Family Time and Vacationing on a Shoestring Budget (May 28, 2009)

June 29, 2009 Print Friendly and PDF

Vacations and Quality Family Time during Tough Economic Times Chat Thursday, May 28, 2009 from 11:00 to 12:00 EDT 51 PEOPLE ATTENDED Michael 2: Welcome to our Chat on Vacations and Quality Family Time during Tough Economic Times. Hi! I’m Michael Gutter (University of Florida) your moderator for today’s chat, along with our technician, Dustin Hyatt (Connect System). Today’s chat, that will last about one hour, is sponsored and supported by members of the Financial Security for All Community of Practice. Out team of experts listed on your screen will be responding to your questions. All are highly qualified to talk about this subject; their photos and qualifications were displayed online at If you send an email to you will receive notice when a transcribed copy of this chat can be viewed on the eXtension Website. We will have some poll question up shortly; they disappeared since our last chat.

Opening Thoughts Low Cost Strategies for Families Libraries and Parks Staycations Some Personal Stories Resources Scams Looking for Deals Pets and Parking Using this Chat Closing Thoughts Links to Share

Opening Thoughts Michael 2: Megan had some initial thoughts to share and then we will open it for questions Megan O'Neil-Haight: Depending on whom you ask - there is an indication that 50 to 57% of Americans will not be traveling much this summer Megan O'Neil-Haight: Gallup Poll data from May 2 - 4 also says that 4 of 10 Americans will not be affected by gas prices or layoffs because of a previous decision to not travel at all this year Michael 2: There was an interesting article “Layoff Worries Keep Many from Taking Vacations, Experts Say” at that I wanted to share about this issue Barb O’Neill: Does anyone know what percentage of household income has typically been spent on vacations in the past? Just curious. Megan O'Neil-Haight: Average amount American families planned to spend on summer vacation (according to a Visa study): $1,654 Megan O'Neil-Haight: Julie wants to share some ideas about examining values

Julie England 2: This seems to be a year when people are evaluating vacations and spending money. It is important for people to take time off both to be productive as well for their families. But-vacations may need to be downsized somewhat. Barb O’Neill: Hi All. Here's a link to an article about Rutgers research about the need for vacations: Michael 2: Barb - thank you I think this is an important point to be made. Families still need some downtime.

Low Cost Strategies for Families

Celia Hayhoe -VT: What are some low cost strategies for parents that work to keep their kids occupied and supervised if they can't afford to send them to camp or day care?

Michael 2: Great question Celia, a debate I know many people are facing right now

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Have paper airplane or paper boat races

Megan O'Neil-Haight: put on a theatrical performance in the backyard

Megan O'Neil-Haight: write and illustrate a story

Megan O'Neil-Haight: have sack, peanut, or egg races

Megan O'Neil-Haight: host a block party

Megan O'Neil-Haight: take your kids on a tour of family history or photos or let THEM create the historical perspective

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Search garage sales on a $5 budget

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Visit faith based camps that may be more lenient on fees or may waive them

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Visit a pizza store and ask for a lesson in making pizza

Megan O'Neil-Haight: visit a fire station

Megan O'Neil-Haight: visit a television studio, radio station, or newspaper facility


Megan O'Neil-Haight: visit department of conservation nature centers

Ann Fremion: Become a local tourist. Visit your county's historical sites and learn about your heritage.

Celia Hayhoe -VT: What about the supervision issue?

Julie England 2: One thought would be to work out a schedule with friends to share taking time off and spending time with your kids. Think of it as starting your own private day camp

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Great time to plan picnics as an activity itself

Megan O'Neil-Haight: and to talk about the savings on the wallet in taking snacks and drinks as often as possible or eating before you go to the ballpark!

Julie England 2: Food is really a huge expense for many people. Pledge to eat only one meal out a day. Eat breakfast in the room pack lunches or eat lunch out and fix your own dinner. You'll save big bucks.

Gloria Nye, LSU: Same goes for summer movie matinees -eat before you go and don't let the kids nag you into buying ridiculously expensive popcorn, candy and drinks.

Michael 2: Gloria, that is a good point, things have gotten quite pricey at the theatres

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Super Educational tool would be to cost-compare the boardwalk or amusement park meal to the ballpark meal to the picnic

Barb O’Neill: Sounds like a remake of that old "Rule of Three" that we've been teaching compare at least three different products or services for good deals.

Megan O'Neil-Haight: A quality cooler with a user friendly handle - even if one pays $50 for it, will represent a savings in very short order!

