Slowly Sipping Coffee

Vacation SSC Style!

Soon we’ll be enjoying a week away from everything and go on vacation, and I realized that my brain is already there. Since vacationing is on my mind this week, I thought I would discuss vacations – SSC style. Taking vacations used to be no big deal, we would pick a place to visit, get everything lined up and then go. Yeah, easy!! Add 2 kids in the mix and everything gets a lot harder to manage, and WAY more expensive. Plus, get kids out of their routine and schedule, and OMG things can get crazy pretty quickly. So how do we deal with this and what do we do to keep the costs down so we can vacation more, let me tell you.

For the next few years we have put a limit on our driving distance which really limits our vacation options. One of the drawbacks with living in Texas is that everything else is SO far away. If we want to get to mountains, we’re a 10 hr drive to Southern Arkansas, if we want to get to nice blue water beaches, it’s about a 9 hr drive to Pensacola. Yes we have beaches and they’re nice, but they pale in comparison to the white sands, and crystal clear, Windex blue waters of Florida. Our last vacation in Destin was a 10 hour haul each way and even though we broke it up on the way there, it was still too much car time for all involved. So, we limit our driving to ~5 hours now.

Ahhh - the beach

Ahhh – the beach

Outside of that we are relegated to plane travel, which gets really expensive, really quickly. Fortunately, there are almost always cheap flights to Denver, ~$200-250 per ticket, but that still adds up to $1000 or more just for airfare. That’s still a lot cheaper than most other places we looked at flying to (Spokane, I’m looking at you!) and that’s why we’re probably going to plan a short trip out to CO later this summer. It’s a direct flight, there’s a lot to do, and the kids can get introduced to the mountains! We’re aware of travel hacking, but won’t enact that style of traveling until we kick off our Lifestyle Change and have more time and impetus to make it worth it.

Maybe get to see more of these mountain views!

Maybe get to see more of these mountain views!

This year, we’re going to spend some time in Port Aransas (~3 hr drive), down on the Gulf Coast. We got a house on VRBO ( a Vacation Rental by Owner website that lets you find houses, condos, or even some resort suites at competitive prices to hotels) that is right on the water and still has a playground and some things for the kids to do as well. We generally like booking our accommodations through VRBO because that way we can have a real kitchen, still do a lot of our own cooking, and feel more relaxed because we’re in a “home environment” as opposed to a hotel. One thing we enjoy is cooking, and we find that we can cut a lot of costs just by continuing to cook for ourselves. An added bonus of being on vacation is that we actually have time to cook more and we can even make more elaborate meals. Even when we do stay at hotels, we prefer suites for this exact reason. Also, my body tends to feel like it needs a food vacation if we eat out too much.

Another thing we like to look for in vacationing is simplicity. Our last vacation we stayed at a resort in Destin, and while we weren’t waterside, the resort had LOADS of bike paths all over it, so we could get to shops, restaurants, playgrounds, pools, and the beach all on bikes. We didn’t want to bring our bikes with us on a 9 hr drive, so we rented some for the week and just brought the kids bike seats. It was awesome, because except for the grocery trip, we didn’t get into the car again until we left. They also had a couple of pools within walking distance that worked out great on afternoons if we didn’t want to get to the beach again. Yeah simplicity!

I also like to go fishing early on in the week if we’re staying at the beach because usually I can catch enough so that we can eat fish for most of the week. Sure, it doesn’t make sense on a per pound cost for the fish, but I love fishing and we get to eat what I catch, so it’s a win-win situation. This upcoming trip, I’m also going to try my hand at some wade/surf fishing since we will be so close to the beach.

Note the jeans and jacket - it was a cool day on the beach that morning.

Note the jeans and jacket – it was a cool day on the beach that morning.

