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Saving for Family Travel

I am amazed at how often I hear people lament that they do not have enough for travel because they do not have the money. In actuality, they have the money, but it is frittered away each week getting immediate gratification instead of being saved for a trip that a family will remember for the rest of their lives.

When I got back from our 12 night Mediterranean cruise some years ago, a woman where I used to work sighed and said that it sure must be nice to be able to take "that" kind of vacation.

This is the same woman who spent $5 every day at a specialty coffee bar in the morning on her way to work to get a mocha espresso. Who went to lunch every day with friends and spent an average of $9. She also got her nails done twice monthly and her hair done once a month and went shopping after lunch or on her way home from work for extra "things" she needed to accessorize her wardrobe. She was spending over $100 a week on "stuff" that she would not have a month from now, never mind two or three years from now.

I made a bet with this woman that she could take the same trip I took, with her husband and children, in two years if she would make some modifications to her current spending habits. The bet was for $250 and I had to show her not just how to get the money, but actually help her obtain and save the money for the trip. I sweetened the pot by telling her that I would not only show her, but I would monitor her progress each month to make sure she was on track.

Before making the bet, I did some homework. I found that she and three of her friends all went to lunch together every day all worked in the same department. They worked for different managers, lived in about the same neighborhoods and drove separate cars to work. Each paid an average of $75 for parking per month and they paid their own gas.

I asked the woman if she would like me to show her three friends how to do it too, and they could all take the vacation. She said yes! That sealed the deal.

I had all four women set up an account with the credit union who had an office on the first floor of our building. We all agreed to meet every two weeks on Thursdays after work in the cafeteria to look for ways to save money for the cruise.

For the first meeting, I brought in cruise ship brochures from Princess, Royal Caribbean and Holland America. Using them as a guideline for our budget planning purpose, the women eventually decided on a 12 night Royal Caribbean cruise departing from Barcelona and visiting Nice, Livorno (Pisa/Florence), Naples and Capri, a day at sea, Venice for two nights, a day at sea, Palermo (Sicily), Civitavecchia (Rome), Cannes (Monte Carlo), another day at sea and back to Barcelona.

In our first brainstorming session one of the women suggested that they all car pool and could save at least $70 each a month. That was figured by saving the $75 parking charge for three of them or $75 x 3 = $225 divided by 4 = $56.25 plus the weekly gas cost. Also at that first meeting they decided that they could really save some money by brown bagging and giving up special coffee drinks.

At our second meeting two weeks later, I asked to see deposit slips from the credit union for a check on savings progress. That got a real laugh, but at the end of the meeting it was decided that it would be a good measurement that the money saved was actually going into the credit union account.

During the every two week sessions, it was decided that the amount of money needed would be $10,000 given the cost of the cruise, the airfare, the excursions, and some extra days after the cruise to see more of Barcelona.

I got each woman a Royal Caribbean brochure to take home so they could discuss the trip with their families.

After a couple of months, we decided to change our schedule to only meet once a month. The four women were meeting every day, in the car on the way to work, discussing ways to save even more money. The one meeting on Thursday was just to bring me up to date and check credit union balances.

At the end of the first year, each had close to $6,000 in the credit union accounts as was evidenced by the deposit slips and account statements. Also, having four women working on the same goal was inspiring to the others and it kept all of them on track. At the last meeting for the year, I told them that they should make their cruise reservations with trip cancelation insurance, and give a $5,000 deposit. Also by reserving early, and reserving for a lower deck, they could almost be assured of getting upgraded to an upper deck without any increase in the fare.

Also at the last meeting, I told them I was leaving the company but I would come back to check on progress every month.

The second year everything went according to plan, except that one of the women had to drop out of the savings plan because of a divorce and she needed the money for other pressing things.

In the end, three families went to Barcelona for a 12 night Mediterranean cruise. It seemed like I got post cards every day for a month from France, Barcelona and Italy.

The year after the women got back, I got a check for $250 with a picture of the three women who took the trip, on deck of the ship holding a bottle of Italian wine and on the back of the picture was written, "It sure was nice to be able to take "that" kind of vacation. Thank you Jim!"

Until next time, let me know what is on your mind, and how you are doing, O.K.?

Jim Fortune - Bella Budget Travel Guy

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