Skip to content

A Satisfying Vacation: 5 Ways I Was Happy To Spend Money This Summer (And 1 Total Miss)

We just returned from a 2-week holiday: a mix of visiting friends & family, and down-time with our little fam of 5.

I usually come from vacation with plenty of thoughts on money, spending, and value. No surprise there, because vacation is when you spend the money that you worked hard saving all the time leading up to the break!

We’ve had some hits & misses over the years, both generally speaking and specifically in the ways we’ve chosen to spend our vacation money. This summer was no exception, although I do think that we’re (slowly) learning and hitting more than we’re missing with our wallets.

Here are 5 things I was happy about in our summer vacation spending:


1. Groceries instead of eating out

Two years ago, I realized that what brought me supreme unhappiness on vacation was spending money on food for children that was either a) complained about, or b) left uneaten. Dining out has always been one of my fave indulgences, which made it doubly offensive!

This year, we did two full-day road trips, plus lots of exploring & location-shifting in between. I embraced our trusty jar of peanut butter (and Nutella because, vacation), loaves of bread, fresh fruit, occasional bag of chips, and really ALL THE SNACKS because muddling through a trunk full of random snacks was inevitably much more satisfying (for me) than “this kind of chicken finger is weird.”

I also felt more freedom to spend a little more than I normally would on food, knowing that it was always still less pricey than a meal out for 5 (even fast food). I tried handcrafted tonics for G & Ts (at the end of the day, folks, not on the road 😉), some of the all-time best bacon ever, and we bought 4 baker’s dozens (52!) of corn ears straight from a farm, picked that day, to eat & leave with my cousin’s family of 10.

The meals-out-embargo was also made possible by…

2. Ice cream & coffee

The wallets were open at the coffee shops, friends!  What I “lacked” in meals at restaurants, I certainly made up for with a variety of lattes, baked treats, and ice cream cones.

It wasn’t cheap, but it was much cheaper than a full meal. I only had to ever buy 2 fancy coffees — no argument from kids here — and the whole thing was just enough to feel like I was on vacation and enjoying the culinary fruits of someone else’s labor.

On our last full day, I was ready for great coffee in a big city, but totally done with overpriced baked goods. That’s when the kids stepped in with their own holiday fluff fund and bought “authentic, hand-crafted” donuts themselves!

3. Enough beds

Historically, accommodation is where we have placed the least budget priority for a trip. Travelling as a couple in Europe or NYC, we “made do” with somewhere sleepable.

Now, as a parent, I’ve wised up. No sleep = no fun. It was a 100% non-negotiable to me that whatever accommodation I was paying for, there needed to be a proper bed space for all three kids. No regrets!

(a double bed = room for two! 😂


4. Free swimming

We did pay for swimming once at a resort pool, but we also swam 7 or 8 other times without spending a dime! Swimming is one of my summer love languages, and finding a lake or warmish part of the Pacific was all I needed to finish the day with a smile on my face.

It was an activity with big bang for (no) buck, and a total win for us. Hiking was a close second.


5. Babysitting & a movie night on the first full day back at home

So long, suckas!


And a miss…


I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle last year; I wasn’t convinced to start farming my own food, but I was inspired to shop for more locally-produced goods. So, I was very keen to go to the local farmer’s market on the small West Coast island Salt Spring, well-known for its makers, artists, & small-scale farmers.

As we perused the goods, one guy offered us a taste of melon. Very impressive, as far as melons go, I thought; plus, just about everything else, like strawberries or tomatoes, we would burn through in 5 seconds.

Walking back through the market a second time, I decided I would buy that melon, even though there were no prices posted. He weighed it and made a big gesture that he would round it down from $17 to $15 (!!!). I was stuck, and I felt too embarrassed to back out. So, we ate our overpriced melon and I shook my head and chalked it up to vacation margin of error!


What are your holiday hits & misses? Must-haves? Must-never-waste-money-on-agains? Comment below, or join our FB group to chat all things "Shop Good"!

Leave a comment

Your cart is empty