We also like vacationing with Mrs. SSC’s family, which is another reason VRBO style rentals work out so well for us. Her parents are joining us on this trip which is nice because they’re easy to get along with and the kids love hanging out with them. It also gives us a chance to get out and have a date night one night, which is something we don’t do enough of. Generally, we either do “date lunches” or “coffee dates” in the mornings of our Friday’s off. While it doesn’t look like the CDA/Whitefish trip will happen this year due to Mrs. SSC’s theoretical new schedule and getting settled in there, we already have her family on board with a vacation up there next summer. Plus, we will probably take a few more days just to bum around and visit our friends that recently moved to Spokane.

One of the reasons we’re drawn to the East Coast to relocate to for our Lifestyle Change is because there is so much cool stuff to see within driving distance. Almost anywhere you live on the East Coast, you can visit really cool stuff within an 8 hour drive. Even growing up in Kentucky, we had mountains within 2 hours, and beaches within 8 hours. There is also a LOT of cool American history within close driving distance on the East Coast too. That’s the birthplace of our nation and you can literally drive around and see all of those places where everything went down. I find that pretty intriguing and I remember even as a kid being fascinated with that stuff. Getting to see Abe Lincoln’s boyhood cabin, old forts, and Civil War battlegrounds, just got my mind racing with what it must have been like back then when those things were happening. I haven’t gotten to spend much time checking out the colonial history along the East coast, but I’m looking forward to having time to do that soon enough.

So that’s how we like to vacation; with house/condo rentals and plenty of outdoor stuff to do and stay entertained. What about you, any fun vacations planned this year? Do you typically do VRBO style accommodations or do you prefer hotels, or something else we haven’t even brought up? (We plan to do more camping, but for now, we’re just trying to get the kids adjusted to it.) Let us know!

42 thoughts on “Vacation SSC Style!

  1. Kate

    We also have two kiddos and love to do a house-type rental so we can cook meals and have more space to chill out. However, we may regret our location of Myrtle Beach as it’s a 15-hour drive for us! Yikes! Oh well…we’ll get some good road trip stories out of it, right?! Cheers to your trip!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      We started early with long drives and when our oldest was only about 2.5 months we thought we’d take advantage of Mrs. SSC being on Maternit leave and go on a 10 hr drive to the Smokies… The ride there was great, the ride back was rough – mostly on Mrs. SSC as he was being fussy and needed attention the whole way back.
      Now it’s more like you say, we just get good road trip stories out of it. Plus, I’m looking forward to a few years from now when we can road trip around the US all summer. :)

  2. Steve @ Think Save Retire

    Very nice! We are starting to do more VRBO these days. In fact, we have a VRBO home in Baja and another one in Colorado booked for our two planned vacations over the summer to escape the Arizona heat. We’re lookin’ forward to it!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      They’re great with the options, as in you can go tiny, you can go gargantuan, or anywhere in between. I’m hoping our CO trip pans out because it too would be a nice break from the heat, and even more importantly, the humidity. :)

  3. Fervent Finance

    I have yet to jump on the Airbnb or VRBO wagon so far, but I want to. I like my vacations (while working) to be stress free and not jam packed with pre-planed activities. I see a nice VRBO condo or cottage rental in my near future. Make sure to let us know how it goes.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      You should browse their website to get a feel of what’s out there. When we went to OR a few years back we found an awesome 2 BR cottage at the base of Mt. Hood, on a river, and we had a great deck to hang out on, a grill, a kitchen, it was awesome. Still worked out to being cheaper and more convenient than a hotel/motel option.

      I’m sure there will be a vacation follow-up post coming out too.

