Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Guilt of Vacation Planning

It is some consolation to remind myself, as I sit here with a headache and blowing the most unbecoming stuff out of my nose, that I will be laying on a beach in Jamaica in 8 months.

The Royal Decameron resort we stayed at in 2008 - I can't find my original pics buried on the computer so forgive the stock I plundered off their site!
After Mike's last deployment, we did a make-up honeymoon to Jamaica.  It was seriously one of the best times of my life.  We stayed at the Royal Decameron, a cute 3-star all-inclusive resort on the north side of the island. 

We talked extensively before this deployment about how to maximize the income and we both agreed that a vacation was in order.  Our trips in recent years have strictly involved family visits and weekend getaways, but there hasn't been room for anything else.  Perhaps this is why I've been fretting all along about whether a real vacation is a fiscally responsible thing to do.

I booked our last vacation right after the economy crashed in 2008 and I got an amazing deal - $2,500 for 5 nights + airfare.  By the time we added two day trips, souvenirs, and gas to get to the airport, the trip was $3,000.  For a comparable vacation today, I knew four years of inflation and a bump in resort star ratings would put the price somewhere around $4,000-5,000. 

They had cute little cottages - it's awesome to not share walls!
It is so very hard when you're on a limited budget to "treat" yourself to something on this magnitude.  It feels luxurious to be planning a major vacation when we struggle with our normal finances. All the while I keep thinking of how else we could spend this money - a valuable nest egg for savings, a future down payment on a home, a good start on replacing our truck, or kicking off retirement savings.

But I've come to the conclusion that the hesitation I have now is insignificant compared to the regret I would feel if we didn't go.  

Amid the penny-pinching and thriftiness, there's also this thing called life one is supposed to be living.  You only get one chance to live your days to the fullest.  Your savings account and 401k may be golden, but if you have a pile of regrets and what-ifs, it's not going to emotionally matter that much.

One of the beachfront bars we hung out at.  Instead of bar stools, they had swings
So here are the rationalizations I've come up with to reassure myself that just because I'm not rich doesn't mean Mike and I don't deserve a vacation.  Ready?
  1. Taking a true vacation like this once every few years is far from irresponsible.  It would be one thing if we did this every year while sacrificing finances elsewhere.  Or we were stretching ourselves by putting this on a credit card.  But no, Mike's deployment is the very reason we have the extra income to pay for this out of pocket and in full.  

  2. We will probably always be a couple who can only afford something nice like this every five years.  It's comforting to know that we can plan to treat ourselves far in advance. If we squirreled away only $50 a paycheck, in five years we'd have thousands of dollars to play with for our next vacation.
  3. There is no reason people don't deserve some R & R every so often.  In fact, it's widely reported that Americans would be far healthier and happier if we took more vacations.  We chronically miss the boat when it comes to balancing work and play.
  4. Our vacation budget of $4,500 is 1/7th or 16% of Mike's deployment income.  So it's not like we taking an inappropriate chunk of his well-earned money.  And you'd better believe this keeps a fire under my butt to not screw up all of the other goals we have.   
This was the Quiet Pool - adults only, had to keep conversation to a minimum.  So nice.
With these reasons firmly mind (and still a touch of reservation), I closed my eyes and booked our Jamaican vacation for Christmas today.  For 6 nights + airfare, my bill is  $4,760.

Read on here to see what $5,000 will get us for a week!  

Have you ever felt guilty about spending money on a vacation?    

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