Christmas is over, which for International Teachers (ITs) means it’s now time to plan the next biggie: Summer.
As ITs, summer is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because of course, we get lots of time off, get to travel, and get to see our families and friends. And a curse for two main reasons (not in order of importance):
I’ll start with the planning, It makes me tired just thinking about it. I can get into it, but the absolute first stages are so overwhelming that they cease to be exciting. The difficulty of planning also can be broken into smaller parts.
- Deciding where to go
- Compromising with spousal differences
- Coordinating with other people
Where to go?
Deciding where to go is easy for some ITs who own their own homes in their own home counties. It’s also easier for singles or couples without kids, as you can stay with friends and family. However, once kids come along most families want some space.
We do not own our own home, and our families live in Arizona, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Also, while each of these states has natural beauty, they are not necessarily ideal vacation destinations in the summer. For many years when we lived in Saudi, we would leave 110 degrees F weather and arrive to 110 degrees F weather in Arizona. That is a little rough.
We have tried all kinds of different routes through these states. We have flown into Phoenix and taken local flights to Wichita. We have tried flying into Denver (we LOVE Colorado–who doesn’t) and driving to our families. We have flown to Mexico from Denver and then taken other flights to/from the other places. One year we stopped first in Ireland en route to the States, which was amazing. But most years, we do the same circuit–Phoenix, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
I guess this is easier for some married couples than for others, again, if they own their own homes or their families are in the same place. Our situation is actually not the hardest. We have friends that have families in the States and in Canada. Or Florida and the west coast.
With 6+ weeks to fill, does each side of the family get equal time? How much time is enough, after not seeing your families for a year? Are we making up for all the lost time?
These are really hard questions to answer, and not only do the Haggard and I struggle to compromise, but we have many friends who do as well. Some couples decide to split up for part of the summer, with the kids traveling in between families. This past summer the Haggard spent some time on his own in Colorado, in order to have some alone time and work on the book, and in the meantime, I got more time with my family.
But when a summer is 7+ weeks long, there is actually so much time to plan, and compromising on what to do with this time can be challenging, at best.
A few weeks ago I had TWO friends contact me about summer plans. This is a sign of true friends–they recognize that we have to plan way ahead, and reached out to me first! I may have had some tears.
But I get it–not everyone knows what they will be doing 5-6 months from now. Unless there is a major trip planned, smaller summer trips don’t need to be planned so early. I have often felt like a pest asking friends and family to begin planning summer in January (or sometimes earlier), but in order for us to align all the moving pieces, and book the best (cheapest) flights and get the accommodation we need, we actually have to do it super early.
$$ Money $$
Most Americans have two weeks of vacation time, or so I’m told. I guess some people save up days and have some extra, and have the public holidays off, but 2-3 weeks seems to be a good standard chunk of time.
From Facebook, I see these people–friends–plan these precious holidays and go to the beach or do Disney or travel across the country on a road-trip.
We do these things, too, but our time is double or triple that in the summers (not to mention the other full weeks we get in the fall and spring, and 3 weeks in December!).
So there is the time (this coming summer we will have 7 full weeks, and this is on the “shorter” side of summers), + flights to our home country, + accommodation + spending. Besides our first year of teaching in Venezuela, we have been flying from Asia. Flights are on average 24+ hours and cost $1000 – $1500 per person. Now, our schools pay for our flights, but we do not consider this “extra” money–it is simply part of our package, and thus, part of the big pot (wink wink). We try to get our flights home for under $5000 for all of us. So there’s that.
Since we do not own our home and like to have space and also travel around, we use Airbnb for a large portion of the summer. Since we move around, finding a house for under $1000 a week is pretty good, and we will do that at least 5 weeks of the summer.
Then there is in-country transportation. We almost always rent a car, and we sometimes have local flights. Let’s just ballpark transportation to around $1200, as I just looked up our Summer Budget Google docs, and that seems a pretty fair average.
So from just those basic starting costs, we are already up to almost $12,000 for 7-8 weeks.
$12,000! That is a lot of money, but as ITs, we, and people like us, are accustomed to basically not batting an eye at that figure. Why? Because it is a necessity and just something that IS. After all, we have to live somewhere, right?
The Haggard tracks our spending, and in the past 4 years, our most expensive summer totaled:
TOTAL SUMMER COST
$18,885 for 49 days
Is this insane, or “normal” for our pretty “abnormal” life circumstances? We consider ourselves mostly budget-wise people, and we are not frivolous spenders. Is it worth it?
Where we’re at now…
This coming summer, our itinerary is beginning to take form, but we have already been through several stages and grand ideas and plans.
- Fly into Phoenix and do the loop
- Fly into Denver and make Colorado our base
- Skip the US altogether and travel in Europe
Last weekend, we were totally into Option 3. We were saving Airbnbs to wish lists, looking at flights, and talking to friends.
Then we remembered our kids (ages 6 and 8). While traveling through Europe sounds awesome to me and The Haggard, we would be toting those two around. And with no camps, no cousins to play with, and no grandparents to take them off our hands….would they get on our nerves? It might be a (too) long summer.
As of today, we have something pretty awesome in mind that starts with Option #2. But there is an involved Google doc already started, and there are many more hours that will go into this. Probably more compromises, too.
It seems like there must be a better way. Is it buying a summer house in Colorado? We’re starting to finally think so, despite our misgivings and fears of owning a house while living abroad. When I think of all the ITs we know, and the ones that seem to love their summers the most, they all have a special place they go home to–lake-houses, cottages, chalets (Canadians!), and a recently-built dream house in South Africa. We know that buying a home is not as sound of an investment financially as our regular investment plan. But could it be worth it?
Back to that summer that we almost spent $20,000…we remember it fondly, mainly because we fulfilled a life-dream of going to Ireland. We don’t regret it. So, does money buy memories, after all? Could we have done it for way less? How?
Let us know what you think. Stay tuned for the final itinerary.