  4. Mr. PIE

    Loved reading this, in part because it is validation of what we love to do!!
    VRBO has been one of the most transformational things for us in the last 6-8 years. We love it. Whether it is for skiing out west, lazing around in Islamorada, or getting together with UK based family in the Lake District or Scottish mountains, you simply can’t beat it. The flexibility for cooking when you want, the price advantage compared to hotels and the ability to choose exactly the configuration that will suit your family needs.
    We have three vacations booked already – upcoming New York weekend with kids ( I got a work award and most costs are overhead; I think they still like me…..). Summer vacation split between our mountain home and Acadia. And Jackson Hole next winter (majority of costs covered through travel hacking miles and cash back credit cards). Gotta love travel hacking!! Interestingly, Jackson Hole property rentals are extremely lively especially during our travel dates next year so we are doing a budget hotel suite style at a place that we know well and balances budget, comfort and location. It has a kitchenette so we can do some cooking – breakfasts, simple pasta dinner etc. Kinda sad seeing the Jackson Hole real estate going as high as the Grand itself…..

    If you are looking for any east coast living perspective that brings together mountain living, coastal areas, colonial history please feel free to reach out via the contact us page on our blog site. Happy to provide any additional information you might need!

    1. Mrs. PIE

      hey, make that 4 vacations! don’t forget Quebec on our travel hacked Fairmont points! And yes readers, Mr. and Mrs. PIE now communicate with each other via comment sections 😉

      1. Mr SSC Post author

        That is hilarious! We haven’t quite gotten there yet, but I think it’s funny, when I comment and then realize Mrs. SSC has commented on the same post. :)

    2. Mr SSC Post author

      I agree that you can’t beat VRBO for finding exactly what you need. When we vacation with Mrs. SSC’s family, there are usually 6 adults and 2 kids, so finding a big house that can accomodate us is pretty easy and way easier than trying to deal with hotels. Plus, we get to be in a house, and usually with great views or other amenities nearby.

      I may follow up with you on the East Coast info. Mrs. SSC grew up in Delaware so she has done more extensive sightseeing/field trips as a kid along the more historical areas of the East Coast than I have. Everything being so close is a great plus of being in that area.

  5. The Green Swan

    Great tips and since our little one just turned two (no more free flights) we will definitely need to get more creative with vacations! We do live on the east coast though, which like you said is nice because of all the things within a short drive.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Oh yeah, I forgot about free flights. Well, we still got him a ticket so we could strap him in, Mrs. SSC was worried about the safety factor, and come to think of it, our youngest hasn’t flown yet. Poor kid seems to always get the short end of the stick. :)

      Yeah the east coast is great for so much diversity of places to visit and things to do i such relative close proximity. Sigh…

  6. Tawcan

    We’ll be making the trip to Denmark this Christmas with two kids. It’ll be a long journey but we’re looking forward to it. Able to stay with the family will ease the travel I think. Have used AirBnB but need to check out VRBO.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I haven’t used AirBnB just VRBO, lol. Good luck with the Denmark trip, it sounds fun! Staying with family helps on thsoe sorts of trips, and you get more time to reconnect as opposed to hotel stays.

  7. The Jolly Ledger

    Definitely VRBO with kids! We have two BIG trips planned. The one to Hawaii was unplanned and will prove to be very expensive. We are also suprising my DD with a trip to Disney World for her birthday. This one we travel hacked. In the end we will only pay for fees, food and gifts — 6 nights in a hotel, 5 day passes, and flights are free! I wouldn’t wait to long to get into travel hacking. It isn’t very hard or stressful to do and I can really pay off!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Those sound like two awesome trips! When we do Disney World, we will definitely hack it as there are a couple of blogs out there that describe doing exactly what you are doing and getting SO much of it paid for. Yeah for that, especially since that whole environment is SO expensive anyway. I should see if we can travel hack our Disney Cruise in a few years. Hmmm….

      I think I am getting Mrs. SSC slowly on baord, but maybe, just maybe (sharp intake of breath) I’ll have to pull the trigger and start working on that myself. Actually, come to think of it, there wouldn’t be a better way to get her in charge than if I start getting new credit cards, create a tracking spreadsheet and start sending her update emails about wich cards to use when, lol. It would be taken over so quickly, I probably wouldn’t even get to month 2 of that. Genius!!

  8. Apathy Ends

    Our family just booked a lake cabin through VBRO in northern MN for the fourth long weekend!

