Family Summer Vacations Needed

For the last couple years now the idea of going on a summer “staycation,” not a vacation, has been all the rage. Bloggers across the frugal landscape touted the financial benefits of staying put, becoming a tourist in your own town, or spending a week working around the house. I even wrote a couple posts extolling the benefits of a family summer vacation at home. Well, for me “staycation” is a worn out term. This summer, I want to take a real vacation.

Cades Cove Great Smoky Mountains
A picture I took inside Cades Cove, from our last vacation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Our family hasn’t been on vacation in a few years now, and this past year has been an extremely trying one with two major medical crises affecting our family (for those who don’t know, or don’t remember, my mom suffered an aneurysm and stroke, and is still recovering some ten months later). Another close relative has been battling illness. Frankly, we’re a little worn down. I’d like to see different scenery, and smell some fresh air, even if it is just a long weekend.

So, looking ahead to this year’s summer vacation I had the idea to head to the Smoky Mountains for a relaxing few days. Unfortunately, I burned through most of my personal leave at work, so our summer vacation plans will have to work around a long weekend. Still, it will be fun to take a short timeout from the daily grind.

Of course, we’ll have to vacation with cash since we no longer borrow money. This is not a show-stopper, but will require a bit of planning. I’ve created a “vacation” fund at our online savings account and will put away a bit from each paycheck between now and late July to prepare for our trip. Ideally, I’d like to return to the mountains when fall colors are at their peak, which may require a second long weekend in October.

Staycations are great for those trying to get out of debt, or saving for a specific, short-term purpose (i.e. a down payment on a house, etc.). However, if your debt snowball or savings plan will take more than a couple years, I recommend finding a way to take a short, cheap summer vacation with cash. We all need a little break every now and then, and admitting to it makes us no less dedicated to our financial turnaround.


  1. We haven’t taken a vacation in quite some time. We’ve finally got a big enough snowball, and enough head way on our debt that we’ve decided to go for a small, extended weekend vacation like you mentioned. We’re still doing it frugal style making the most of free Science Centers, the Zoo, Parks and the like.

    You’re right–we all need a break sometimes. Praying your mom and your other family member get well soon. 🙂

  2. Preach it! I totally agree with finding a way to get a real vacation with the family. If I had started reading your blog a little sooner, I might have toned town some of our previous family vacations a tad, but we could never cut them out. If it all came down to it and there was no money and no work, I think we’d head Wal-mart for some camping gear and then to the Smokey Mountains too! Maybe we’ll see you there. 🙂

    Have a great weekend!

  3. For the last 8 months or so, my wife and I have been diligently working on our debt snowball. This month, I decided that instead of sending the big “snowball” payment, I’ll simply pay the minimum payment for all the credit cards, thus freeing up several hundred dollars. We plan to take that extra money and travel to visit her family. Sure, it will set us back a month on our snowball repayment plan, but, you can’t stop living just because you’re in debt. You have to get out there and spend time with the family while you still can.

  4. Good for you! Enjoy your break. The Smokies are beautiful. We don’t have any plans yet (I’ve bemoaned this fact in my own blog several times). However, we may go on a weekend trip somewhere relatively close to our city during the month of July.

  5. I haven’t made any plans for this summer yet, but thinking that a trip to a beach somewhere may be in order. Staycations are nice on your wallet, but sometimes getting out of town and away from the distractions (phone calls, yard work, little things to do, etc.) is just needed. Have a great trip!

  6. I would love to take a “summer vacation”, but this is our busy season at work, so getting off in the summer is difficult. We did spend a week in Mexico in February as guests of my wife’s aunt. VERY relaxing time at beach – just read – and soaked up the sun.

  7. Taking a vacation in the United States is very expensive. Once you consider all of the expenses (lodging, food, transport, etc.), it would be much more frugal for you to fly to South America and see the Andes which are much more beautiful anyways. I mean, the Smokies?? Please. Don’t you live in Atlanta? You live in the best connected city in the world and can be anywhere on the planet in a moment’s notice, but you refuse to take advantage.

    I know you will never do it because I know you are afraid to get out of the comfort zone of your extravagant American existence, and will never do anything which challenges your comfy lifestyle.

  8. Here Here! We’ve stay-cationed he last couple of years and the kids are now old enough they would do great on a vacation. So we’re taking enough out of savings to pay for a low-key, no-frills trip to the mountains…hotel waterslides and an amusement park will seal the deal. The kids are literally besides themselves.

    We have been smart and organized and I’m thrilled to be giving our family a fun break together this Aug.

  9. I am trying to be good and stick to the staycation theme (or at least cheap road trips where we can crash with family). If we can hold out one more year, I think we will be able to be able to travel when we want.

    I’m a pick up and go at a moments notice kind of gal and it sure is more fun when you don’t have to worry about the money that you are spending. Hopefully all of our hard work will pay off soon and we will really be able to enjoy the freedom.

    Congratulations on your vacation. Have a wonderful time with your family.

  10. @Frugal Bachelor

    You seem to have a chip on your shoulder about his vacation choice. Maybe you should consider all the things that make “flying to the Andes” a bad option in this case.

    He already stated he has little to no vacation time saved at work. I’m not sure how enjoyable a intercontinental trip would be if you have to squeeze it into 3 days and then be ready for work the day after you get back.

    Also, I’m assuming he has at least one child to keep track of on this vacation. That’s much easier to do in a familiar area.

    Finally, it seems the goal of this vacation is to just relax and unwind. Any vacation that involves flying has penalty of the “airport experience”.

    You should try putting yourself in his shoes for a moment before knocking his choice. Maybe one day a trip to an exotic local will be in the cards, but this doesn’t seem like the time.

  11. We are going to the beach. We go after Labor Day when the rates are reduced. The big deal for us this year is that our condo is already paid! Yipee. Now we are in the process of saving the gas, food and fun money. Nothing is coming out of the regular budget. It’s all paid for with side hustle money!

  12. @Frugal Bachelor: The idea of a short, regional vacation versus an international trip makes more sense for me, my wife and two kids limited to a three-day turnaround. We also need to stick close to home to help care for my mom.

    As for challenging my “extravagant American existence,” I’ve been other places, and I have family who have traveled the world. There is very little more beautiful to me than the national parks in my own country, and since I’ve yet to explore them fully, I’ll start here first. Besides, I’m confident I can stay a couple days in the Smokies for less than the $425 ostrich skin shoes you were considering.

  13. I’m actually looking forward to a staycation summer. I am an archaeology grad student, and my field work has been in the Russian Far East (not necessarily high on anyone’s vacation destination list). I will actually be home this summer for the first time in four years, and want to do house projects, explore hiking and biking in our area (WA state), grill out and drink beer, etc. It is going to be a great summer!

  14. In the nature of our business, staycations are much easier in the Summer as those are our busier tims. If we decide on a vacation, we shoot for the off-season and have incredible vacations at off-season price tags. This definitely allows for nice vacations at much more affordable rates.

  15. Don’t underestimate the value of a long weekend a few hours drive from your home. It doesn’t have the glamour and sex appeal of a week-long vacation involving air travel, but it’s still a great way to recharge your batteries.

    Frugal Dad has several reasons why a long weekend makes more sense. Some are limitations, but the proximity of the Smoky Mountains is a good reason to stay close to home. I just recently moved to East Tennessee, and it really is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to on this planet!

  16. I wish we could have a staycation! We seem to always have some kind of family reunion to go to. We are trying to get out of debt but we have to save up for these “vacations”!