How We: Plan our summer vacations!

It’s How We…Wednesday!  Once a month, Erika and I host a link up where we talk about how we (fill in the blank).  We’ll share and then we’re hoping you’ll link up and share too…because I LOVE learning new things from you ladies!  So far this year, we’ve discussed…

JANUARY: Our New Year’s Resolutions.
FEBRUARY: How we take care of ourselves
MARCH: How we mom fail and live to talk about it
APRIL: How we spring clean/organize
MAY: How we transition our wardrobe

And this month…HOW WE PLAN OUR SUMMER VACATIONS.

You know what?  I’m excited about this topic!

In my little world, I’m probably ill-equipped to discuss most things, but I feel like this is a subject I can really speak into because not only do I plan pretty elaborate trips each year, but I own a travel agency and help people plan every single day and LOVE IT!  There is no “one size fits all” for family vacation planning, but I do think that over the years, we’ve developed quite a good system.

I’m going to share some of my tips, and then I hope you share yours too!  My tips are going to come from questions I get asked here in blog world all the time along with questions potential/existing clients ask me too.  Ready?  Here we go…

1: HOW DO YOU AFFORD TO PAY FOR YOUR VACATIONS?  HOW CAN I SAVE FOR MINE?

Here we are heading to London.  We had been married two years here 🙂 .

I get asked this question all the time.  The basic answer is, we save.  Andrew and I are always “saving” for things around here and have been since we were first married.  We’re both type-A, super organized, scheduled people, so this comes naturally for us.  You know…we get our pay checks, we tithe, we donate to certain charitable organizations, we contribute to financial investments, pay all the bills, and save.  We like literally put money aside for things.  For instance, there is a home project we want to do, so we’re saving for it.  If we put the money aside, we won’t spend it.  We do the same thing for trips.  We plan our trips out about two years in advance for the whole year.  In January of this year, we sat down and talked about where we want to travel in 2020.  We looked at the whole calendar year, talked to the kids, picked our destinations and calculated how much everything was going to cost…and started saving.  From time to time, we change our minds (not very often), but we have the savings there.  From road trips to overseas trips, we save in advance.  I wish I had a fancier answer to this question, but it’s good old-fashioned savings.

2: HOW DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH A TRIP IS GOING TO COST?

Kensington and Smith enjoying their time in Finland 😉 .

If you’re planning a trip this year, you can calculate it.  You can go online, look up airfare, check hotel rates, rental car charges, train ticket pricing etc.  Figuring out how much to save for an upcoming trip is easy…it gets trickier when you start trying to calculate for trips down the road.  Here’s what we do: we calculate how much it would cost to do that trip right now…and then add more money to the total for inflation.  It’s not a perfect system, but it works.  We look up flights, hotel, cruise pricing, etc and then add a touch more.

3: HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHERE YOU WANT TO GO?

Enjoying cocoa and coffee in Alaska!

Andrew and I have reached a great place in life…we ask the kids!  Before that, we had a map in our laundry room where we would put pins every time we traveled some place new, so we were always looking for new adventures.  On my phone, I keep a list of places I read about or see that I want to check out.  Sometimes, it’s a city, other times, it’s just the name of a cool lodge or something.  HGTV gives me lots of ideas 🙂 .  We’re just always talking about travel over here and trying to think of new places to visit.  BUT NOW, my big two give us all the ideas!  Andrew and I suggested taking the kids somewhere this summer and then one day, they both watched a show on TV that made them ask us to change our plans.  So, now, we’re going somewhere THEY picked.  I love this so much!  They also picked our summer 2020 destination too!  Start a list!  I bet you’ll surprise yourself at how quickly you add destinations to it.

4: HOW DO YOU DECIDE IF IT’S A KID-FRIENDLY DESTINATION OR NOT?

We love, love, loved Norway!

So, here’s the thing…there are certain destinations that scream KIDS!  Like Walt Disney World, but I find that my kids have just as much fun exploring other places too.  One of our BEST family vacations was Washington D.C. and that was a lot of walking, museums, and history…but we had so much fun!  Would they enjoy a Disney Cruise every time?  Yes.  Are they super excited about this next vacation that has nary a Mickey Mouse in sight?  YES!  We’ve taken them to the strangest places since they were little, and not one time have I thought “this is too adult for them”.  There are always parks, places to play, interesting museums, yummy food, fun hotel rooms, outdoor adventures and more to keep them entertained.  Plus, they learn a lot.  It’s family fun plus a healthy dose of education thrown in.  I say…go where you want to go and let them come along.  You want to head to the beach?  Bring ’em.  You want to tackle NYC?  They’ll love it!  You want to try a cruise but don’t want to do Disney?  Kids love “big boats”!  I just think most vacations can be “kid” vacations too.

