Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Budget Vacations

by Dina Sleiman

Today I’d like to share about an ultra-budget family vacation. When I was a kid, my whole family loved to go to the beach. And sometimes my parents would offer us a deal. “We can go to the ocean one more time this summer if...we keep things really cheap.”

Now my dad was a social worker. So when we said “really cheap,” we meant “reeeaaaallllyyy cheap!”

First, we’d smash all five of us into a little Toyota Corolla to save gas money, and cram all the luggage in the roof rack overhead. I remember my sister, Charity, sitting on a pillow between my parents on top of the emergency brake. Kids could get away with things like that back then. My gangly brother, Jonah, and I would often work out an arrangement where one got the floor and one got the seat in the back so we could stretch out our long legs. And we’d take off for the eight hour drive from Pittsburgh to Virginia Beach.

Along the way we’d play those annoying car games, and inevitably end up in a fight. My parents would stop and allow us each to buy one snack. My brother and sister would gobble theirs down, and I’d savor mine for an hour or more. Letting m & m's melt in my mouth one by one. Boy did they hate that.

Once there, we’d check into a campground and pitch a tent. Meals would go something like this: breakfast, a box of Hostess donuts and a carton of orange juice, lunch, 7-11 hotdogs, and dinner, hamburgers from a fast food joint. If we really went crazy, Dad might spring for a bag of marshmallows to roast over the fire at night.

But we’d spend day after day at the beach, swimming, boogie boarding, taking long walks in the sand, riding bikes, building castles, collecting sea shells. In the evening, we’d head back down for the excitement on the main drag. Window shopping and street performers. Maybe even a ride on the trolley. Then late at night, we’d pile into our tiny tent. We’d crawl into our sleeping bags.

And we would sing.

Oh, would we sing! Favorite songs and old hymns. My father would take a deep bass melody, brother and sister matching him an octave highter, while Mom and I would swirl about them in intricate harmonies. Voices blending and flowing into the night beneath a starry sky. A family cozy in their beds, creating euphonious music and entertaining an entire campground. Which was a good thing, since once we stopped singing, Dad would snore like a freight train til morning.

It’s kind of like that commercial. “A box of Hostess donuts…$2.59. Five 7-11 hotdogs…$4.95. Singing with your family beneath the stars…priceless.”

So enjoy your family vacation time this summer, whether you go the luxury route or the budget plan. And because I can’t resist, and because I know it’s probably been playing in your head ever since you read the graphic at the top, one last thing.

(Warning, if you don't like heavy metal music, you may want to resist pushing the play button.  And for the record, I heard Alice Cooper recently accepted Christ. Hope it's true. :)


  1. You know as a homeschooling mom. I have way more appreciation for summer vacation. Singing that song, even just in my head, makes me smile!

    Anyone else noticing a developing theme with our posts? It wasn't the amount of money spent on any of these activities. It was the time spent with family that makes them precious memories.

  2. So true, Lisa. Although, with my oldest heading off to college in a few years, we've decided to get in some of those "dream" vacations while everyone is still together. Last year NYC. This year Florida and Disney World (youngest has never been there.) Next year, hopefully California and the Grand Canyon.

  3. Good morning! Great post, Dina. This reminds me a lot of our family vacations: car trips across the country to see grandparents. Going as inexpensively as possible. But the memories!

    Thanks, Dina! Have a great day, everyone. It feels like summer, doesn't it?

  4. Great post, Dina!

    When Crystal was little, we went camping for any holiday or 'days off' we had together - usually just to get away from the base in Cold Lake, Alberta and the whole military political thing.

    In a very small cube shaped pop-up trailer, we made several trips to Jasper and Banff in the Rocky Mtns.

    Then hubby got tired of the mosquitos and blackflies and we bought an old used motorhome in which we made longer trips to:
    - Vancouver Island & the Pacific
    - The Alaska Hwy and the Yukon

    I loved thosed trips. Camping and not eating in restaurants enabled us to spend the money on gas, camera film, and the entrance fee to hot springs. :)

    It may not have been as cheap as yours, Dina, but as Lisa pointed out, the fun was in being with family and exploring new sights together.

    Ah - camping in the rain. What memories. LOL


  5. We went camping two years ago just so everyone would have to get away from technology and really spend time together. It was awesome.

  6. I really enjoyed your story, Dina. Vacation on the cheap! I can just see the box of donuts breakfast being gobbled down before you were all off at a run for the beach! thanks for sharing.

    Unfortunately I used to do the opposite with my kids. We scraped all year long and when we were 'on vacation' I used to say "Why not? We're on vacation after all!"

    Camping really is a wonderful memory for kids, isn't it? I haven't gone in years. I'm ready for the camper and a real mattress next time around! And someone to share the cooking responsibilities.

  7. That sounds like SO much fun. I live in a camping mecca, but I despise camping in the forest. Somehow camping on the beach sounds much, much better!

  8. Well, sadly, the campground wasn't right on the beach. A few blocks inland, but still a very nice campground. I'll give it that. Several pools, nice bath houses, little stores, and even mini-golf. There is one state park with camping just a few hundred yards from the beach with only sand dunes in between.

  9. Great post on summer fun. Testimony to the fact that you don't need to spend tons of money to have fun or make great memories. We've been singing that song in our house all week. Last official day is tomorrow!


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