Nancy Porter: A quality cooler with wheels is the best!

Julie England 2: I suggest the coolers on wheels-what a great invention!

Julie England 2: This is a good opportunity for financial education for your kids. Give them a budget for snacks and souvenirs. It will help them learn more about wants vs. needs

Julie England 2: Sometimes renting a car if you have older or a gas guzzler can be a money saver. You have the security of a good car, don't need to thing about replacing older ones. Just remember to check that you can take the rental out of state-not all companies allow it

Nancy Porter: We were at a resort over Memorial Day weekend and I saw lots of families arriving with sleeping bags and coolers of food.

Monica Bonsett: I think it just takes a little more creativity on everyone's part. You can have a family brain storm on places to go that are inexpensive and how to keep down expenses.

Celia Hayhoe -VT: Freezing water in a cleaned milk jug will thaw slower than ice cubes, Take up less space and keep things dryer.

Megan O'Neil-Haight: You are brilliant Celia!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Julie England 2: Block ice thaws much slower than cubes

Celia Hayhoe -VT: No just a resourceful grad student when my daughter was growing up.

Julie England 2: Also state parks sometimes have cabins to rent for those who don't have camping equipment

Libraries and Parks Suzann Knight: Public libraries have free passes to a variety of museums, cultural sites

Megan O'Neil-Haight: participate in library summer reading programs

Julie England 2: Our local libraries have a lot of summer activities planned although they are facing cut backs as well. Community colleges also have programs available. Don't overlook community centers as well

Julie England 2: I'm a big fan of local and state parks. Gives kids (and adults) a chance to be outdoors, be active and are inexpensive either as day trips or overnight.

Lori Hendrickson: Maybe it's more obvious in MN but an afternoon at the lake with a picnic and friends

Megan O'Neil-Haight: many zoos and museums have free or reduced rates for kids or family special days

Suzann Knight: Go fishing - children under 16 in NH can fish for free Lynne Grant 2: I have been encouraging my program participants to ask for scholarships and/or fee waivers. Many parks & recreation programs and 4-H camps have these available for families in need.

Staycations Monica Bonsett: I think people are downsizing their vacation plans a bit; instead of travelling they are exploring local attractions.

Michael 2: Monica, I agree Staycations are popular right now

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Staycations and State Parks are a safe and cost-effective alternative

Megan O'Neil-Haight: In addition to activities local regional and national don't forget to make your own bubbles!

Suzann Knight: Some families are looking forward to going within their state or neighboring state (car trip) to a motel with a swimming pool for a couple of days. Young children find the swimming pool to be a treat.

Julie England 2: People need to look at their budgets when planning their vacations before going not afterward

Julie England 2: Looking at low cost local or nearby locales seems more practical to many people this year. Put off the big vacations until things are better

Nancy Reigelsperger: Think some folks are considering sharing vacation spots, like renting a multi-bed condo or cottage and share the cost with family or friends.

Gloria Nye, LSU: Even before the recession, we did multi-generational beach vacations where we rented a house big enough for the kids and their families, shared cooking, shared rental cost, shared travel costs, etc., for really great low-cost vacations.

Julie England 2: Also, if you know someone who owns an RV, renting from them helps both you and them. Saves you money and helps your friends meet their expenses

Some Personal Stories Megan O'Neil-Haight: any personal anecdotes to share??

Gloria Nye, LSU: When I was a kid, we planned our vacations to travel to where we could stay with relatives (no hotel cost) and then explored that area while they were at work. -Really a low-cost vacation because then we shared meals with them too, and since they lived there, they could suggest what to see in the area.

Julie England 2: I've cut my personal vacation costs by training my husband that we don't have to go out every morning for a big breakfast. Saves money and keeps some of those extra vacation pounds from adding up

Celia Hayhoe -VT: When Janice was 8 I started letting her plan. When my daughter was 8 she started planning our driving vacation. She uses the AAA hotel book and a map to figure mileage and gas and hotel costs. She quickly learned that even though she preferred to eat in a restaurant if we packed food she had more money for entry fees and souvenirs.

Barb O’Neill: and wealth...I love it :-)

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Article from Consumer Credit Counseling on teaching children about money on vacations

Monica Bonsett: Great resource!

Michael 2: Celia, that is neat. You know the thing I have realized with my son is that all of those neat expensive things are great. But in the end, what he values most (and his sister too I am sure) is that I am simply doing something with him that is fun or interesting.

Celia Hayhoe -VT: Michael I couldn't agree more.

