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Archive for June, 2016

Final Vacation Post

June 28th, 2016 at 07:13 am



I think I got it all figured out.

$2k airfare is already paid for + will pay off $3k of the trip today (with mid-June paycheck).

Not sure on the last $373. I have $125 left in grocery budget this month. (Not sure why I don't have more left, since we were gone two full weeks, but it is what it is. It was a good month to go over).

So... Subtracting $125 extra leaves about $250 to come up with. I was thinking of funding the rest with credit card rewards (should be a LOT this month). But with the stock market down I think I will stay the course and invest credit card rewards this month.

I may change my mind once I pay the July bills. I have not done so yet but will do so today. I usually leave a little float to work with and as long as I have the cash, I will just leave the investments as usual and use up some float.

In addition to the above, we did spend $65 on gas. Since gas was significantly cheaper back east I will just absorb that with our monthly gas budget. (Monthly gas usage was very average).

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We did end up going to family camp the day after we got back from DC. It was too much. I'd say that the sleep I got Sunday night was on par with sleeping in the airport. I was planning to come home after dinner on Monday but quickly changed my mind to leave after lunch. Really ready just to go HOME.

LM had a little freak out himself. I think he was just overly exhausted and feeling under the weather. I wish he got more sleep last night, but we've really got nothing planned the next several weeks and so he will relax and get better in his own time. (I just brought him home with me). Mental note: Never plan a big vacation right before camp again. I'd say we had no choice this year, but are looking into changing our camp week to later in summer.

I was going to do some work from home today, but feel kind of *F* it, now that I am home. & also because I have a kid with me, though he can mostly take care of himself. I do go back tomorrow.

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I did have a good breakthrough with my MIL this weekend, and some financial relief. We had bought LM a substantial birthday present ($150-ish?) before things got suddenly spendy and expensive here. We were going to offer BM, who wants *nothing*, an experience like indoor skydiving. When I brought it up though, LM chimed in that he wanted to go too. Seriously?? (Never would have guessed that in a million years).

Anyway, MIL was nagging dh about gift lists yesterday and he's trying to get her to chill out and give us some time to regroup. He won't even be home until tomorrow. But we did mention the indoor skydiving thing for whatever reason and she said she wants to pay for it. Awesome!! (Usually she is so set on piles of "stuff". So it never occurred to me that she would be open to that. I had told her that there was nothing "stuff"-wise that he wants, but I am sure I've already told her this many times before).

Phew!

We do still have to figure out something for BM. Dh and I will have to figure that out later. His birthday is in 2 weeks, so we have some time. I suppose everything else I have in mind isn't any cheaper. But we will figure something out.

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This also reminds me that MIL gave the kids $30/each to buy souvenirs in DC. In typical BM fashion, he spent $0 of that money. (We will have to transfer to his savings account). That's just kind of how he is, so I didn't think much of it.

LM on the other hand, is a bit of a shopper. But everything he liked was just too expensive. I kept telling him it was Grandma's money and to enjoy. But instead he would rant about how ridiculously expensive souvenirs are. I told dh one day, "What did we do to our kids?" He did spend $11 on a couple of things. In fact, I was delighted to see a magnet he was interested in was only $2. He was pleased with that purchase.

I guess if MIL is doing the experience thing, then no one is probably buying him the "stuff" that he wants for his birthday. So his $19 leftover can go towards whatever video game MIL usually buys him. Or maybe that will be a gift from GMIL.

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Edited to add: I did pay all the July bills and I did seem to have enough float. So I won't sweat coming up with the last $250. (I'll probably just put the $250 back into checking once dh gets his next paycheck in September).

I will also say that we are still at peak liquidity, even after paying for two big vacations. Phew!

Back from Vacay

June 25th, 2016 at 05:50 pm

We got back from our DC trip this morning. Phew!

Was having trouble finding flights when we switched from October to June. I picked a flight from our home airport (right by our house) because it was the cheapest AND the most convenient, but I can't tell you how close I was to canceling that flight because we only had a 45 minute layover on the way back. That said, we were flying back Friday and knew we'd have the weekend to get back if need be. Dh and I discussed splitting up to get home, if need be. (& we can usually get home quickly in these cases because we could divert to SFO or San Jose and maybe even get a ride from family, which we have done in the past when a flight was canceled). I was more pushing for the direct flight from SFO, but dh talked me into keeping the "short layover" tickets and not having to deal with all that driving. We did leave on the last day of school and it would have been a lot.

In the end, the short layover was not the problem. Most California airports have curfews and the problem was more that our flight was the "last flight of the night". Our flight got delayed and we missed our connection (but it was a couple of hour delay so we'd miss no matter what, like pretty much everyone on our plane). So we spent the night in the airport (too late to bother leaving and coming back) and got the first flight out. Since I kind of expected the worst all along I guess it was better than I thought it would be. (At least we all got on the same flight, to our home city).

We flew American Airlines, which I don't think I ever have as an adult. Usually United is cheapest from our airports. I will probably avoid AA in the future. I can't tell you how many flights they had delayed or canceled due to missing crew. ???

