Monday, February 28, 2011

Vacation or Staycation?

Public Speaking is not for Everyone

First off, I apologize for the lateness of this entry. For some stupid reason I decided to sit through 3 painful hours of James Franco trying to be funny at the Academy Awards. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great actor, but his hosting was as awkward and uncomfortable as hearing your in-laws doing it in the room next to you. The second thing I should apologize for is this entry in general – it’s kind of all over the place and to me seems like a total pile de merde, but maybe it’s just me. I’ve hit a rut today and just feel like a total $het-bag. Whether is was the incredibly huge dump of snow that we had today, or looking through my brother and sister-in-law’s awesome pictures from their trip to Mexico, the daily frustrations I sometimes feel at work, the fact that we don’t get another holiday until the end of April, or maybe just a case of the Mondays, I’m beginning to crave some real time off. I haven’t had a paid vacation in seven, yes seven, years and let me tell you, it sucks the biggest balls you’ve ever seen. So what do you do when you’re like me and vacations are completely paid for out of your own pocket? You improvise and save like a gangsta!
Look at this stupid phoque.

Have you ever heard the term “Staycation” before? If you have, then you know it’s a combination of vacationing and staying local for your holidays. This is a great way for you to seriously cut back on your annual vacation bill, while still getting to enjoy some much deserved time off. In the past, I have used my credit card to foot the bill for all of my vacation time over the past 7 years. Yes, this is the reason why I was covered in over $14,000 worth of credit card $hit-debt. I used my card to cover my flights, hotel bills, and worst (or maybe best) of all, liquor bills. We all have the intention of paying back our credit card bills, but when we’re out on a holiday, it’s so easy to get into that mentality of “Phoque it! I’m on vacation and I deserve this.” Then we get the bill and $hit our pants wondering how to pay it all back. I’m not going to argue that we are all worth splurging on, especially while lying on a beach soaking up the sunburn and guzzling several dozen beers. The big catch though is that you need to seriously plan ahead save up the money for a trip first, and then budget what you want to spend while you’re on vacation. 

Now, back to the magic of staycations. Most cities that we live in (or nearby) have all sorts of festivals, attractions, parks, pools, hotels, and so on that are within easy access. The key having an amazing staycation is to get creative and use these resources to find fun things to do with your loved ones on the cheap. For example, there might be a local festival that you can take the kids to on a certain day where kids can go for free. If you bring them along with some lunches, you can save tons on money and we all know kids to care one bit about whether they have restaurant food or a delicious peanut butter sandwich. After that, stay for a night in a local hotel when it’s on sale and if there’s a waterslide for the kids to go on, they will have a great time. If you’re looking for a nice romantic night with your snugglebum, plan a weekend at a friend’s cottage or plan to try something new like kayaking together while grandma watches the little rug rats.  Kids won’t care if they’re in Mexico or in Taco Time, as long as they’re having fun! 

Everyone deserves a break which is why KitKat was invented. Although Kitkats were made for those quick breaks where you supposedly only eat one of the wafers and you eat is slow and savor it, but in reality we all inhale them in under a minute. Not much of a break at all. Mind you, if you can substitute taking a holiday with eating a KitKat, then you are way ahead of me in the thriftyness game and you can stop reading the blog right here.  So staycations are totally not for you and you have to go on a vacation instead, this is the part of the blog for you. My brother is getting married in August, which means that I have not one, but two trips to take this year. The first is a trip to Las Vegas for his stag party and the second is his wedding! My brother asked me to be in his wedding party so I feel incredibly obligated to go to his stag party. Yes, I get the irony of a man who is trying to save his money and pay off his debt and going to Vegas. This week I was researching flights to Las Vegas and I was amazed at all the different tools out there to help me find an affordable flight without having to go through a travel agency.

