by Ashley Logsdon

Out of the Box and Budget-Friendly Vacation Ideas for Families (Episode 240)

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Feeling Stuck?

How do you make space for vacation when you're maxed out? Do you simply just hold off and hope that "one day" you can make it happen...and that it'll just magically materialize? Have you considered an out of the box vacation idea that just seems a little too "out there"...yet may actually be a really great idea?

I've shared before our "why" for taking off to Costa Rica, and we share a bit more about some hacks to make that possible in the episode below.

And yet I keep hearing the same comments from others: "I can't afford to." "I don't have the time to even think about it, much less put anything together." "I typically need a vacation from a vacation, so why bother?"

It's easy to justify why you don't take a vacation. Let's talk.  We all know the old adage "Whether you think you can or think you can't, either way you're right." (Henry Ford). 

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 Well, this is the biggie.  What it takes to do what we did isn't to win the lottery. It isn't to get a huge inheritance or anything crazy like that. It can really be boiled down to two key aspects...and if you can shift these two, a "vacation" can become a norm in your life.

Check out our podcast episode on this topic here!

Listen to this episode on iTunesPandoraSpotifyStitcherGoogle PlayTuneIniHeartRadio, your RSS Feed...however you listen to podcasts!

how to travel when you can't afford to

It seems overwhelming and impossible.  You have kids pulling at you, bills to pay, work demands all the time, and just never enough....time, money, time to breathe!

But get this - we are actually choosing the life we live.  Sometimes that drowning feeling is only happening because you haven't put your feet on the ground.  Sometimes, putting your feet on the ground means drawing some clear lines over whether you are running your life, or your life is running you.

It's harsh, and I can go off an a thousand bunny trails of exceptions, excuses, and reasons why we are living in the lives we are living right now.  But the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  Unless we are willing to step away from the shore, we will never see a new horizon.  (Can I throw in any more cliches?)

Let's get down to brass tacks - what can you shift? What is really important in your life? And what out of the box vacation ideas are there that may spark something different in you?

Vacation - An Escape to Recharge

Hunting for shark's teeth with my daughter.

Vacation isn't just about how long you can go how much you spend. It is really about the mindset of rejuvenation - how are you going to rest, recharge and connect with the ones you love?

Have you really looked at what a vacation means for you? What is the point of a vacation? Is it to explore an area, or rest and recharge? Have you really thought about the goal behind what you want a vacation to provide for you?

Nathan always says, "when you pay for quality, you only cuss once."

This doesn't mean everything is ridiculous expensive. It's that powerful shift I've talked about so often, and that's moving from "can I afford this?" to "is this a worthwhile investment?" Nathan lived in a world where when you worked, you worked hard. And when you played, you played hard and invested just as much on that end. Pay attention to not only where you're spending your time and money, but where your recovery is along the way. Really look at what is truly a recovery for you. The stereotypical one-week vacation may not really be this. 

Are you really accomplishing the feeling you desire by pursuing this path? Is this a worthwhile investment due to the quality it offers you, and the feeling you have when you invest in it?

 Don't let budget limit you in your pursuit of happiness - we'll share plenty of ideas on how we stay budget-friendly. Vacations don't always involve travel.

You can stay at home and simply plan for a day, weekend, or even longer to take time off.  We do it for maternity leave and justify this as acceptable. I don't know about you, but my need to show up as a mother isn't just in infancy. There are many times in our lives taking some devoted time to connect with our kids can be way more valuable than just knocking out an additional work week. How many times do we let vacation days roll by without taking them, always striving to make the extra dollar?  Or not utilizing them simply because we didn't plan (or budget for) anything? Or trapping ourselves into so many extracurricular commitments that we have zero down time to allow for any space?

When you are so drained, how can you afford NOT to take a break? Beyond a big Disney trip, there are a multitude of out of the box vacation ideas as well as amazing budget-friendly staycation opportunities that allow you to rest and recharge without a huge ordeal. 