5: HOW FAR IN ADVANCE DO YOU PLAN?

Getaways with Andrew are my fave.  Like when we went to the Hamptons 🙂 .

Like actually booking things?  It depends.  We try and book cruises at least 12-15 months out.  Cruises book up quickly and because there are limited cabins in each category, we like to get in early.  We book airfare anywhere from 3 to 6 months out.  For example, we’ve already booked our air for our trip in December.  And for land vacations?  When we’re booking things like hotel and car rental, we tend to do that anywhere from 6 to 9 months out.  Now, those are very broad timelines, but ones I always think work well for us.

6: WHY SHOULD I USE A TRAVEL AGENT?

Ha! I mean, shameless plug, right?  We have clients use us for many reasons.  Sometimes, they just don’t have the time to book things themselves. Sometimes, they just don’t want to.  They want to show up at the airport and end up where they need to be without fussing with any of the details.  A lot of times, they reach out because they have no clue where to start, what to do or jut need a lot of advice along the way.  We have a lot of large parties travel with us (just last week, we had a family of 22 go on an Alaskan cruise), and that’s just too much planning for one person.  There are a lot of reasons, and we’re happy to help if you think you might need it.

So, that wraps up this!  I’m excited to go through and read everyone else’s tips and advice too!

Before we go…here are some of my other posts on travel in case you want to browse…

TRIPS ABROAD
CITY TRIPS
CRUISES
ADOPTION PACKING LIST
MY INFLIGHT ROUTINE
TRAVELING WITH KIDS

Happy Wednesday, friends!  I hope you have the BEST day!!


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  • Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog June 13, 2018 at 4:51 am

    I admire you so much for being able to plan everything with such a big family and a full time job! The kids always look like they’re having so much fun on your vacations! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

  • Susan Jeffries June 13, 2018 at 5:11 am

    Thanks for the tips! We are self employed – work a ton – and we live for our family vacations. I started an envelope system several years ago. We have one big envelope for each year and I put a smaller envelope inside for each trip we plan to take during that year. We save enough for one trip in a small envelope and then move to the next trip. We save money from everything – garage sales, birthday money, etc. It is a fun way to save for trips as a family(: We are currently saving to take our daughter on a graduation trip next summer before she leaves for college.

    • Mix and Match Mama June 13, 2018 at 5:29 am

      I love this idea, Susan!!

  • Erika Slaughter June 13, 2018 at 5:21 am

    Is it just me or does this post want to make you book a trip ASAP?!!

    • Kristin Tate June 13, 2018 at 8:04 am

      I was on my second screen looking at cruise’s!! The power of influence is crazy!

  • Elspeth Mizner June 13, 2018 at 5:46 am

    Love learning about how you plan your trips!

  • Tamara R. June 13, 2018 at 6:21 am

    Shameless (and unsolicited) plug for Mix and Match Travel Agency: we travel a lot and love to take big and small vacations and I have never worked with a travel agency that is so easy to work with. They are so responsive, accessible, practical and give great AND HONEST advice. I am a busy working mom and I have called, texted, emailed at all hours with questions, concerns, etc and Shay and her team are just so so accommodating. If you are on the fence about contacting them, do it! They will make your trip so easy!

    • Mix and Match Mama June 13, 2018 at 6:23 am

      I just told someone yesterday how you’re my new BFF, Tamara! Ha! Thank you for your kind words!!!!

      • Tamara R. June 13, 2018 at 6:42 am

        Haha, aw shucks, you are mine too! Xoxo

  • Sheaffer Sims June 13, 2018 at 6:22 am

    Here’s why I would use you. Booking an actual real trip would give me a panic attack. Thank Heavens planning trips to the ranch is easy. 😉 p.s. I still over pack.

  • Narci Dreffs June 13, 2018 at 7:14 am

    This was so fun to read, and I totally want to book a trip now! Also, you girls are the best travel agents!!!

  • Renee June 13, 2018 at 7:20 am

    One thing my husband and I use when paying for trips is credit card points. Our favorite card is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The annual fee is pretty high ($450) but they offset it with a $300 travel credit (so if you know you are going to be traveling and paying for a flight/hotel/etc it’s already worth it). You also get priority pass access (those awesome lounges) at every airport. They will also reimburse for the TSA Precheck fee if you want to get one for 5 years. The Reserve points are also worth 50% more when used towards booking travel. There is a sign up bonus too. We literally put everything on this card and pay it off every month. Next year we are hoping to take our first trip paid for entirely by POINTS!

