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Exactly Why You Should Plan The Vacation You Can’t Afford

Arguably the greatest thing about summer is going on vacation. It seems like everyone is taking sweet little summer trips right now (AHEM Lauren and Chelsea!!!!) and I’m super envious, because for the first time in a while, I don’t feel at all financially secure enough to plan any vacations. Drew and I had planned to go on at least a weekend trip in August when he gets his vacation from work –- however, a few financial setbacks have us wondering if that is a possibility. It might end up actually working out, but even if we realize we can afford it, I’m wondering if it is the best idea during a time when our finances feel so precarious.

However, instead of scrolling through Instagram and lusting after travel-porn posted by Influencers (and my friends who just happened to make better financial decisions than I did this year), I’ve found a more productive way to get my vacation fix without spending a cent, or sending myself into a jealous pity-party weeping over Insta-pics of everyone’s travels to Spain and Thailand.

In short, I’ve gotten into the habit of searching for cute lake cottages on Airbnb, then searching for fun attractions in the surrounding areas of the ones I like most, planning faux-vacations in my head that I’ll never actually shell out for.

It may sound like I’m a little psycho for placing myself into literal fantasies to cheer myself up about my lack of ability to take a real vacation. But it isn’t just me.

In fact, last year, I read a Huffington Post article that low-key changed my life, called “The Happiest Part Of Your Vacation Isn’t What You Think.”

In the article, author Carla Herreria explains a phenomenon which I’ve always known to be true, but have never quite been able to describe. Basically, studies are showing that the happiest and most enjoyable part of a vacation is simply planning it.

Take a look at the article if you don’t believe me. But seriously, it is not at all surprising.

When I look back over the trips I’ve taken, as fun as they’ve all been, I’ve definitely had a ton of fun planning and anticipating them -– possibly more fun than even being on the actual trip.

I also think back on all of the summer days I spent in the library with my college boyfriend looking through travel books, guides, and maps, trying to plan the backpacking trip we’d take “someday” when we had money, or the Disney World trip we’d take to commemorate our graduation. I remember sitting with friends in the high school cafeteria planning imaginary trips to Costa Rica and France, making fantasy lists of all the things we’d do there.

And you know what? It was a lot more fun than a lot of the stress that traveling (and paying for travel) can put on you.

Maybe I’m biased as someone who genuinely loves the idea of travel, and certainly loves a good vacation, but isn’t exactly as ~adventurous~ as I could be. I love the idea of traveling the world; I love fantasizing about it, reading books about it, and even faux-planning it. But when it comes down to it, I’m happiest when I’m close to my hometown, and often feel homesick and sad about dropping hundreds of dollars to go on a trip that ultimately left me missing home.

I know this isn’t the case for everyone –- it seems like more people than ever have been bitten by the travel bug, and it is wonderful to plan real trips, and enjoy going on them when you can actually afford it.

But if you’re like me, with a bank statement that is constantly reminding you that a real trip may not be in the cards this summer, consider some faux-planning.

Go on Airbnb and find your dream Lake Tahoe cabin that you’d never be able to rally up enough friends to actually split the cost with and afford. Watch Disney vacation videos that give you a behind-the-scenes look at every ride and attraction, and excitedly think about the ones you’d want to go on if you were there. Watch House Hunters International and imagine how freaking incredible it would be if you were in the market for a beach house in Ecuador. Google “Beach Houses In Ecuador” and see what’s out there -– for all your search engine knows, you’re in the financial position to buy a vacation home.

And maybe, just maybe, if you distract yourself from scraping together bills and taking yourself on a sub-par vacation this summer by fake-planning your dream one and getting yourself excited about it, you’ll be able to put away those bills this summer, and keep them safe until next summer, when you might be able to actually afford it.

The happiest part of your vacation may not be what you think -– the happiest part of your vacation may not be having one at all. And someday, the happiest part of your vacation will be lying on the beach outside of your vacation house in Ecuador, thanking the universe that you ignored your impulses, faux-planned, and saved enough to get here.

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at!

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  • Rebecca Ann

    I was in your same boat this summer, and had resigned myself to the fact that I would be the only one not taking a vacation this year. So I started really researching Nantucket, which is the dream trip I want to take in the next couple of years. One of my fave bloggers has been visiting there often, so I have a couple ideas of places to go, and I am highly anticipating her Nantucket Travel Guide! I’ve got my savings percentage for “personal/travel” set to increase next month, to really ramp it up and help make this dream a reality. But until then, I’ll be looking into where to stay and what to do, and thinking about who I would actually want to take with me!

    And then, over the weekend, my cousin asked me if I’d like to go with them up North (to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) for a week trip, where the cottage was offered to them for free. So I offered to help with the cleaning before we leave, and now I’m getting to go on a vacation for very little cost (just food and any activities we decide to do)! So I’m hoping your trip will work out, or you luck into something even better =)

  • Savanna Swain

    Girl, I do the exact same thing!!
    In May I went on a 3-week-long vacay to Portugal with my mom, and while it was amazing, nothing compares to the rush of excitement I felt in the 6+ months I spent planning it. I probably looked at over 500 different restaurant menus and pictures of beautiful, coastal landscapes on Trip Advisor. We didn’t even go to most of the places I had bookmarked!
    It was like having something to look forward to every single day, and I think that’s what makes planning so much fun. It lets your imagination take over and be open to all possibilities.

  • nutterbutter

    Got half way into Planning a trip to Puerto Rico with Expedia when I decided to contact AAA travel via my AAA road card. ( Yes they sold me trip insurance) but I got a better deal at the Caribe Hilton in San juan then I would have on my own. Had a Ocean view in the Towers section ( not connected to main hotel but we didn’t care) Had a Blast first week of June 2017.
    Planning my return visit for 2018 or perhaps go to STVI this time. Loved every minute of our stay we would use AAA Travel Agents again without a question. Except the return flight seating,,, I did have to pay $150 to upgrade our seats & get 6 inches MORE of Leg room. It was worth it for both of us. But these agents dont control the seating on popular flights the airlines do. Sometimes you are forced to Pay more for a seat and there are those Baggage fees….