring paper plates.  And do as much cooking prep work as possible at home (for example, break and beat your eggs and pour them into a plastic container -- now you can scramble eggs without stopping to break them ... chop your meat and vegetables for beef stew at home, freeze the meat so it helps keep things cold, and your dinner will cook up fast).

And try alternating camping with the cruise your wife wants.  One of the things that pleases me most about my kids is that they had such a variety of travel experiences ... and now as young adults they know how to handle themselves whether they're in a campground or a 5-star Marriott. 
Also, this year fourth graders and their families can get into all National Parks for free!  For the school year.  Guess what we are doing this year??

http://www.nationalparks.org/ook/every-kid-in-a-park
I didn't know that.  Does anyone know how they chose 4th grade specifically? 

mm1970

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Re: Vacations with kids are Mustachian, or not?
« Reply #22 on: November 16, 2015, 12:46:51 PM »
Quote
I didn't know that.  Does anyone know how they chose 4th grade specifically?
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/white-house-picked-4th-graders-free-national-park/story?id=29080465