Oh... & it took us 3 hours to get to the airport in Baltimore. 45 mile drive. We had such a late flight we just planned to get there several hours early. Thankfully security had no line. (Probably because everyone was stuck in traffic). But yeah, it was quite an ordeal to get home.

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The kids were good sports. LM is maturing considerably, so, phew! I have a picture of him scowling in front of the first Wright brothers plane. (Day 2, he was not in a good mood). But apparently nothing else was quite as boring as the air and space museum. Wink

{It helped that we bought that small laptop. & that day he was so bored he came up with a novel he wanted to write, so we packed the laptop for all our long drives and I think that went a long way to appease him. We had 4 days in the middle of mostly driving. He's 10 and his writing is incredible. As long as he has an outlet, I guess he is good}.

We were able to hit 23 or so museums and landmarks.

I hadn't been to DC since 1999. One of the tours we got was for the Library of Congress. Which is a newer thing that they are giving tours (they moved all the people working there to another building and so had more room for tourists and so on). So we just went with it because it was one of our congressional tours. On the first day actually, but was a highlight of our trip. The building is just magnificent. & we did also get to see Thomas Jefferson's library (which was the start of the government's library. Was told there he sold to them at a discount out of the kindness of his heart, and to start a government library, but learned at Monticello he sold to pay debts. Never found out why he was in debt up to his eyeballs. I am inspired to do a lot of American history reading now).

Actually, we did good on the first and last day. We checked our of our hotel Friday and went to the secondary air and space museum (a huge airplane hangar about 45 miles out, opened more recently also) and we only had about 2 hours but that was pretty incredible.

We did go to Philly and the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall was a first for me too. (LM LOVED the Benjamin Franklin museum. I think it was like $4 admission and was really well done. Another trip highlight, as were all the things we hadn't really planned too much ahead).

We did have time to go to Hershey. Spent way too much money there but I think the rest of us (other than dh) needed some more goofy time. (We had gone back and forth a few times if we would bother, but we ended up having time).

We did also make it out to Colonial Williamsburg. Which happened to be the day that it poured rain in DC, so we were very charmed on the weather front. (I was dreading the heat and humidity, but we lucked out. Some of it was good luck. I think otherwise Florida scarred me and that's like my idea of heat and humidity. Which is 10 times worse than any weather we experienced on this trip. & to be clear, I've only been to Florida in October. I could not even begin to imagine what a Florida summer is like).

Other highlights were getting to see some original works of art from DaVinci, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, etc. Saw some famous pieces of art. Of course, it was fun to explore and find other gems. They also had an incredible photograph gallery. They really encouraged taking pictures at most the museums and the white house, etc. (Though could not take any pictures inside any historic homes). So I will definitely share some pictures later.

We barely made a dent in the art museums. They were just so ginormous.

Of course, our Capitol tour was during the sit-in. The line for the House gallery was hours long and my husband stood in line for hours just to get in after they took a break. Ugh! I didn't want to waste my last day in D.C. in line and BM is going back in the spring. So we left it at that. Of course, dh had wanted to go join the protestors the day before but no one was there (we split for a while). While he was in line seeing nothing, while we are the Capitol the following day, we went outside where all the action was. So dh got the short end of the stick there. Everyone had left by the time he came outside. He never saw any protestors though he was at the Capitol both days. (The big crowds seemed to swell later at night, looking at the news later).

Which reminds me, we got to our Congressperson's office early enough, for Capitol tour, that we were chatting with the staff for a while. Dh is just beside himself about this sit-in and was asking what we could do. (Since he seemed to be missing the protests). They re-iterated to call your congresspeople and to make your voice heard. Said they had never gotten so many calls (this young staff person said this, speaking to his time there) and they take phone calls very seriously. So passing that along as a FYI. Last time we went to DC we did meet with our congressperson. This time we really didn't bother (we've met her several times in our city) and she was at the sit-in anyway so it would have been canceled I presume. But it was still an experience all the same. It was good for the kids to see.

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I added up our total Friday a.m. and I think our spending was getting close to $3,500 for our trip (everything but flights). So grand total around $5,500. By far our most expensive family vacation. Though most the tours and museums we did do were free, we did have to pay for a hotel room, which we usually do not. (In the end, in-laws timeshare had nothing near D.C. They were trying to tell us that most people just stay 1 hour away!? No thanks!?)

Since I also paid for BM's DC trip for next year, I guess this year's vacation spending is going to be in line with last year's "year of splurge." Really and truly though, not planning any more family vacations after this. SO HAPPY to be done with flying for the foreseeable future.

I would like to throw $3k from our savings to pay off our expenses this month. (Will do this next week, cash flowing from my paycheck the money that would have gone to savings). I am hoping to cash flow the last $500 or so with credit card rewards and grocery savings on the home front (not buying groceries for 10 days or so). Will see how close to $3,000 I can get.

I think as to the trip, everything but flight home went as well as it could have. I really dislike traveling, but I have a really hard time with jet lag and so on. I am very scheduled and in tune with my body, so I just can never really get over the travel and get lag to actually enjoy. Probably why I enjoy smaller trips. I really thought I was insane to agree to a red eye flight out and was really dreading that part. For whatever reason, I seem to handle these things better with age. Seems counter-intuitive I guess. Maybe once you have a newborn, a one night with no sleep is no biggie. & since that went 10 times better than I ever though it would, I was pretty mellow about being stuck in the airport last night. I'll get a good sleep tonight and my body will slowly adjust back to normalcy. I am sure I will feel miserable for a few days, but I think it's just relative.