    • NatureBoySpaceMountain June 13, 2018 at 4:13 pm

      My wife and I are also avid users of the CSR. We usually transfer our points over to our Hyatt loyalty program, then book using either points or points+cash option. Often times we save significantly off the regular Hyatt rate if we do that (depending on the hotel). Transferring points to Southwest Rapid Rewards is also quite valuable as well.

    • Stephanie July 10, 2018 at 6:28 pm

      This. Except I have the chase freedom unlimited and use that for “everything else.” CSR gives 3% back on only travel and restaurants, 1% on everything else. Freedom unlimited gives 1.5%, you can then transfer the points to CSR and redeem to get the 50% credit. If you want to take it one step further and TRULY maximize, get the chase freedom category one too and use that card each quarter for the 5% in that category. 😉

  • Phi June 13, 2018 at 7:23 am

    I emailed your travel agency hoping to plan a trip with my best friends for spring of 2019 but haven’t heard back. Did you get my email Shay?

    • Mix and Match Mama June 13, 2018 at 7:39 am

      Were you using this email? Just checked all of my folders (including spam) and didn’t see it. Make sure you send it to mixandmatchtravelagency@yahoo.com (sometimes, people forget to add the agency!).

  • Carolyn June 13, 2018 at 7:25 am

    I’ve never used a travel agency. Do you add a fee on for your work? I’ve never known how this works.

    • Mix and Match Mama June 13, 2018 at 7:38 am

      Nope! It’s really easy 🙂 .

      • Katie A June 13, 2018 at 3:07 pm

        This was my question too! No fee 😃? Seriously!

  • Jennifer Craig June 13, 2018 at 7:26 am

    First trip to Europe with two boys- will be 9 and 11- in mid April next year…what’s a good first timers itinerary? Will be there around 7-9 days. I love reading all of your tips on travel!!!!!

  • Chrystianne June 13, 2018 at 7:59 am

    My favorite posts are your travelling ones. I love all aspects of traveling, such as the research and planning, picking out excursions, planning my outfits 😉 My hubby has been encouraging me to start my own little agency starting with trips for friends and family. Can I email you with a few questions on how to go about this adventure? Sounds intimidating and scary. Thanks Shay!

    • Mix and Match Mama June 13, 2018 at 2:58 pm

      Of course!

  • Lauren Curran June 13, 2018 at 8:15 am

    I understand the value and convenience, but would you agree it’s far less expensive to plan a vacation without a travel agent? Or perhaps more affordable than I may think?

    • Mix and Match Mama June 13, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      Nope! Our prices are identical on cruises as calling their 800 number or booking online. We don’t up-charge and can provide the exact same discounts and promos.

  • Lisa June 13, 2018 at 8:24 am

    Every time we get a $5.00 bill we put it in a jar. After a year of saving 5’s we count and use towards our summer trip. It’s such a fun way to save!

  • Katie Dang June 13, 2018 at 8:25 am

    I’d love to hear if you guys use certain cards for points, cash back, etc. and if you always use one airline so you rack up points and get free flights all the time. Would you be willing to blog about that? Or maybe Andrew (I know my husband is the one in our family to do all this fun? stuff and could speak to it way better than I could)?

  • Amanda Wilson June 13, 2018 at 8:30 am

    I want to know where you are going this summer!!!!!!! Any hints??? The whole family???? I have definately caught the travel bug ever since I started reading your blog. I wish Canadians could book through your agency. My favourite trip you went on that I am dying to go on is your Norway adventure. We have booked our Disney Cruise recently to!!

  • Courtney June 13, 2018 at 8:31 am

    Hi Shay!
    I noticed Sheaffer mentioned overpacking. That is a huge problem for me, especially when we are going to the family cottage for a week and I am not sure exactly what we will be doing. Do you have any tips for NOT overpacking? It’s hard to just plan for 1 outfit a day, when I am not exactly sure what ‘type’ of outfit I will need! Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you!

    XO
    Courtney

    • Mix and Match Mama June 13, 2018 at 2:56 pm

      I really try and not over pack. I always just tell myself that I’ll be fine even if I don’t bring (fill in the blank). I always aim for one outfit a day plus one extra outfit for every seven days. Make sense? (So 8 outfits for one week.)

  • Alex June 13, 2018 at 8:50 am

    Love this! Contacting you now about a potential trip!

  • Annie Torres June 13, 2018 at 8:53 am

    Do you guys have separate saving accounts for trips? What financial apps do you use?

    • Mix and Match Mama June 13, 2018 at 2:55 pm

      We do! We just use our bank’s app and inside that, we have several different accounts earmarked for things.

  • mary June 13, 2018 at 8:58 am

    your travel posts are my favorite!

  • Elle June 13, 2018 at 9:17 am

    We are going on our first cruise next month. Do we need to bring our own beach towels?