Intentional Planning

Last episode was all about financial intimacy in your home. Yes, in order to make something happen, you do need to have an understanding of what is financially possible. It doesn't mean you need a ten thousand dollar budget in order to relax. We have had plenty of vacations that cost us absolutely nothing. Simply going into "vacation mode" and staying under your own roof can be an out of the box vacation idea. The key is that you have to plan ahead here. You can't simply show up and it's all laid out. 

What things cause a spark of joy in you, and what things allow you to relax? I know that, for me, no technology is a key element of relaxation time. So when I want to be intentional about down time, no computers are out. I too quickly fall out of relaxation and get stressed due to lack of time management (getting glued to a screen) or hopping into tasks and to-dos with computer clean up. Having location-independent work, I'm online a ton. No one is leaning over my shoulder telling when to start and stop work. And so, I have to get very clear and set boundaries around my rest just as much as my work. 

Don't get trapped

We can get trapped into our lives by not allowing for any free space. We had a whole year where our word was "unhurried spaciousness" - and it was amazing what we were able to add by just creating more space in our lives. Be careful about extracurricular activities. One sport for one child can suck a whole family into no breaks with games and practices every night and weekend. Pay attention to what is worth it. There are seasons in life for a reason - and yes, there are times a family will completely pivot to support a specific child desire that requires more dedication. 

Yet when the focus shifts to all of these as what completely runs your life...make sure you're remembering the people behind the extracurriculars. What all are they experiencing of life beyond their one focus? Who else may be tired of sitting on the sidelines and accommodating around one person only? How can you get creative to allow for fun opportunities without committing to a grueling schedule that doesn't allow for down time? can you add a little vacation fun for everyone even if you're following a sport or drama or whatever schedule that takes up a lot of time?

Vacation is A Mindset

Our trip to Costa Rica was absolutely magical. Staying over a month there completely allowed us to really shift out of the day-to-day and experience rest beyond the prep and hustle. We had enough time to really create that space to just be. 

This is key. What we realized on that trip was just how complicated we make things just to have a moment to relax. What stops us from stepping outside in the middle of the day on a glorious afternoon to feel our feet on the ground and take a deep breath of rest and recovery? Why don't we stop and pull out the family games or play tag during the week vs. that only being on vacation? 

What feelings do you want to feel when you're relaxing? What does a vacation even look like for you? Think about the feelings you desire. How can you incorporate a feeling just like that today? Maybe you can't teleport yourself to the beach, but you can close your eyes, feel the sunshine on your face, and transport your mind there for a moment. While you're in that space, soak in gratitude for the good feeling it produces in you, and recognize you just had an out of the box mini-vacation. 

Out of the box vacation ideas

Not only is this an incredible way to give back, but it creates amazing lessons for your children and allows them to see ways to help and look beyond themselves.

  • Try House-Sitting or House-swapping. These are fabulous!  Stay all over the world for FREE!!  This goes along the lines of volunteering, as you are helping out the homeowners. You will typically pay a membership fee to get in the loop of what all is available. And then, one of the main catches is often a super fun one for animal-loving families. The reason people want you to stay for free is typically because they have pets to care for. I see this as a plus - you get to go on a trip, stay in an awesome house, and have built in furry playmates for your kids!
  • Check your Credit Card Rewards: You may have accumulated points for a flight, hotel stays, etc. I know it's rare I pay attention to these rewards, and they can add up - this is what we used for our flight to Costa Rica!
  • Be a tourist in your own home town.  When have you looked around your own neighborhood? Have you lived in the area so long you haven't really seen it through the eyes of a tourist? What would it be like to come and experience your hometown for the first time? What might you want to take in? Google what things there are to do in your area, and see how many you might not have explored. 