Since I am such a huge nerd that know how to use those internets for good AND evil, I started with ‘the Google’ to do some incredibly mind-blowing research on flights by typing “(Name of your city) to Las Vegas” and I was directed to a pile of websites for flights. The key thing to know is that you need to search lots of different websites and don’t just look at one thinking that it has the best price like you’re some kind of person with a horseshoe up their derriere. Imagine shopping for flights as if you were standing in a grocery store and comparing toilet paper (or as my Dad called it, “a$$ wipe”) – would you just buy the first one that you see and not look at the price, or would you check to see if one was on sale?  When I started to look for legitimate travel websites, I recalled reading another person’s blog about travelling on a dime and I saw that someone had mentioned, so I checked out that one first. The results were plentiful, but they didn’t include the totals for the flights with tax. At first I had thought I could go with their website and only pay $319 for a return flight; which would have been $hit-my-pants-incredible! However, upon closer inspection, when you go to book the flight you find that they add in all the taxes and fees at the end right before you’re about to book which is something I’ve always had issues with. Really, why not tell us how much the flight will be right from the beginning? It’s not like we’re shopping for the Airport Improvement Fee separately! Oh no! I can’t afford to go through Toronto, their airport improvement fee is $3 more than Halifax! Puh-lease.

To my own surprise, I ended up going with Expedia to book my flights. They put the estimated grand total right in the costs when you’re booking so there are no surprises at the end. The overall cost of the flights was actually cheaper than Flightnetwork and they were the exact same flights. Once I was able to see which flights were on sale, I went to the airlines’ websites to make sure I wasn’t having the wool pulled over my eyes and sure enough, the quotes on Expedia were actually cheaper than the airlines actual listed prices.  Now was the difficult part for me – having to use my credit card. I had to find it first since I threw it into my closet to prevent me from using it! Once I found it and wiped the dust off of it, I was ready to go. I have worked so hard to not use my credit card over the past 5 months and so far this was the only time I had to – so that felt pretty darn good. $535 (taxes and fees in) I had my flight to Las Vegas booked! This is really exciting for me because I have never been to Sin City and I think that I am overdue to have a vacation that isn’t revolving around a winter holiday!  

There are some key things to remember when you are flying anywhere:
  1. Book your flights early to get the best deals (3 months in advance of your flight will usually get you the best deal);
  2. Fly midweek for cheaper flights (Tuesday to Thursday);
  3. Compare as many airlines as you can by using different travel websites;
  4. Sign up for airline newsletters to get advance information about seat sales and other deals;
  5. Fly to locations in the off season for awesome savings; and
  6. Marry someone who is a pilot or airline employee to get free flights

Spandex makes everything hilarious.
Finding a place to stay is the next biggest expense on your trip and sometimes more expensive than your flight. Lucky for me, my hotel is paid for in Vegas because of how incredibly sexy I look in spandex. When planning a vacation, plan to go to places where you know someone and you can crash with them, or just like with the flights, you can do a hotel search. Sometimes the flight sites will have links to partner hotels that will offer you a deal and even include a ride to the hotel from the airport. A great site to find hotels is They have a great detailed breakdown of all the hotels from bed and breakfast locations to 5 star hotels. For those of you who are more risk-taking, try out (it will even do a comparison to This site will randomly place you in a hotel at an incredibly discounted rate in the general area you want to be, but you might not end up somewhere you want to be. Most of the time though, I end up in an awesome hotel and if you’re only going there for a vacation anyway, it doesn’t really matter where you sleep because you will be out and about enjoying the sights anyway! Those of you looking for the really cheap rates, there are hostels all over the world that can save you a ton of cash, or you can even try (but this could be a little sketchy).

Ok, so you’re all set to go on your awesome trip and come back to post all the pictures of you online in the same pose in different locations around the world. This is where it’s crucial: save some money! Try to have a vacation where you do not need to pull out your credit to cover the costs and start putting a couple hundred dollars a month toward your expenses in the destination you are going to. Figure out the average cost of food for where you will be and make sure to set a cap on your spending for each day, and you can come back from your holiday without the stress of wondering how many months it will take you to pay for your two week vacay! Budgets work just as well in real life as they do in vacation life. Look for ways to save and you will have more money to put towards amazing vacations in the future.

Thank you for all the emails and kudos that you send me. You inspire me more than I inspire you and it helps me every day to see this goal out to the bitter end.



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