Flexible and Affordable Family Vacation Ideas for This Year

Many families are looking for getaway this year. We'll go over flexible, memorable, and affordable family vacation ideas!

Planning a Family Vacation in 2021

How do you plan for a year where you don't know exactly what to expect? 

I think that's been the unofficial theme this season.

We've been talking about how to create a budget that's flexible enough? How do you figure out your schedule? 

Now I'm hoping maybe a little cautiously optimistic, how do we plan some family fun, maybe some trips if possible?

Summer is coming up, people are getting vaccinated and while we’re not out of the woods just yet, I’m looking to travel more. 

I’m looking forward to going to the beach, whitewater raft, and maybe going for a longer trip. At the same time, I want to keep some flexibility in case things change. 

Which is why I’m so happy Karen Cordaway is here. She’s the author of the Everyday Bucket List. 

In this episode we’re going to look at:

  • How you can build and cross off your bucket list
  • Creating a flexible plan for travel this year
  • Affordable options vacation idea

Let’s get started! 

Resources to Save on Your Next Family Vacation

If you're looking to start planning and saving for your next family trip, here are a few handy resources to check out!

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Why You Need to Be Flexible with Your Family Vacations This Year

Karen Cordaway: I'm a planner, we've all had to have to learn how to be flexible because there's so much, we don't know. We could spend all this time planning and the whole thing changes.

So I think in a way, if you just kind of have an outline, you start throwing out ideas. Maybe we could do this. Maybe we could do that.

I understand when you're traveling, you really have to nail down dates and coordinate with your spouse or, you know, make sure that you can do what you want to do.

Unfortunately, we know that we're trying to get everybody vaccinated and I'm just reading today that just because someone's vaccinated, it doesn't give you full license to travel.

It actually takes a few weeks to kick in. It doesn't mean you can't pass the virus to someone.

So when we don't even really know enough about this and the experts are still finding these out, it's hard to plan. You just kind of have to go with the flow.

That can be very hard for some people. So if you do want to set something up, if there's any way you could put something in place that it's a place that you know will be available.

It's not this hard placed to arrange right? Because those are the ones, ‘Oh, if I don't get it at this time, Then I'm not going to be able to reserve it'.

We have to kind of loosen up in that way. I mean, I have kids and I didn't really have a lot of babysitters. We always had to be flexible. We always would just do things last minute.

If you can be open to that, if there's places that you can go, on the fly. And there's always last minute deals.

So if you're someone who can function that way and be okay with that, that could work.

Like I said, once we're following the experts, cause I'm never going to tell someone to do something they're not supposed to do. I'm on that side of being super safe.

Finding Great Local Spots for Day Trips

Elle Martinez: Yeah. That's been us. We do love to travel, but last year we just stayed put.

What we ended up doing is if we left the house, we did day trips like hikes to parks. So there's plenty of space for outdoors, really embraced parks last year, and that was helpful.

It is a challenge, especially when we're talking about parents with kids, because not only do you have your work schedule that you have to figure out it's school schedules, which depending on whatever state you're in, it can be completely different each quarter.

One thing that parents should do is have different plans and figuring out, okay, if this is going to work, then maybe we'll do this. But if this doesn't happen, then maybe we need to have this as a backup.

For those that haven't heard the previous episode with Karen, she's the author of the everyday bucket list.

I love your approach with creating a plan and having just fun with experiences. It doesn't have to be these huge dramatic things where you're traveling across the world, though it could include that, but you're making these special moments throughout the year with your family.

I was curious how would you approach travel? Like how are you approaching travel with your own thing?

Many families are looking for getaway this year. We'll go over flexible, memorable, and affordable family vacation ideas!

Karen Cordaway: Right now we're staying very close by and I live in a small state. So you would think, Oh, well, that's easy to see everything, but it's really not. Because right now we're just doing weekends and, you know depending on weather and schedules, it does things don't always happen.

So we're just really trying to explore locally and we've been pleasantly surprised.

I mean, Connecticut has a lot of really cool towns. Westport, Connecticut. We went to this place called Terrain, which is a garden center, a very upscale, fancy garden center. They have a beautiful store.

They sell stationary and all these different things for people who like to entertain, but they also have this place where you can have brunch. It's just so beautiful.

See, I'm someone who appreciates the experience of a restaurant or just being in a store or whatever, that kind of experience to try something new.

My husband and I, even though it was an impromptu thing, and we didn't know, we were supposed to make reservations because you have to for this place. Yeah. So we didn't know, but I just always try to keep a positive attitude.

I'm like, Oh, we drove all this way, but you could get takeout so it worked out fine because we went all around the store.

We looked at all these fancy pumpkin's if this was in the fall.

Elle Martinez: Yeah.

Karen Cordaway: It's funny because I used to joke that when I would see Martha Stewart's magazine back when she was like the only DIY kind of person, we'd have all these fancy squash and pumpkins, and I'm like, where do you get these kinds of pumpkins? Yeah. And this is where you get them!

What's funny is she like lives around there. I'm like, this is from Martha Stewart gets this stuff.

