When an Expensive Family Vacation Isn’t in the Budget

Question:

Spring break is fast approaching and my middle-school-aged daughter wants to know why we aren’t going anywhere “cool” over break. She tells me most of her classmates are talking about the tropical getaways their families will be taking. The truth is, expensive vacations are not in our budget. What do I tell her?

— Name withheld

Answer:

I have struggled with the exact dilemma for many years. While my children’s friends and some of my own were headed to lovely tropical vacations with their kids we were having a “stay break.”

Tell your daughter the truth. It’s not in the budget but there are other fun things you can do locally. If you can, take the time off. It would be great to spend the time together. For instance, I had my daughter ask friends who were not going away to come with us on day trips to Washington, D.C. We drove to the D.C. Metro in Greenbelt, took the subway and spent the day exploring the city. They got to choose museums or other venues and a spot for lunch. The museums were free and it didn’t have that “field trip” feel. Sometimes I took the girls myself and other times the mothers would come. Two trips to D.C. during the time was enough. We got to explore our backyard and learn something. I was actually relieved at how much fun they had. At the National Archives we looked up our ancestry and enjoyed seeing the U.S. Constitution and other documents and exhibits there. They may have been there for school before, but not in the very relaxed way you will take them.

Also, is there a relative nearby she could visit? I sent my daughter Grace to Virginia (close to North Carolina) on the train for a week. She had a ball. Amtrak watches them like a hawk.

Another possibility is to find a service activity that she can take part in. My daughter did that once and she says when everyone asked what she did over break and she told them she stayed here and did a service project, no one said anything to her about it because she was doing something that benefited others, which sort of outshined their sunny vacations.

Maybe this is the time to say, “Let’s come up with a plan to fund a trip next year.” Ask her to come up with a way your family can give something up so you can save, and a way for her to make some money toward that vacation. For example, no gifts at Christmas and using money you would spend for a vacation. If you do, a cruise can be done for about $1,200 if you plan well. Maybe less. Good luck. BC

Lisa Robinson is a news anchor for WBAL-TV.

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