Over the next day, we’ll be packing for our family Hawaii trip. This is the first “air travel” trip we’ve taken with both kids. It’s going to be a big learning experience. Wish us luck! Traveling with young children can be frustrating, and tiring. I expect I’ll be entirely ‘ready to crash’ when we arrive on the Big Island.
Right now, we’re packing! We need to pack a ridiculous number of things for just the 8 days we’ll be gone, which is a gentle reminder that travel is really just another form of consumption…
Consuming Experiences, Not Things
Travel is something almost everyone loves to do. Experiencing new places, people, and things, makes life seem new and exciting again. Travel can make you a more worldly person. It can broaden horizons and give new perspectives on life. It can also be extremely expensive, depending upon how you conduct yourself.
These days, I mainly view travel as “consumption of services” instead of “consumption of goods”. Travel is still consumption, we just consume ‘air travel’, ‘rental cars’, ‘hotel rooms’ and similar services instead. This kind of consumption creates ‘experiences’ instead of ‘physical goods’.
It’s also worth noting that humans can become just as hedonically adapted to experiences as they can to physical goods.
What’s Wrong With That?
To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with a little consumption. A nice domestic trip here and there can be enjoyable and refreshing on a budget. Travel spending can also be taken waaaay too far…
Many of my working friends spend most of their yearly time-off on giant travel extravaganza’s that last only a few days. During these
orgies of spending vacations, they frequent luxury hotels, eat at fancy restaurants, and go on organized “hand holding” tours of exotic locales. Pampering abounds! These same individuals end up blowing a good chunk of their yearly savings income on these trips…no wonder they’re still working!
Even worse, with a 1-week vacation (7 days), if you travel internationally you automatically lose 2 days just to traveling. I don’t know about you, but using 28.5% of my vacation time to sit on airplanes and stand in TSA lines is NOT a good use of my time.
Guilty As Charged
I totally admit I’m guilty of wasteful travel spending too. When I was working a regular 60-hour-a-week job, this kind of vacation seemed normal to me. I was exhausted from my regular work schedule and in desperate need of a break. It seemed like I deserved a nice vacation for all my hard work.
Mrs. Tako and I would end up going on 1-week international vacations to ‘escape’ from the drudgery of our existence (at least for a little while). Thankfully, we still saved at least 50% of our income. in hindsight, this behavior was all wrong…what we really needed was a different kind of escape.
These were fun experiences, but I kind of regret spending that money now. It’s like taking an aspirin to fix chronic migraines; the pain-killer might relieve symptoms for a few moments, but it won’t fix the problem. In my case, the ‘pain-killer’ was travel, but the ‘problem’ was my wage-slave job.
Instead of spending money on international travel, I should have funneled it into our investments. With that extra money and extra time for investments to grow, I probably could have achieved financial independence years earlier. With those extra years, we could have engaged in slow travel and taken the time to travel efficiently, instead of quickly.
Instead of telling myself “I deserve it, I worked hard“, I should have been telling myself “What you need to buy before luxury travel is freedom. Luxury can come later.“
Thankfully, our eminent Hawaii trip isn’t going to be quite as bad as the situation I described earlier. We’re traveling with extended family, so we’re splitting the cost of a larger residence (a huge money saver). But, that also means a longer vacation is out of the picture. We’ll be on the island for 8 days, with roughly 1 day of traveling. One of the flights is also a red-eye! I especially like traveling at night. I may not arrive quite as fresh as in a bed, but at least I didn’t waste daytime hours!
How We Travel Now
With the tiny vacations allowed by America’s major corporations, I can understand why ultra luxury vacation packages exist – Maximizing the experience when you have so little time off seems like fairly sensible logic. We no longer try to ‘maximize our experience’ when we travel. We simply try to live like local people:
No More Hotels. Frankly, I think hotels just aren’t targeting families anymore. We aren’t the
droids customers they’re looking for. Instead, we rent houses and condo’s for less than the same nightly cost of a hotel. For this trip, we used HomeAway to book our lodging. They frequently have the advantage of being cheaper than a resort hotel, with additional amenities that families need, like a washer & dryer and a kitchen.
Eat At Very Few Restaurants. Just like when we’re at home, we don’t eat out often. Why should life on the road require you to eat out? Because we stay in houses with kitchen amenities, we frequently cook at our temporary home. This can be a huge money and time saver! No more waiting in line for a table! No more crowded restaurants, mediocre food, or tips for bad service! Win!
More Learning & More Culture. Lately, my views on travel have changed. I think travel should be a learning experience. Anyone can go to a popular tourist destination and snap a photo. It’ll be the same photo as a million others on google. Instead of focusing on visual experiences, what can you learn from traveling? Instead of spending on pre-packaged tours, try spend your time in a museum, go to a free local event, or tour a local factory (my favorite). Even if they don’t give regular tours, friendly business owners might still be willing to show you around.
Hiking & Parks. Nature is one of the best things to experience, and free parks have to be one of the greatest inventions ever. Whoever invented this institution needs a medal! Our family loves parks, hiking, and being outside! The boys just love playing on park play structures, and running around. Did I mention they’re free?
More Time. When possible, we try to stay longer in a location now. This has many positive benefits, not the least of which is minimizing overall travel time relative to the vacation length. Efficiency and optimization ftw!
Traveling on Wednesday
We’ll be traveling on Wednesday, so please don’t expect any replies to emails, comments or updates to the site. I expect to have a fairly decent internet connection once we arrive, and should be able to update the site occasionally. In the meantime, I better get back to packing!
[Image Credit: Flickr]
[Image Credit: Flickr]