So there are a lot of interesting things if you really take time to dig a little you know, there are interesting towns or there's something special about your area that there's history worth exploring too.

You can do it locally. Those are just a few things, but because it's winter and I'm not a winter person-

Elle Martinez: [But you're in] Connecticut, what? That's like a winter.

Karen Cordaway: Nope. Well, you know, it's funny. A lot of people are snowbirds. You see a lot of Florida license plates, you know, a lot of people split time and I always thought about doing that.

You know, I'm secretly looking for my new place to live when I go travel.

Staycation and Indoor Activities for Your Family

Karen Cordaway: That's what I'm looking for outside of having fun, but if you're okay with it, indoors for now.

We're about to do Masterclass. And originally I thought, ‘Oh, $180, right?', but it's for a year.

And when you see all of the people on there, it's amazing. Like for standup stand-up comedy, they have Steve Martin. There's Steph Curry for basketball.

Santana for the guitar. They have all these lessons and I believe Issa Rae. I think that –

Elle Martinez: -was a new one. I have a membership too. I love it.

They had like Malcolm Gladwell for writing and there's a gardener there, Finley I think it was his last name. Really helpful stuff. Love it.

Karen Cordaway: Yeah. So it's like, you're either drawn in by the celeb, their topic, like Robin Roberts. She teaches about communication.

That's like the most important thing. When you think about it.

So you can like set up like a class, like little kids to me, we are easy to talk into things. They get excited about anything.

Create a Family Camp

After you learn the lesson, maybe you go outside and you shoot hoops and try to do, implement whatever it is that you're taught.

Karen Cordaway: So if you want to ramp it up a little, like maybe everybody wears their favorite basketball. T-shirt, you know, you try to make it like camp and yeah.

Think of it, like summer camp, you have a day of sports. You have a day of crafts, you have a day of this. Like if you kind of pump it up for kids and they get excited, it kind of makes everybody excited.

That's just how I feel. Yeah. Even, even to like, Whenever we would go on vacation and you see people that are wearing matching t-shirts, whether it's just for identification purposes, like we're all wearing red.

You know, my kid is wearing red today. It's like, something is more exciting when you buy t-shirts for it.

I know that sounds so goofy, but because we have to be creative, if this is your little staycation or your weekend, you know, put a little more effort into it, you know?

Little kids love that kind of stuff. Like when you take it to another level or if you're really dramatic, you could get them excited about almost anything.

Summer Vacation Idea: RVing as a Family

Karen Cordaway: I was reading, okay, this is AARP cause people who are retired because they're the ones who are having to come up with a lot of ideas too. They're in that age group where they have to be even more careful.

A lot of people are looking into RVs. They even have all these different types of lingo for docking.

They'll say like mooch docking, that's where you go in your friend's driveway and you use their electricity, or you could do it's called I think it's called crack docking and I'm like, wait a minute, What is this about?

And Cracker barrel will allow you to park there. There's Walmart, and it's like, yeah, you just have to be comfortable with that.

If you're open-minded or if you're used to that lifestyle, that could be a good money-saving tip

Elle Martinez: Yeah, it definitely also forces you to bond.

I was talking to what was it? Toni Husbands from Debt Free Divas. And she went RVing last year. That's what they did.

I forgot the campgrounds. She's in Chicago, but it was an experience, you know, you have the kids and you're all in this space. A great way to bond and still, keep socially distant.

Karen Cordaway: Right. So you just have to look into, I don't want to be cleaning out a bathroom. I can't say that part would be fun for me.

It's all about your comfort level and, and what is considered safe. Like if you have a relative in another state, you know I feel like if they don't accept money for the electricity or, you know, I'm not a moocher.

Yeah. But you know, buy them a couple of dinners or whatever, whatever it might be because we can be outside. If you're in a state where the weather is decent.

Starting (or Restarting) New Hobbies

Karen Cordaway: Definitely take up those hobbies, like biking and hiking and skateboarding and trying different things because now is the time to do that.

When you're all grown up, you have limited time when you have a job, I mean, you can explore on some level, but not the way you can as a kid, you know?

Have the fun of that through your kids, you have an excuse to try to skateboard.

Elle Martinez: I love these ideas, Karen for families. One thing we have is we're hoping by October to be able to do like maybe what we consider a regular travel, but that might not happen.

Any ideas or, you know, for families to kind of at least get excited, planning and saving?

Our idea is if three months before it doesn't look like it's going to happen, we can always roll it over for 2022, move that money for savings.

I need tips for like a family that's planning on taking a family trip at some point.

Karen Cordaway: Well, like I said, I would look into campgrounds places where you could hike.

Like I said, have a default plan. So when you're planning, you don't want to be so deflated if that trip doesn't work out. Have your plan B in place.

I wrote a post about Boston and yeah, I'm still, I did the freedom trail. I didn't really know that it was like this very informal mapped out thing.

I thought if I was going to sign up on a tour, it was going to be this official thing. It was going to be its own separate section.

You're really just walking through Boston and it's like this line that you're following. So if you read up a little bit about something so there's context and then try to do simple things like that.

I watch a lot of YouTube because even with the rides, when we used to go to Disney, you can preview and see, Oh, well we like this area, this looks like fun because there are things you could do outside.