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As I look forward to being done with flights and crazy expensive vacations (from our frame of reference), my MIL wants to plan a big trip next year. By itself it is a very generous offer. But it's my MIL and it's a whole thing. Will see...

Dh will probably also go to Florida for his Grandfather's 90th, but we've known that for a while and are just expecting to pay for one cheap-ish airline ticket. Florida in fall has been historically cheap and he will be going with his parents. We know they have time-shares there since we have used them multiple times.

My dream vacation at this point is some National Park road trips with dh. Yellowstone and Grand Canyon are the biggies that we want to do. Maybe 3 or 4 trips I can think of that we want to start doing without the kids. I think this will keep us busy for a while.

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Getting back to reality...

Kids' birthdays are right around the corner and no plans have been made. They both have bigger groups of friends this year and are asking for proper parties. (Usually we have the energy to let them invite one friend over). We will probably oblige. So probably two busy weekends ahead.

Dh should have another MRI soon. I don't expect any news. It will be another years or so before I expect any news. His Doctor is eager to see any potential progress though. He agreed to limit to 2x per year since we have a high deductible plan. Doesn't really matter since MRIs would be free after first two (after deductible maxed) but they do the contrast dye thing and dh doesn't really want any more MRIs than necessary. We always joke how the dye is worse than the brain tumor itself. Seriously, lord knows what that stuff does to your body and they are injecting a lot into his system. But anyway, I expect we will collectively hold our breath a bit until that is done. Always worrying about bad news. (Bad news would be more surgery).

Reminds me, I was shocked to learn that (George) Gershwin died of a brain tumor at age 38. Had no idea. That one kind of knocked me for a loop. They had a Gershwin exhibit at the Library of Congress. (I had no idea he had a brain tumor or that he passed so young).

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I'll try to share some pictures tomorrow a.m. Any costs breakdown will have to wait for a few more days.

Gearing Up for Vacation

June 7th, 2016 at 09:08 am

Dh is officially off work for the summer. His work is always very vague on seasonal schedule (I guess it just depends how things are going). So he mentioned the kids get off school in a couple of weeks and they said that was fine. That his last day could be their last day. Then a few days later Corporate came down and said all the seasonal employees were off work as of last Friday. (If he hadn't of asked ahead of time, I don't know that we would know that was unusual. It seemed they expected to keep seasonal employees until late June; our kids still have a couple of weeks of school).

I am sure dh will enjoy the extra time off!

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This month I am paying off crazy big bills. I paid off the credit cards on the 1st. $5k to one card. Included airfare for our trip, plus some reimbursed professional expenses.

Since I can't go into vacation with a $5k+ credit card balance. Just... can't... do it... I expect to pull $4k from savings this week to pay off the school trip and MRI bill. (I had charged in June to give me some flexibility to pay off. But it's just going to drive me crazy in the interim).

When I get back from vacation I will receive a $3k paycheck that is entirely earmarked for savings. I am guessing I will also just throw that at the credit card to offset our own trip expenses. So maybe three big payments this month. (I would otherwise pay off on the first, so it just means paying down a few days early).

I have not added up trip expenses at all and I don't want to. I expect we will spend more than $3k. I just don't even want to know. I want to enjoy our time. We initially expected to travel in a more off time and to have more flexibility for cheaper airfare. We also initially expected a free hotel room. So our super frugal trip has ended up going in the opposite direction. But we have the money so it just is what it is. Kind of a last hoorah since we aren't planning any more big travel with the kids. I don't remember the last time I paid for a hotel more than a night or two. Probably not since I have been married. & I don't know when I will ever fly my kids (with us) anywhere again. So is a lot of why I am just letting it go.

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I will have two weeks of vacation this month. Our DC trip was literally the only time we could mesh our schedules all year. *sigh* (Which is a huge reason we are done traveling with kids). So we leave on the last day of school and get back the day before our annual family camp trip.

All else being equal, I'd probably just go to camp. It's VERY relaxing and I imagine our DC trip is the kind of vacation that I will need a vacation from. But... I don't want to board my cat extra days and I don't want to leave him home alone 3 nights after boarding him for like 10 days. Plus, I would really like to preserve some vacation for other things. (The last time I took two weeks off was... Never? Maybe my honeymoon? Particularly with kids, I like to be free to take days off here and there as things come up). We've left it that I might just drive up for two days. Would give me two whole days. I am happy with that, as long as I can drive back while it's still light.

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So I got word back that we are confirmed for a white house tour and the Capitol Building tour. Woohoo! (We applied right around the 3 month mark deadline and wasn't sure we'd get in with our last minute trip changes).

Reminds about one cool thing about BM's class trip. One of his classmates parents works at the Capitol and she had arranged a "behind the scenes" type tour this year and will do the same next year. So that's some extra perk that he will get on this other trip.