    It is half the price of a hotel and has all the amenities including a grill (plus the dogs can come)

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about! You can find an awesome set up at the palce you want, and even lakeside, beachside, or in the middle of a downtown area if that’s your bag.

      Double plus for being able to bring the dogs!

  9. Our Next Life

    Your vacation plan sounds great! And OMG — that proximity issue is legit. Sure, the west has tons to appreciate, but you’re looking at driving massive distances to get places. We really had no idea how many miles we’d put on our car just to do basic stuff. In virtually every western state, you can drive 8 hours and still be in the same state! So yeah, smart to think about other options — but I’d still say the west is worth it. :-) And what we lack in colonial history and Civil War sites, we make up for with real mountains and massive numbers of national parks!

    I’m also a huge fan of having a kitchen in the place when traveling — I even try to do this for work travel, because most road warriors are SUPER unhealthy, and I just can’t handle eating restaurant food every meal. I even used to travel with a mini blender and would make spinach smoothies until the TSA not so kindly asked me to stop bringing an appliance with blades through their checkpoint. Oops. 😉 And we’re in the same boat re: travel hacking, though we do pile up lots of points currently through work travel. But once we quit, we’ll pay more attention to that stuff, though I don’t ever see us doing the “manufactured spending” stuff and buying gift cards just to rack up spending credit, and then turning around and selling them on eBay. But more power to the people who enjoy that!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I got hit with that reality when I moved to Denver. All of a sudden I went from being able to catch any abnd I wanted to see within a 3-8 hour drive in almost any city around me (Memphis, St. Louis, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Cincinnatti, you get the idea) to being relegated to whatever came through D-town. I still got to see a lot of shows and Red rocks draws some names, but I realized quickly that I was in a virtual oasis in the middle of a desert. :)

      I still think it’s worth it at least for a few years if not longer just due to all the other things that are out there, but we’ll see, I seriously have no idea at all how it will turn out. :)

      That’s hilarious about bringing a blender thru TSA! Reminds me of when my brother in law showed up for Christmas with their own eggs (2 dozen), butter (pasteurized and unpasteurized), a gallon bag of granola and seeds, and a myriad of other foods that his then girlfriend was all about eating. It was equally hilarious as he was describing the look of the TSA agents looking at him, his carry-on eggs, then him, then the eggs…

      I may dip my toe into the waters of travel hacking. About as close as I get is switching my allowance card from an REI card to a “real” cash back card so now I can use it on Amazon or wherever I want practically. I just kept not finding things I NEED at REI lately. :( If hacking is like what you’re describing, I’ll probably bow out, but if it’s easier than that, then sure, why not. :)

  10. MDbyFIRE

    We typically do AirBNBs for vacation because the price is usually the same or cheaper than a hotel, with all the amenities of a house! We also save money by bringing snacks for the road/airport and cooking at “home” when possible. It’s amazing how much money you can drop on food while on vacation–those meals, snacks and drinks really add up! For entertainment, I’ll generally google “free things to do in ___” when trip planning, and look for things like free museum nights, local parks, and public events like outdoor concerts.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Yeah I forgot Mrs. SSC is a big fan of travelling with food/snacks, especially in the airport. I’m more prone to find a restaurant and ahve a ocuple of overpriced beers before I fly, and just accept it as a cost of travel, but then Mrs. SSC is a LOT more frugal natured than me. :) However, with the kids, totally all about snacks, because it’s easy to spend over $20 on just snacks alone. Yipe!

      That’s another good point I forgot to mention – Google “What’s free near XX?” :) We found an awesome free concert when we were staying in Chattanooga, and got to hang out on the riverfront and listen to music and people watch. Ahhh, free things.