I mean, there's street art in different places, anything where you can kind of like make your own little DIY tour.

If something doesn't work out, I would definitely just still keep researching and you can always listen to the everyday bucket-list podcast because those are the ideas that I give.

Elle Martinez: I know I was excited about that cause I was looking at Miranda, I've downloaded that. I'm hoping to listen to it. If not this afternoon, then tomorrow Yellowstone and some other awesome places around in her part of the country.

Besides the podcast, which I think is fantastic, you know, with ideas from people all around I'd love your book.

I think it's like one of those, it was good before, but I think even now with times like this, this is something to definitely pick up and for families to kind of go through, which is the everyday bucket list.

Karen Cordaway: Thank you so much. See, I try to encourage people as much as I'm someone who doesn't like to have too many books.

This is a book I believe it's better as a physical book, because then you have the worksheets right in there. You can go back to it.

For myself, I'm very concrete. That's just my little suggestion because. It's a short book too. And I purposely made it short because I just want people to get the, the process down and really learn how to prioritize.

Like in there, I even have an acronym like FILL, you know, you want to fill your bucket list with these ideas.

So much of it is having everything in advance.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. So Karen, I know we just scratched the surface. There's like so many ways we can go down the rabbit hole.

It's travel and planning, but if anyone's listening and they want to reach out to you learn more about the podcast and the book, what's the best way they can do that?

Karen Cordaway: Well, you can type in the everyday bucket-list podcasts. So you will find me, on iTunes, Stitcher, wherever. There are podcasts I'm on in most places.

Making Our Family Vacation and Trip Plans for This Year

I enjoyed speaking with Karen. Just like we talked about since we spoke, things did shift in the last month and half. 

Vaccinations have opened up to pretty much all adults as far as I know. We schedul;e and got both our shots. 

States have been opening up as well. Here in North Carolina, we’ve had some restrictions lifted and more businesses are closer to full capacity. 

That doesn’t mean things are back to normal; based on numbers, things could shift again. 

So here’s how we’re balancing planning and playing by ear. 

First we’ve been continuing to save. Vacations and trips are baked into our budgets. Saving ahead of time has been wonderful for us. I personally prefer knowing that after we’re done with a trip, that’s it. No worrying about paying it off later. 

While we use credit cards for reservations, we pay the balance off. 

Of course that money saved has to come from somewhere. As I’ve been sharing here on the podcast and on the site, we’ve paid off our non-mortgage debt. No credit card, car loan, or student loan payments. 

Instead we use that money we had been paying to hit our goals like paying the house off early, saving for vacations, giving, and investing for retirement. 

Creating our plan and then automating our finances has been a game changer for us. 

I have episodes, posts, and other resources on the exact details on how we did it – it wasn’t overnight. 

Second, we looked for trips where we could still have some space. The great thing about living in North Carolina is that there are plenty of options. 

Even when things were more restricted, we could do day trips and hikes around the parks and greenways. Besides the gas we paid, they were also free. 

For example, the art museum has some pieces you can walk around and explore outside and it connects to the greenway.  

It’s been one way we’ve stayed connected with friends while maintaining social distancing. 

Two trips we’re planning and reserving now are:

  • Beach
  • Mountains

They’re both great options for the summer. With the beach, we’re looking at skipping the usual tourist spots. 

This week I’m hunting for AirBnbs in Asheville and I’m looking at some activities like whitewater rafting and ziplining. 

As the fall and beyond, we’re keeping an eye on things. If things look good, we’ll firm up our plans around July. 

Taking it bit by bit is the way we’re going to tackle things this year! 

Key Takeaways

Before we wrap up, there are a few key takeaways I want to share with you as I was preparing this episode.

  • Have a vacation budget. I’m a big fan of including what matters to you into your budget. Trips for us are not just about escaping, but connecting. Having the budget is really handy for a few reasons. One, you can move quickly on any great deals you find. Two, you’re doing this debt free so when the trip is over you’re not worried about paying off the card. Three, if we don’t happen to use that money – like what happened last year, we can roll that into the next year or use it for some other goal. 
  • Think green. Add parks- whether’s national, state, local – to your rotation of destinations this year. These can be memorable and affordable trips for your family while still staying relatively safe. This could be an opportunity for your family to try something new. 
  • Be flexible. Last year really hammered in that there were things outside of our control. I’m cautiously optimistic that things will move forward, but I don’t know. There may be smaller lock downs or increased restrictions on the future in certain areas based on the numbers. To cope with that, we’re taking Karen’s advice and have some backup trips. As I’m making travel plans, I’m also being a bit flexible with dates to get some great deals. And I’m also checking reservations to make sure they have reasonable cancellation policies.  

Maybe because we’ve been staying more local that I’m really excited about this, but I'm so ready to travel more.

If you want to discuss this more – ask questions, swap ideas, and maybe get a debt-free strategy set up – don’t forget to join us in the Thriving Families group on Facebook.

Our goal is to help one another out. Hope to see you there!

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Music Credit

Our theme song is from Staircases. Additional music by various artists from Audiio.

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