How Much Did You Spend on Your Family Vacation?8 min read
There’s no single set of rules when it comes to how and what to spend on travel, whether on a local road trip a few hours away or a jaunt to a far-flung destination dreamed of for decades.
In February, we invited readers to tell us about recent voyages — how much they paid for them and, ultimately, if the experience was worth it. A common theme emerged: the celebration of the pandemic’s loosening restrictions on our lives.
Here’s what six readers told us. (These interviews have been lightly edited and condensed.)
more than $10,000
Whales and remembrance in Hawaii
Reader: Christine Moss, 54, Collinsville, Ill.
Size of the group: Four; Ms. Moss and her three 16-year-old sons
Where they went: Lahaina on the island of Maui, in Hawaii
Tell us about the trip: My husband died on Jan. 20, 2021, of complications from Covid. I’m taking our triplets on an adventure every year around the anniversary of his death. He went on many adventures with our boys, and I want to keep it going.
We had scattered some of my husband’s ashes in the ocean off Seattle right after he passed away. He was in the Navy. We had released some of his ashes off the Big Island in Hawaii on an earlier trip, so we wanted to go back and do it again. Wherever we go, he’ll be.
How much did it cost? More than $10,000 for a week.
Most surprising cost: Food. We ate out for breakfast once, and it was $160 at a pancake restaurant. We just ate pancakes, nothing fancy. I spent at least $1,000 on food.
Why did you choose this trip? You’re going to laugh, but I wanted to see whales. I live in the middle of the United States. I’m totally landlocked.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. Again, with the whales — my kids always tease me about the whales. Now they’re believers, though.
A two-week driving trip to France
Reader: Filipa Donaldson, 33, Trnava, Slovakia
Size of the group: Three; Ms. Donaldson, her husband and their 3-year-old daughter
Where they went: Normandy, France
Tell us about the trip: We took a road trip from our home in Central Europe to Normandy in France in late August. We drove only a few hours a day, so it took us five days each way to get there and back. We camped in a different place each night. Once we finally got to Normandy, we stayed in a charming Airbnb — a house in the middle of nowhere with blackberries growing all around us. (Breakfasts were sorted!)
We stayed there six days, visiting beautiful and nearly empty beaches, hunting for cockles with the French, and eating delicious seafood at a fraction of the cost compared to other places we’ve been.
How much did it cost? About $3,000 for two weeks.
Most surprising cost: About $215 for highway tolls in France.
Why did you choose this trip? It was a completely random choice, but honestly we completely fell in love with it. The beaches were almost like the ones in New England — like Martha’s Vineyard. Completely empty, huge sandy beaches.
Was it worth it? Yes, absolutely. I loved it. I would do it again tomorrow.
$10,000 to $15,000
100-foot waves in Portugal
Reader: Joyce Talavera, 52, Marblehead, Mass.
Size of the group: 12, including Ms. Talavera, her husband and their two children, and her two sisters and their families.
Where they went: Ericeira and Lisbon, Portugal
Tell us about the trip: We wanted to see 100-foot waves and beautiful tile palaces and eat amazing food.
How much did it cost? Between $10,000 and $15,000 for a family of four, for a week.
Most surprising cost: The astronomical costs of airline travel over the holidays — $6,400 for four economy class seats.
Why did you choose this trip? Before the pandemic, we were really into travel. We’re a big travel family. I sort of picked Portugal because of its accessibility to the East Coast, and it’s convenient to get there.
Was it worth it? Definitely. During the pandemic, nobody really got to go anywhere and it was really depressing, and I felt like two, three years of my life went by without doing anything interesting. So, it felt really good just to be traveling abroad again.
A ski outing in Arizona
Reader: Jodi Wolff, 47, from Tucson, Ariz.
Size of the group: 25 people, including Ms. Wolff and her daughter, plus a group including skiers and families
Where they went: Flagstaff, Ariz.
Tell us about the trip: My 14-year-old daughter and I drove up from Tucson to go skiing for the day at Arizona Snowbowl. We stayed one night at a hotel. We went with a group of adaptive skiers from High Country Adaptive Sports; we had probably 10 skiers, all but one of whom use a power wheelchair.