  11. The Personal Economist

    Sounds like a great option. We are similar, with 2 kids long car rides are not fun, and airfares x 4 are pricey. At least I don’t have to pack nappies and a portacot any more. We look for places with a small kitchen too. We mix it up with some camping and some holiday flats.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      We are SO close to no more diapers, and have already crossed the threshold of no more portacots. (Huge smile and sigh of relief) We went hardcore with our youngest and potty training a few weeks back and just committed to a diaper free weekend to kick it off. There were surprisingly only a few accidents, and she’s been diaper free since. We still use trainers at night, but soon, very soon, we will be done with all that! Yeah!!!

      I’m looking forward to camping, and the kids have taken well to camping in the backyard, so we’ll be trying it out for real this summer. :)

  12. amber tree

    The beach is our go to holiday these past years. easy withe kids, a lot of stuff to do. We have variation in the beaches we go to, the cities we go to. Last weekend, we did a lonely beach, a crowed beach with kids play areas, a small city beach and a surf club beach.
    It has some charm to have only 69km of coast and about 15 centres on that stretch…

    Extra bonus: only a 120km drive. Just the time of one frozen movie and some games/window staring… :-)

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      The beach is a nice trip, and like you we have beaches nearby, which is an added bonus. :)
      Galveston is only about 50 minutes away, and other beaches are just increments beyond that depending on how far south/west you want to keep going. Our drive is a bit longer than one movie, but we plan to break it up about halfway and have lunch at a restaurant. The kids like this because we usually don’t go out to restaurants with them, so that will be fun.

  13. Beth

    VRBO/Homeaway has been the Number 1 reason my husband has started agreeing to more vacations. When I was a kid, we always took family vacations and I wanted to do the same for my little one. So when our little one was 1 year old, we went on our first vacation to the beach. We live near St. Louis, so the beach is about 10 hours away. I broke the trip up into two days of 5 hour driving and booked a 2 BR Condo across the street from Orange Beach. He loved the feeling of relaxation that we got from not being in a confined hotel room and on the go all the time. The following year we went to the Smokey Mountains and this year was a trip to Arkansas to try to strike it rich at the diamond mine (no luck though.) He’s now on board with an annual vacation as long as I can continue to find condo/house rentals that allow us to cook and spread out as necessary. Plus, I get to satisfy my travel bug!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      That’s awesome that you got the hubby on board with more vacations! It’s key finding something that works great for both of you, because if one isn’t happy the trips can be not worth it at all. Our last trip Mrs. SSC thought went horribly and I thought was one of the more relaxing vacations we had. I guess we weren’t active enough for her and didn’t rush to the beacha t sunup, so she took it as we weren’t excited to be there. Having everyone on the same page definitely makes things go much more smoothly. :)

  14. Lucky Girl

    We love VRBO/Homeaway–we’ve used it in San Diego, Maine, and Nantucket so far. Like you guys we often travel with the in-laws, so extra space and a kitchen is great.

    We are currently New Englanders, so we are taking full advantage of the easy of travel to awesome locations this summer. Our first trip is a short flight to Myrtle Beach (16 hrs of driving is too far, and as a former Houston girl I love 85 degree water), but the rest of the summer we will hit Maine for the beach and NH for the mountains. Myrtle Beach is otherwise free since we stay at a family-owned condo, so we’ll be doing that for years. Some day we will probably drive it and make the drive a camping/sight seeing adventure as we visit Philly and DC on the way down, but not until the kids are a bit older!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      That is awesome being in New England and having so much close by! I think that’s wise waiting for the kids to grow a bit before trying a long, long, long road trip. We did a 10 hr trip each way when our oldest was about 2.5 months old. Ah, the naivete of young parents. The way there was great, minus a big poo-splosion right when we got into Alabama, but the way back, I was chauffering as Mrs. SSC was in the back the whole trip and little man was not happy. The whole trip….

