Sep 25, 2009

Planning (and Paying for) a Dream Vacation

I've mentioned that my dream vacation is an Alaskan cruise, and I was thrilled when my husband said that Disney is going to start offering Alaskan cruises starting in 2011. For us it kills two birds with one stone, because we had also thought about going on a Disney cruise at some point. We've read a lot about them, and people only have good things to report (like this review by Five Cent Nickel at his parenting blog).

I've always thought that both cruises were something we'd do way down the line – the Alaskan cruise in maybe 15 years, and the Disney cruise in maybe 5 years, if it was something we still wanted to do. In fact, I always thought of the Alaskan cruise as something my husband and I would do when the kids had left the nest.

But now that we can combine the two, this is one experience I definitely want us to have. Of course, the most important consideration is cost – no vacation is worth compromising our financial stability for, so we'll have to be able to pay cash for the trip without delving into savings.

Unfortunately, the Alaskan cruise isn't available for booking until September 28, and there doesn't seem to be any pricing information online at the moment. However, based on the prices of their other cruises and what I've seen on the prices of Alaskan cruises, I'm going to guess we'll need at least $6,000 (that includes airfare), and maybe $8,000 to $10,000 if we want to splurge. Yikes, that's a lot of money that could be going toward the mortgage, even assuming I can find a spectacular discount.

In fact, we may decide we're better off not spending the money on a vacation. However, we don't have to make that decision right away. For one thing, I don't want to go in 2011. I want to give Disney a chance to work out the kinks in their new cruise, and I want our youngest to be a little bit older before we leave him in the hands of a mouse with big ears. So we'd go in 2012 at the earliest, which means we couldn't book until a year from now at the earliest.

What I'm going to do in the meantime is start saving money for the trip. I'm confident that we can squeeze some money out of our current monthly budget to put toward the trip. A year or more down the line, we can decide if the best use for the money really is a dream vacation or maybe paying down the mortgage instead.

My preferred method for this kind of designated savings is an ING subaccount. I love that I can name the account according to its use and keep the money segregated so that I don't have to do any fancy accounting – all with the click of a mouse and without the hassle of opening a whole new account. The interest rate at ING isn't the most competitive, but rates aren't good anywhere and keeping my accounts simplified is more important to me than an extra point or two. This vacation account will make the third designated savings account for us at ING.

We'll get to see on Monday if I am anywhere near the mark on the cost of the cruise!

Image credit: Disney Cruise Destinations


Mr Credit Card said...

Now is perhaps the time to consider a credit card reward program to help me "lower your cost". If I were to use my card as an example, Amex membership rewards allows you to redeem points for cruises. Starts at 100,000 for carnival cruise and 300,000 points for others. Even if you have not earned all the necessary points, you can pay part with the points you have and and the rest with your card.

So you have about 3 years to earn points. And you can earn double points by doing things like shopping from their online portal or booking airline tickets from their travel site.

Depending on how much you put on your card a year, you could possibly save quite a bit.

Also, do both of you have corporate business cards. Reason I ask is in my previous jobs, the companies I worked for gave me an Amex corporate card and I earned rewards from them. So I got a personal card and combined them.

Anyway, lots of potential strategies on this issue.

Chief Family Officer said...

@Mr CC - Hm, we do have an Amex card that accumulates World points. I'll have to check that out, thanks!