Trip of a Lifetime

One of the best perks at my former job was that every 5 years you qualified for a 4 week sabbatical.  4 weeks of vacation fully paid for by the company.  My first sabbatical fell in the same year that I gave birth to Cameron, so we didn’t do much as I had a 6 month old baby at home.  We decided to schedule it during the holiday’s and spend some time relaxing at home over the Christmas season.

For my second sabbatical we decided that we would do a whole lot more.  As the kids would be 9, 5, and almost 3 we decided to plan on using my sabbatical to take the kids to Disney world.  When it came time to decide whether or not I would quit my job and stay home with the kids, one of the hardest parts of that decision was losing out on my sabbatical.  Yes, I would be at home with the kids making the scheduling of a trip like that a little easier, but with only one income it didn’t look terribly likely that we could still afford to take a trip like that.

In the months since I’ve been home we’ve learned a lot about living with a single income.  First, it turns out we were basically living on a single income anyway as the bulk of my paycheck went to pay for our daycare expenses.  Second, with a little bit of budgeting you can stretch your income a whole lot further than you ever thought possible.  This has meant that we’ve been able to still live very comfortably despite the loss of my income.

We still talked about going to Disney World with the kids but hadn’t put any real thought into exactly when we’d go.  We had some money set aside but hadn’t priced out what a trip like this would cost us.  Then a few weeks ago, when the Matt’s family gathered for his mom’s birthday, an idea started being tossed around to take a family vacation together.  The thought was to go on a Disney cruise and possibly spend a few days at the park as well.  Were we interested?  Definately.  Could we afford it…maybe.

We began doing some serious number crunching, and came to the conclusion that we could!!!!!  The finer details are all still being worked out, but we’ve decided that even if the family vacation falls through we’re going to take the kids to Disney World one way or another.  (hopefully it won’t, but when you’re trying to plan a vacation for almost 20 people a lot could happen to derail the plans)

Now that the excitement of realizing we’ll get to take the vacation we’d been dreaming of has worn off, the stress of how much work this will be to pull off is starting to set in.  First things first, we’ll need to get passports for all of the kids.  Matt and I both have one already (though Matt’s needs to be renewed) as we went to the Bahamas on our honeymoon.  I remember the process being kind of a pain in the neck, as the passport office is run by the government (obviously) and so the hours were not conducive to 2 full time jobs.

But the process for getting a passport for an adult is NOTHING compared to getting a passport for your child.  We haven’t gotten very far into the process yet, but from what I’ve read online, Matt and I will both need to be present when we go to apply for their passports, which means he’ll have to burn up a vacation day to be there.  And, unless we can find time when Brendan’s on a school break, we’ll more than likely have to pull Brendan out of school to do the application process as well.  In addition, not only do you need the kids birth certificates and 18 million other forms of identification for them, you have to present 15 million forms of identification for both of the parents as well, and you must provide the same copies with each and every one of the applications…even if you’re doing them all at the same time.

That isn’t even looking at the cost of doing all of this.  Passport fees are truly outrageous in my humble opinion.  But, at least we have some time to get this done.  We’ve decided to go ahead and start the process now, just in case there is any issue which will delay the completion of the application process.  I’d rather get them way in advance than be less than a week out from leaving on this trip and still wondering if the kids passports will arrive in time.

Once we’re done with that, we get to weigh the pros and cons of how to travel there.  Do we drive?  Fly?  The upside to driving is that we won’t incur as much cost to get there, though if my estimates are correct when you factor in hotels, gasoline, and food along the way it adds up to almost as much as the plane tickets.  The downside to driving is that it adds more days to the overall time we’d be gone and since we’re planning on doing this trip during the school year (the cost of taking a trip like this in the off season, instead of the peak summertime season is a HUGE difference) we want to be gone for as little time as possible while still allowing the kids ample time to have fun.

So flying then.  The upside to that is getting there in just a few hours.  The downsides are plentiful for flying as well.  First there is the cost.  I’m doing a lot of research in this area and trying to get us the best deal possible, but the fact remains flying a family of 5 anywhere is not cheap.  Second are the flights themselves.  Going from where we live to Orlando, there are very few direct flights.  When Matt or I travel we try to plan on at least a 1 hour layover in any given airport.  That leaves plenty of time to get from our arrival gate to our departure gate and allows some leway in case our first flight is delayed.  But flying with kids is a whole lot different than travelling alone.

We figure we’ll need to plan on a 2-3 hour layover at minimum because getting the kids across a decently sized airport will take twice as long, and we’ll have to be more cognizant of mealtimes as we travel, meaning we will most likely need to feed them lunch or dinner while on layover in an airport.  Along with that I originally was trying to look at flights that didn’t leave ultra early in the morning or arrive way too late at night.  But what I found was by limiting myself to those parameters really cut down on the number of flights availalbe and almost doubled my overall cost.  So now, I’m still trying not to arrive too late at night but if we have to leave at the butt crack of dawn, so be it.  I’m still hoping that somehow I can find a direct flight, but I’m not holding out too much hope.

If we do fly the next issue will be getting around in Florida.  I know some of Matt’s family is planning to drive rather than fly, so we will have some vehicles available, but will it be enough for everyone?  We don’t know at this point.  So then we look at renting a car, which adds to our overall cost, and seems like a small waste when you consider that the bulk of our time in Florida will be spent on a boat, not driving the vehicle.

Needless to say, there are still a whole lot of details that need to be ironed out.  And as much of a pain in the rear it will be to slog through the details, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything else in the world.  Seeing my kids faces as they experience Disney World for the very first time will more than make up for the amount of work it takes to put this vacation together.

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