      You can’t beat VRBO for convenience and extra space and oh yeah, a full kitchen. :)

  15. Erik @ Hippies de Land Rover

    We had our first experience travaling with our first baby (mini HdLR) he was 11 months and had a 23hrs journey trip (10 hrs trans-atlantic flight + airports plus domestic flights) It wasn’t so bad but I suppose it was because 11 months is still so manageable.
    Let’s see this November when we go on vacations, again in a long trans-atlantic trip, only this tinme mini. HdLR will be almost 2 years and his energy is amazing let’s see how that 10h flight goes.
    Enjoy your vacations and try to run on the beach, that’s great!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Yeah they are definitely way more manageable before they get more mobile. :)

      Good luck with the upcoming trip, our 2 year old did great on planes, and even being stuck on the tarmac for an additional 1.5 hrs for a 5 hr flight… Talk about lucky on our part. Whew…

  16. Financial Slacker

    I know what you mean about living in Texas. Depending on where you live, the good news is that you can get direct flights most places. But you mostly have to fly with little ones.

    We are huge fans of VRBO ourselves. A few summers ago, we rented a VRBO in Durango, CO with Ms. Financial Slacker’s family. It was a huge place on lots of land and all the kids could run around, play, and even fish.

    Once you start renting VRBO’s, it’s hard to go back to hotel rooms.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      The direct flights are pretty awesome even moreso with the little ones. :) I totally agree on VRBO and hotels, once you try it, it’s hard getting back to a hotel.

  17. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor

    We do one vacation rental house (VRBO type) per year, and go with two other families with kids. We love it and aim for less than 5 hours drive, some type of water or beach, nearby state parks, fishing, biking–the same things you describes. I think it’s the perfect type of vacation for families with young children.

    Our other trips usually involve camping, which our children also love. It’s more work than the rental home trip but has the advantage of the activities being built-in. As soon as the kids step outside the tent they are ready to play in the dirt, woods, beach, or whatever the campground has.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      We’ve been looking into camping around our area and will try that this summer. Our oldest likes the backyard camping and I think our youngest sleeps well enough she can try it now too. Plus, if it fails, I can just carry them inside. Hahahaha Once they’re good with that, we’re planning on a real – away from home camping trip this year. I’m pretty excited!

      The elss than 5 hr drive is a great goal to have. The kids are just starting to get antsy, irritable and bored, and then bam! You’re there!

  18. Dividendsdownunder

    Lots of good considerations Mr SSC. At the moment we aren’t doing any holiday things, saving for IVF and baby things. But when we do decide to go places we may use vacation homes, so much more flexible and you get to eat how you want to.

    Australia is a really, really big place, so to get anywhere other than in our state we would probably fly, unless we’re retired. It would take way too much time! The draw of a holiday is a bit less for us, as we live right by the beach and normally have good weather (except winter), so we’re pretty lucky in that regard.


    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Especially with kids, we’ve found renting a vacation house or even a place with a suite is SO convenient in the sense that you’re kind of stuck inside there from about 7pm or so onward, so you may as well be comfy and like the place you’re in. :) Plus, there are a lot more flexible things you can do and don’t deal with in a rental condo/house/etc… that gets annoying in hotels.

      It is nice being so close to a beach. I miss LA and being able to get my kayak in 3-4 different bodies of water all within about 15 minutes from the house. Sigh…

  19. Ditching The Grind

    Our vacations sound like they’re fairly similar to yours. We did a VRBO in Breckenridge, CO, with a bunch of family in December 2014 and had a great time. You’re right about everything being so far in Texas and things being much closer on the east coast. Even when we lived in Ohio, we felt so much closer to everything. Like you guys, flying anywhere for us really adds up with the kids. We just bought tickets to Chile this summer that set us back $3,500!

    We’ll be driving through your area early August before we head out to England. Really hope we can stop by and meet you guys!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Let us know when you’re coming through and we can grill out or feed you guys as you come through anyway. It would be nice to meet before you head overseas.

      Even in Denver, it felt like there was a long ways to go to get to another city or that kind of thing, but fortunately, the mountains were only 25 minutes away, so it made it seem WAY less remote. The East Coast does have its’ perks in that regard.

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