    • Mix and Match Mama June 13, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      Nope!!

  • Christa June 13, 2018 at 9:21 am

    Do you purchase insurance? We do sometimes and my patents did not for a trip and were out $5000.

    • Mix and Match Mama June 13, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      It depends. On land vacations, I typically don’t…but on cruises, I do.

  • Jayci June 13, 2018 at 10:04 am

    I signed up for Scott’s cheap flights email subscription in December and I love getting their emails everyday about amazing flight deals! I’m talking Hawaii for $250 round trip and European destinations for $450 round trip!!

  • Shelley K Watson June 13, 2018 at 10:11 am

    Loved this post! I’m working on being a better organizer for my family’s vacations. Thanks for sharing.

  • WhittyWife June 13, 2018 at 10:29 am

    I love this! Like you, our many savings categories are budgeted right out. Trips are never financially stressful, because the funds are sitting right there! I also love that you mentioned tithing and giving as priorities. <3

    I haven't seen any updates on Meagan's sweet family. How are they doing?

  • Amanda @ That Inspired Chick June 13, 2018 at 11:39 am

    I want to be a stowaway on your next trip!! 😉
    That Inspired Chick

  • Kelly June 13, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    I love this! I’m in the midst of “trying” to plan out trip to Ireland in September… We have the flights already booked an paid for, is your agency accepting new clients? Would you be able to help me? – Having the worst luck trying to figure out where to book our hotels and tours.

    • Mix and Match Mama June 13, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      We are accepting clients departing after September 1, so if that’s you, email me!!

  • Kelly June 13, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    I second the commenter above who has the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, If you don’t have it, get it ASAP! The travel perks absolutely cannot be beat. The annual fee does come with some sticker shock at first, but you get $300 worth of travel credited back to your account and double points on travel expenses. I don’t travel nearly as often as you and I find it worth its weight in gold. A must have!

  • Jennie June 13, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    This is totally random and off-topic, but I was just catching up on the Tom & Lorenzo blog and they have a post covering Chris Pratt at the Jurassic World premiere…and I swear he and your husband could be brothers!

    • Mix and Match Mama June 13, 2018 at 2:53 pm

      I haven’t heard that one, but I get Phillip Rivers a lot! I’m going to go look at Pratt again now!

  • Patty June 13, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    Love your tips, Shay! One thing we do is prepay the credit card we’ll be using before we go so while we’re on the trip we don’t have to second guess every expense. If it’s something we REALLY want to splurge on, we feel ok doing so. When we get home we rarely have much of a balance above and beyond what we prepaid. Might seem kind of silly, but it works for us. Otherwise I tend to overthink costs and nickel and dime everything like I normally do, and that takes a bit of fun out of being on a vacation.

  • Lorrayna Angel June 13, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    Do you have a website for your travel agency? Or do I just email you about inquiries?

  • Angela Ellingson June 13, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    I love these posts and hope to have you plan a vacation for us someday!

  • Sheri June 13, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    This is a fabulous post! Do you have a secret-sauce formula for figuring out a per-day amount to budget for meals while traveling (not on a cruise)? I realize that the range is wide from super cheap to fancy. And the variable if you have a kitchen or staying in a hotel. But like a starting amount per adult and per kid? Thanks in advance!

    • Mix and Match Mama June 13, 2018 at 4:08 pm

      It depends on where we’re going. If we’re going on a cruise, almost all of the food is included in the ship fare, so that’s easy! If it’s a land vacation, we typically like to eat one nice dinner each day and then grab lunch some place quick. For breakfast, we can eat something at Starbucks or if we’re in an apartment, we eat there.

  • Karah Stracener June 14, 2018 at 7:48 am

    I always love reading your travel posts. Thank you for all your tips. Your blog makes me want to travel more.

  • Jaren June 16, 2018 at 9:18 am

    We are headed home from an 8 night Tennessee road trip!! It was fabulous and y’all must put it on your list soon! I’ll have to send you details. My 4 kiddos told me it was their favorite vacation so far! I was shocked they ranked it over our Disney Cruise last year! We did a stop in Memphis and Nashville and then rented a cabin in Pigeon Forge for 5 nights. We could have stayed another week and still had tons to do! We even drove into North Carolina to tour the Biltmore. I’ll definitely share details with you! I love planning vacations too!

  • Megan June 24, 2018 at 7:04 am

    How often do you and Andrew get away? How do you decide when not to bring the kids? So many people tell me how important it is to still have time & trips just the 2 of you, but others make me feel guilty when I talk about a kid free trip (We have a 2 year old).

    • Mix and Match Mama June 30, 2018 at 3:19 pm

      We really try and get away at least once a year. We plan those trips in advance just like the family trips.