Hey, Bonita!

Summertime Vacation Blues

Hey Bonita, 

I’m bracing for impact for the summer blues. I’m starting grad school in the fall, and since high school the summertime has always been a bummer for me. I see all my friends and people I know going on fun trips, hanging out all the time, doing all the fun summer things—and I’m always stuck either at home or working. I don’t have the money, or the time now, to keep up with all of that, and I don’t understand how a lot of these people do either. Like I know them, and the finances just don’t track. What am I doing wrong? I feel like I’ve wasted my college summers, and it’s hitting harder than ever this year.

Your Blue Friend

Hey there Blue,

What you’re not seeing is that there is a lot of planning and saving that goes on for us blue-collar folks when we take a vacation. I just got back from a very “coastal elite” location, and this trip had been in the works for years. And I mean that—I was thumbing through my journal the other day and found an entry from 2019 lamenting the fact that I’d never get to go to the exact place I just got back from. We’d had to cancel the trip back then when funds didn’t work out, and it was like a gut punch to me. I remember thinking that I was aiming too high and trying to do “too much,” which really spoke to my deep-seated fears that I was a bum who wasn’t allowed to experience decadence. That my lot in life was to slave away at jobs that barely met my needs, and that the best vacation I could look forward to was visiting my parents two states over. I figured that the vacation didn’t happen because I wasn’t meant to exist in the same space as an affluent person—I’m not allowed, that’s not something that I’m meant to do, so obviously the universe firebombed my finances to keep me stuck in Athens. I have cousins who do nails for a living but can still take their kids to Cozumel and Destin every year—how is that fair?

It’s not an issue of fairness, but preparedness. What my cousin knew long before me was that you can book hotels, flights and certain attractions way before you go on your trip, and that’s what she does several times a year. She takes advantage of cruise packages and resort promotions, or if she wants something less structured, she’ll just book an Airbnb and start Googling fun local events. She does this months in advance of her vacations so that she can save as much as possible, and when she touches down, she balls.  

So that’s what I did for my coastal elite vacation. I bought my plane ticket almost a full year before the trip, and we booked our rental car and Airbnb in October of last year. All I had to do between then and May was save my pennies, and I had enough time to save way more than I ended up needing. I didn’t deny myself a single meal, attraction or luxury in which I wanted to indulge. I am the lowest paid person in my workplace, and some of my coworkers have salaries that allow them to jetset all over, but my money spends just like theirs does. If they can make a vacation happen, then so can I.

Don’t take it personally that your broke friends are traveling. They just know how to plan and save. Just ask them how they are making these vacations happen, and plan one for yourself and a friend so you can split some of the costs. That’s what I did, and I still have tan lines from my first vacation in four years. I was able to spread out the cost of this trip over 12 months, and I think that’s going to be your easiest path to taking a trip of your own. Buy the plane ticket way ahead of time when they’re cheap, and if you’re going somewhere super touristy or expensive during the summer, try to show up just slightly ahead of tourist season for less crowds and lower prices. Have fun!

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