Like many of us working, raising kids and going to school, vacation is a blissful break in what seems like the madness of our daily lives. We carefully plan so that everything from the flight, to the rooms, the beach, the activities and the food are as perfect as possible (whatever perfect means to us). Let’s be honest, taking a vacation can be a massive expenditure and we want to get our dollar’s worth. We cross our fingers and toes hoping the weather is at least mostly fantastic.
My dream had always been to take my son to the ocean and so, we took him to the Bahamas for the first time last year. It was incredible but the ocean was a little chilly. We made sure to find some warm ocean water for this year’s winter vacation. We chose to go to Cuba, I know, I know but honestly, I had been a ton when I was younger and remembered the beaches as some of the most beautiful I had ever seen and swam in. Our priority was “BEACH”!! I wasn’t too worried about the food or the softness of the mattress, I wanted to spend every day diving in that ocean with my boy.
I searched and searched, and found, that despite some awful reviews, I was most attracted to an easy to use and consistent website. For an all inclusive search I can honestly say, the Sunwing website was hands down the easiest to navigate and the most consumer friendly. It was simple to compare rates from one resort to another and easy to check the least expensive time to travel to specific resorts. It turned out the cheapest time to travel was anywhere between February 4th and 8th. Right before American reading week (as a family we weren’t interested in a drunken extravaganza) and the busyness of March break. The only potential glitch, according to my calculations (Ha!), would be the possibility of some chilly days. It was time to pray to the first world heavens for some sunny, clear sky days.
I should also add, my husband and I are newly weds. Since we funded our entire wedding and really didn’t need or ask for any gifts, our wedding costs left us with a very small honeymoon/family vacation budget. We settled on Santa Maria, Cuba, a small island off of Cuba. I searched reviews on Trip Advisor. The reviews are updated daily, a great way for the customer to listen and check up on situations currently being dealt with! I navigate the mid range comments. Some are so extreme one way or the other. The beach was consistently raved about even amongst the shady reviews. It did not disappoint! The ocean was warm and the weather was mostly gorgeous, despite an intense rain day we welcomed for some relief to our sunburns! It seems a little odd we would bring our son on our honeymoon but he is our heart and soul and we couldn’t imagine not sharing in all the fun with him.
I thought I would let you in a few of my trusty tips and tricks to a budget friendly all inclusive family vacation.
- Prioritize your must haves: When booking a cost effective trip, it is important to decide what you cannot go without. For me, it is always the beach. I spend all of my time there. Others may be foodies, so read up on reviews, if the food reviews are awful, keep searching. We are also fans of ocean views, we spend a little extra to make sure our mornings are as sunny as our afternoons. This is important, if you are trying to be cost effective, you’ll have to make some sacrifices.
- Check departure dates and arrival times before booking!: This can make or break your vacation. Many of the flights leaving Canada, leave at standard daily times that are consistent each week. Who wants to end an amazing vacation by checking out at 11am, spending the day on the beach and then sitting in the lobby until midnight? Not a great way to end your week! We always book early flights. We like to arrive early enough in the day to enjoy it and fly home first thing in the morning. Showered, organized, awake and ready to go. We get home with enough time to do our laundry and get back into our routine!
- Take everything with a grain of salt: Remember, this is your hard earned money but we aren’t millionaires. Enjoy everything for what it is. The resort may not be Trump Tower but if it is clean and the staff is friendly, sit back, relax and remember, you make your vacation. Breathe, sit by the pool, grab a cold drink, read a book and watch your kids have a beautiful experience.
My son made tons of new friends, some actually live in our home town! We had plenty of time on the beautiful beach. We swam together every day and it was an absolute dream come true. It wasn’t a fancy vacation but it was perfect for us. It was a beautiful break from the cold, the busy work day, school and that same old daily grind. Although avid skiers, a warm break in the middle of a cold winter is totally what this “doctor” ordered for her family. We started a new family tradition last year and can’t wait to plan next year’s.
What was your favourite/budget friendly vacation spot? Do you have any suggestions you may want to share wth me? Would love to hear some new tips in the comments below!