Michael 2: For those who like Celia's idea (I did) here is a great website to work on the mapping, gas, etc.

Megan O'Neil-Haight: I spent a great deal of time price and quality comparing patio furniture recently, because I think that is going to be a good deal of my "staycation" activity

Megan O'Neil-Haight: I recently had a team of 18 friends band together to take a camping trip in PA and they shared cars and rented only 3 campsites to save

Megan O'Neil-Haight: They also made sure to plan the trip where no one would have to miss any work time or income earning opportunity

Julie England 2: Combining vacations like that helps keep kids from getting bored and gives adults some time to de-stress with other adults

Megan O'Neil-Haight: NPR Podcast regarding Vacation Money Already Spent for Rainy Day needs

Resources Celia Hayhoe -VT: Does anyone have a fact sheet on this topic? Megan O'Neil-Haight: I am willing to email a fact sheet, if people would provide email addresses

Lynne Grant 2: I have developed a guide "Family Fun for Summer: Activities & Places to Go in Connecticut". It is a compilation of info from our state tourism guide, local resources and free passes available from libraries. It can be adapted for other states using your resources. It also has info on state parks; pick your own farms & camp grounds.

Margo Mosley: the letter box concept has caught on

Michael 2: Lynne, is that something you have a link to that you could share? Lynne Grant 2: I don't have a link.

Michael 2: Lynne? Could people email you for a copy?

Megan O'Neil-Haight: People can email me also for "Wonderful Low Cost Summer Activities for Kids and Families" (not state specific) Lynne Grant 2: Yes, I have a few copies available. I'd also like to remind everyone that I used lots of info from Federal sites on food safety and other issues. The great thing about the government sites is that most factsheets have Spanish translations. My email address is

Jane Riffe 7: At the recent EHSN conference in New Orleans, Caroline C. was talking about "What's Old is New Again." Interesting how many of these ideas and activities are coming around again.

Jane Riffe 7: Dealing with Emotional Stress - Rise in domestic violence when couples blame each other instead of dealing with the financial realities and impact.

Scams Megan O'Neil-Haight: I did a YouTube search "inexpensive vacations"

Megan O'Neil-Haight: As you can see, there are some folks who are acting as predators in this tough economy for those who still want to vacation

Megan O'Neil-Haight: That video takes you to

Julie England 2: When planning vacations remember the old adage if it is too good to be true... Fraud tends to go up during tough times

Megan O'Neil-Haight: where you can buy a surely less than cost effective vacation OR...

Julie England 2: People need to be careful about deals. Read the fine print and know who they are dealing with

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Get involved in a pyramid scheme and buy your Independent Travel Agent Opportunity for a low low cost!!!!!! (yah right)

Megan O'Neil-Haight: So - this leads us to think about fraud and schemes as Julie says

Julie England 2: Sometimes people fall prey to tough sell strategies for time shares etc., be careful before accepting those supposedly freebies

Looking for Deals Megan O'Neil-Haight: Like many other family and friends decisions to combine resources to save money, we are seeing extended families rent modest sized units and get cozy in order to save money

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Hanging on for better deals is one potentially good piece of advice where as the economy weakens and the travel industry loses business, they lower prices

Michael 2: You know another idea for someone with a low budget for travel is to look at Travelocity Last Minute Deals.

Michael 2: Families can pick a window when they want to travel, and then look for last minute deals. These can include airfare, hotel, etc. There are often good deals for popular locations. We have done this in our family before.

Nancy Reigelsperger: Think that many resorts, hotels etc. are offering deals to attract folks in this tight economy .may take some research...also if flying helps to book mid-week to mid week instead of weekend to weekend.

Michael 2: Nancy, I know Disney is offering some pretty good deals if people can get there...

Suzann Knight: In some areas they sell entertainment books where there are coupons to buy one and get one free for meals, hotels, activities, museums, etc.

Monica Bonsett: For those that do not have enough money to take a real vacation this year. They could sign up for a city pool pass or frequent the state or county parks in their area to make it a more pleasant summer.

Julie England 2: Planning your vacations if you can for the off-season can cut expenses. But remember that you may end up cruising in hurricane season or at a national park that is still closed due to snow

Julie England 2: State tourism websites have a good resource to look for places, specials, activities and coupons.

Gloria Nye, LSU: In Baton Rouge, the parks dept. used to run summer camps (cheap) for kids but you had to sign up early in the year because they sold out spots fast. The kids would take a lunch and they hired H.S. kids as the day camp counselors. My kids loved it and I would drop them off before work and pick them up on my way home from work.