When you start to look for and see opportunities all around you, you'll find many opportunities to shift into "vacation mode" without ever leaving your home town. You can cover these in a variety of ways. Think about these ones for not only your own hometown, but other ways to see other areas as well - 

  • Find Free Things To Do:  Ask locals!  There are always parks, libraries, oftentimes free museums, walking around downtown, etc.
  • Look for Free Transportation: Depending on where you go, there may be mass transit options, free trolleys, plenty of places within walking/biking distance.  If you are in a location with a lot around, look at day rentals with cars, or use Lyft or Uber to get around when it's a necessity.
  • Do An "International" Staycation: Look for ways to make an "international" day - go to the International Market, ethnic restaurants, cultural up to the big destination you might be saving up for, and make sure you explore what is right under your nose! What cultures live around you? What restaurants, books, movies, stores and/or events can help you learn more about a culture without traveling across the world? In a time where world travel opens and closes, this is a way to experience other culture minus the big expense and time for international travel. 
  • Bring out "vacation mode" games. Shift things just a bit. Many times the board games and outdoor play as families happen on vacation - the times you might be at a place without a TV, or when you're in that "vacation mode" mindset and you're more receptive to just enjoy yourself. Get in that heartspace and mindset to enjoy yourself, your life, your family - even while in the midst of a regular week. Shut down the TV this week and have a game night, a night of tag, a night to draw together, etc. 

Food Hacks

  • Cook Your Own Meals: While you travel, stay at places with kitchens and eat out for only some of the meals.  (We lived off a huge bag of refried beans, rice and tortillas in Costa Rica. The girls loved it and we saved by only eating out every other day or so.)   *Another tip - we would often cook the girls dinner at home, then go out and let them do dessert while we had a nicer meal.  They had full bellies and blissed out on a special treat while we were able to enjoy our dinner!
can't afford family vacation
  • Eat Out Family-Style: When you eat out, do it family-style.  Instead of ordering a separate meal for every person (especially kids), we would order 2-3 for our family, and then separate things out. Like most kids, it can be hit or miss on how much they are going to eat. Instead of dealing with a lot of food waste as well as a high priced meal, we would start small and always have the option to order more if needed. We aim for zero food waste in our home and when we go out, so we can always order more vs. being hit with too much food, carryout boxes we forget or that get lost in the back of our fridge to go bad. 
  • Make Fine Dining an Experience. Don't assume a restaurant has to be for a main entree or to fill your bellies. Maybe it's about the experience instead. In Costa Rica, we'd often feed our kids a heavy dinner of bean burritos, and then we'd go out to dinner for Nathan and I to share a fancy entree, and the girls could split a dessert. With food, there are many ways to fill your belly affordably, and eating out is rarely it. So experiment with going out for just an appetizer, drink, dessert or sides. In addition to this, if you have a picky eater, maybe it's not worth paying for the lame mac 'n cheese - it's okay for not everyone to eat, to fill bellies early, and to bring something for them to do otherwise. 
  • Check your relationship with food.  Get real with food. Are you stressing to ensure there is a food option every two hours, or forcing breakfast, lunch and dinner regardless of hunger levels? We've found that our children will often eat because it's there, but not because they're really hungry. I know many adults like this as well! And yet, when we're distracted and having fun, it's crazy how long we can all go without food. You want to save money? Eat only when you're hungry, make your food as much as possible, and eat only until you're full. 
family road trip RV

If you're specifically looking at RV travel, click this link above for my course on a "90 Day Family Road Trip!"

Our Challenge:

What are the things you truly enjoy about a vacation? Make a list of what all a true vacation would be for you. What all would you be doing? What would it feel like?

How could you build more of this into your daily life? Yes, your challenge this week isn't to build that one epic vacation. It's to create some vacation moments in your week today.

Our picture here is one my daughter snapped of us the other day when we took a 15 minute break to just get outside and walk the dog together.

The more we bring joy into the day-to-day, the more we know how to do it on vacation. We can forget how to relax, have fun, and play. How can you add more of those in? The more you bring joy into the everyday, the less defensive we are, the less angry/frustrated/reactive we are, and the more we can really celebrate how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste.

*Photo cred to my awesome cousin-in-law for the beach pictures - you can follow him at

About the author, Ashley Logsdon


Ashley Logsdon is a Family and Personality Styles Coach and Lifelong Learner. She and her husband Nathan are RVing the States and unschooling their 3 girls. Her mission is to shift the mindsets of families from reaction to intention, and guide them in creating the family they love coming home to. Looking deeper than the surface, we assess the strengths, triggers, and simplifying your lifestyle so you truly recognize how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.

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