Growing up in the Seattle area, our summers rarely heated up past the mid eighties, and anything over 80 feels sweltering. I quickly adjusted back to Northwest weather after moving back from South Carolina seven years ago and prefer temperatures in the mid 50s to mid 70s, so when the weather forecast rocketed up to close to triple digits for last week, I made a quick decision to escape to a cooler area for a long weekend. I had recently been told to take two days off work in the month of August (separate from vacation time), so this seemed like the perfect reason. My mother in law is even more sensitive to heat than I am, and since she watches our son Thursday/Friday, she was available to take a quick trip those days as well. We quickly made a plan to head up to the San Juan Islands, where the high temperatures stood at a much cooler 82 degrees.
British Columbia Canada has had some bad wildfires this month and the smoke has engulfed Washington state (and we are still under an air advisory today), but the breezes kept the air reasonably clear for our visit over the weekend. It was wonderful to breathe clearer, cooler air for a couple of days and we were able to avoid the worst of the smog. There’s a chance of rain this weekend along with a bit of a breeze, so things should finally clear up by next week.
Since this was a last minute trip, we had a very limited selection of places to stay and we booked a home for $1100 for 3 nights (including taxes, cleaning fees, etc) which is considerably more than we would normally spend, as we prefer to use our vacation money on food and experiences rather than the place we sleep. However, we were bringing my 82 year old grandmother with us, and we needed a comfortable place for her to stay. She’s very active and mobile, but is past the point in her life where she wants to camp or be without a working toilet, which is completely understandable. While we are usually very frugal when it comes to trips, having experiences with her is completely worth the extra cost. And per person, the cost of the home was not that bad considering we had 5 people along, so would have required two rooms had we stayed in a hotel. It was just a lot more expensive than our usual summertime campsite option of $10 – $50 per night. Bonus – we had a view of the water and access to a great rock-skipping beach directly across the street.
Other than the cost of the house, we spent very little over the 4 day trip. We stocked up on food at local farms and the grocery store so we ate almost all of our meals at the house or packed them to go. We spent our time at the beach, going on multiple hikes, exploring the awesome local library, and visiting the farmers market, all of which were free activities. Besides the house, we didn’t spend any more money than we would have at home, but definitely had a great time and got to explore places we’d never been before. We didn’t “miss out” at all by not spending more money. We don’t often go on week long vacations and prefer to take shorter weekend trips but more often throughout the year. By keeping the per trip cost reasonable, we’re able to do a lot of traveling and adventuring without hurting our budget. This also allows for the spontaneous last minute trip like this one when we know we can keep the cost minimal. We don’t spend money on television, cars, or “things” so we are able to allocate more of our budget to experiences and travel, which are worth it every time. We never regret collecting memories like we would things.
Part of my feelings on frugality and long term planning is a focus on how to make the most out of every month and year instead of buckling down to the nth degree to reach financial independence a few years sooner. We are careful with our money, don’t carry any consumer debt, and put money away for retirement with every paycheck. While it’s important to keep that goal in mind for the long term, we never know what tomorrow may bring. It’s important to find joy and adventure today. We won’t always be able to take my son’s great grandmother on hikes through the woods to a cliff overlooking seals sunbathing on the rocks. I don’t want to look back and wish we would have spent a little more money enjoying time with the people we love. Always take the trip (as long as you don’t put it on a credit card).