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Universities also offer many discount tickets to staff and faculty - we must not forget to take care of ourselves. Contact HR!

Julie England 2: I always look at least a couple of sources when planning a vacation. I've gotten good deals from local chamber of commerce, expedia, AAA, airlines and car rental companies. Just because one source had the best deals once doesn't mean they always will.

What about pets and parking

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Making friends with pet friendly neighbors and trading pet sitting will cut the cost of kenneling out of your required vacation fund!

Celia Hayhoe -VT: If you have a friend with a pet that gets along with yours you can trade pet setting all year round to help with work travel as well.

Julie England 2: State parks and a number of resorts are pet friendly although the resort usually requires a security or cleaning deposit

Monica Bonsett: That's a great idea to exchange pet sitting responsibilities. My sister and I have also utilized the dog sitting services of our Mom who enjoys having a good watch dog around while we are away on vacation. Just don't forget a nice thank you gift.

Celia Hayhoe -VT: have a friend who I trade with and it has been a big savings for both of us since neither of us have any relatives close by.

Celia Hayhoe -VT: I always bring a gift when I am away for more than a day or 2

Julie England 2: Pet sitting is also a good way for children to earn money for their own vacations and learn a little about responsibility

Suzann Knight: parking at friend's houses that are near to the airport to save on airport parking - thank you gift for friend is less than the cost of parking

Using this Chat Karen Aspinwall: Does anyone have any ideas about how to get this type of info out to our local communities? What works best for you?

Monica Bonsett: Getting some info on the web would be helpful.

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Contact your features editor of your local newspaper and ask if you can write an article for submission or if they will write an article in which you can be quoted

Celia Hayhoe -VT: I hope to put something together for agents to use as a press release with local TV news consumer spots

Gloria Nye, LSU: Local papers love summer fun ideas for kids, vacation savings ideas, etc. Plus, we can do radio spots locally. Recently, our newspaper called me asking how kids can make fruit juice freezer pops this summer to save $$

Jack Krebs, San Miguel 4H: I will host a small activity night showcasing alter vacation ideas for families

Carole Gnatuk: Responding to Jane Riffe - Perhaps we are reclaiming our core values for healthy family life, to listen, understand, and bond with each other like in times before electronic gadgets!

Barb O’Neill: It will be interesting to see how many of these new frugal habits that we have been chatting about will "stick" after the recession ends.

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Contact human interest reporters and television and radio stations and offer the same "I can do this for you or would you be interested in quoting me"

Monica Bonsett: Hopefully they will stick with some people.

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Make it relevant by relating to economic headlines of the day

Monica Bonsett: I have an upcoming article to write for our local newspaper. This would be a great one.

Kathleen: Is there a way we could share some of the pieces written as a result of today's session rather than each doing their own?

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Please also feel free to reference the archive of this chat on eXtension at the URL Michael will provide after the chat is edited and posted

Julie England 2: Hopefully at least some people will realize that you don't have to go into debt to have a great vacation. That if you can't pay for it the month you come back, maybe you need to evaluate your plans

Carole Gnatuk: Your ideas have been great for news releases, radio and TV spots and other outreach. Thanks very much!

Closing Thoughts Nancy Reigelsperger: just curious if you think some folks will vacation anyway, using credit cards to pay the way

Suzann Knight: good point Barb - it's already been reported that when gas prices went down the sales for the Prius also went down

Barb O’Neill: Our top economists at Rutgers say that we'll have a "new normal." We can't go back to the old spending patterns because they were unsustainable. I guess time will tell.

Michael 2:- We will soon bring this session to an end. Those who may not have had their question/s answered are invited to email questions to Michael Gutter, chat leader for our Financial Security for All (FSA) unit, at for a response.

Megan O'Neil-Haight: Wishing you all a safe and not-too-costly summer and thanking you for chatting with us today

Michael 2: Thank you everyone for attending, we will now close the chat session. Have a nice day!


Megan O'Neil-Haight: Bubble solution: 1tbsp glycerin (key!), 2 tbsp dish soap, 9 oz water

Megan O'Neil-Haight: more great ideas

Layoff worries keep many from taking vacations, experts say

Summer Travel '09 Freebies In addition to multiple low-cost ideas and discussing the phenom of seeking inexpensive recreation due to the economy, I want to use this video as a point to talk about profiteers of the phenom...

This web advertisement leads to a site that sells "Independent Travel Agent Opportunities" for an "extraordinarily low cost"!!! Ha!

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