How much did it cost? About $500 for two days, using Marriott points for the hotel.
Most surprising cost: The $200 lift ticket for my daughter, which I bought ahead of time because I heard the surge prices at Snowbowl can rise to over $300 if they get a good snow.
Why did you choose this trip? It was a special event. I run a summer camp retreat for young adults with muscular dystrophy, and we arranged an adaptive ski experience for them.
Was it worth it? It was great, and I think it got everyone really excited for camp this summer, too.
A multigenerational week in Orlando
Reader: Beth Kluge, 35, Minneapolis
Size of the group: 11, including Ms. Kluge, her husband and their four children, plus several members of her husband’s family.
Where they went: Orlando, Fla.
Tell us about the trip: We took a family vacation to Orlando, Fla., to visit Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. We stayed at a Disney resort, which my in-laws kindly covered the cost of for our group. We covered all of our other expenses. We travel quite a bit locally each summer, mostly camping road trips, but this was our first flight with all four kids, and the first big “away” vacation we’ve taken as a family.
How much did it cost? About $7,000 for a week.
Most surprising cost: The $168 fee to make sure our airline seats were together, so that the kids could sit by an adult they knew.
Why did you choose this trip? Coming from Minnesota, a warm vacation in February was a big draw. The kids were the right age — ready to travel, tall enough for most rides, and all in the right age groups to enjoy it all. And my in-laws had been talking about a family Disney trip for a few years.
This was a huge splurge for us. Traveling as a family of six is never cheap, and airfare and theme park tickets really add up fast. We got the kids involved in saving last summer by tracking when we didn’t eat out, stop for ice cream or make other small splurges. In addition to the fun of the trip, that was a really great opportunity to teach them about money.
Was it worth it? It felt like a good time to take a big trip that we knew was going to be expensive. We hadn’t traveled much in the past three years, and all of our kids were at the right age to enjoy it.
Introducing a toddler to Italy
Reader: Matthew Connaughton, 40, Manchester, England
Size of the group: Three; Mr. Connaughton, his wife and their daughter Maisie, who was 19 months old at the time.
Where they went: Florence, Italy
Tell us about the trip: We went to Florence for four nights as my early 40th birthday present last July. The only real thing we had to do differently was plan meal times, as we were weaning Maisie on to solid foods. Turns out she loves spaghetti, and her little face stains like Tupperware. (I have the photos to show for it!) To any couple with a baby or small child thinking of taking a little family holiday together, I’d say just go for it and enjoy yourselves.
How much did it cost? About $3,600 for four days.
Most surprising cost: About $450 for flights. A short holiday isn’t necessarily a less expensive one with extra baggage and seat selection.
Why did you choose this trip? This was my wife’s treat for me. We didn’t know how Maisie would fare on an urban trip, but even considering the heat, and with the stroller and the cobblestones, she took it all in stride.
We picked somewhere a little bit more special, a couple hours flight time from where we are.
Was it worth it? It was very easy and tourist-friendly, and there were kids everywhere. I would go back, and we’ve said we want to go back on our own and enjoy it a bit more for what it was. You’re always on a clock with a baby.
More than $10,000
A Christmas cruise on the Rhine
Reader: Clelia De Souter, 66, Wayne, N.J.
Size of the group: Six, including Ms. De Souter, her husband and their two adult daughters, along with the older daughter’s fiancé and the younger daughter’s boyfriend.
Where they went: Germany, France and Switzerland
Tell us about the trip: We took a family Christmas market tour down the Rhine in December. My husband booked it during the pandemic, in April 2021. It was a trip we had talked about with our daughters for several years.
How much did it cost? More than $10,000 for 10 days. We asked the kids and their partners to pay for their own airfare, but we paid for the rest.
Most surprising cost: None. The advantage of taking the cruise was that there were no surprises.
Why did you choose this trip? The cruise was the fulfillment of a wish and a way to look beyond the pandemic. In 1989, my in-laws asked us to join them on a Panama Canal cruise, but because of work obligations we decided not to go. Within a few years of that time, my mother-in-law passed away. We came to regret that decision and thought, “Let’s now take this opportunity before our daughters’ lives become too busy.”
Was it worth it? It was an amazing, joyful experience that far exceeded our expectations.
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