Treat yourself... you won’t forget it


The following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try to give all of the material posted on this site.

I always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more than 50,000 words by the end of November.

Thank you.

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I’ve been doing a lot of writing about travel over the years, and some recent efforts got me thinking. There seems to be two ideas that are in direct opposition…

Concept number one -- The budget travels

How many of us have taking a trip… yesterday, today, or even planning one for tomorrow… where the budget really mattered? I mean -- phone in hand mid-trip to check the available balance on your credit cards -- down to the last dime.

I’m guessing virtually all of us.

Cost is a huge factor in planning to travel. (Understood… part of journeying to Australia is being able to stand the 35-day flight. But when you see the cost of tickets, that length of time being spent in the air might not matter.)

If you live in New England, cost can be the difference between camping in New Hampshire for a weekend and a peak-season visit to Key West.

Price can steer you away from theme parks, plane trips, and fancy dinners.

And then…

Concept number two -- The vacation tax (or, it always costs more at the airport)

Disney World.

It is not cheap. And yet…

There is a reason that… according to numbers I heard about fifteen years ago… at any single moment in time, there are about 250,000 people (or more) on the Walt Disney World property.

In some places you expect to spend more. You might even pay attention less to what you;’re spending.

Without looking at diving too deeply down the rabbit hole on this one… we can debate forever where proper planning can lead to savings on hotels and car rentals and so on… the idea I’m bringing about here is simple…

I think we can all agree that you make your own memories… that approaching things from a financially-based need does not necessarily mean a reduced enjoyment of a vacation. In fact, there are people that would prefer campfires and weekends in a national park over a first class flight to a hotel suite in Vegas.

What has me attempting this essay though is slightly different.

I’m talking about splurging.

I’m thinking about spending money that you don’t necessarily intend to spend.

Do you really need that new tent and canoe? Do you really need a convertible rental car?

And… yeah… in some ways I think you do.

In other words -- a summary concept if you will, that may not tip the scales, but certainly relieves any and all guilt -- when done right, I believe you will always be thankful for the times you spend a little more on vacation.

It’s kind of a weird concept, because I am most certainly not telling you that you need to spend more money in order to enjoy a vacation.

There’s an old expression… basically a theory depicting the battle between the head and the heart (careful thought against emotional drives)… that seems to work quite well here. And yes, often there can be a balance.

As many have joked over the years, the wheels on the plane hit the runway at the same time for first class seats as they do for the lower fare regions of the plane.

You can certainly enjoy a trip based on pancakes made in the hotel room and pizzas just as much as you could spending hundreds per person at the most expensive of restaurants.

And there is absolutely zero guarantee that plans will go as, well, planned.

Don’t believe me? Call a company that books for a whale watching boat. They’ll commit to the idea that you’ll see water. They will never tell you that with absolutely certainty you’ll see orcas and humpbacks and so on.

Heck… when Terry and I went on such a cruise recently, we were talking to some people that had their plans delayed and then cancelled due to boat troubles. At first it seemed like it would only be a delay, but when the boat couldn’t go out… and other times while they would be in the area were booked solid… it ended up that there would be no whale watching trip for them. Yup… that’s right… in the end, their charter boat company couldn’t even promise them a boat ride.

I’m talking about something a bit different though.

It might be as subtle and simple as purchasing the commemorative photograph at the end of the roller coaster ride. The trick is… I can recall the times of regret where I wish I had taken out my wallet out… off-hand, I don’t recall a single time when I regret that I did pay the extra dollars.

In 2007, Terry and I went on a trip to California with Ellen, Richard, Louise and Mike. Our four friends had been helping us out with a project at our house, and we had been looking for a way to express our gratitude. All of us were planning on wine tastings and visits to vineyards during our vacation. So, we explored getting a car to drive us around for a day. That way, we could all drink without having to worry about driving. Plus, we would have the advantage of a driver that knew the area and places we were going.

Later on that trip we did get to some properties on our own. And I have no doubt we could have had a wonderful day driving ourselves around to some of the same properties… or even different ones. But… all of us would never have sampled the wine tastings if we had… we might not have covered nearly as much ground… and, thank you Norm, we got some great advice for some remaining possibilities during our stay.

Was it a splurge? Absolutely. And yet all six of us recall it today and one of the best complete days of the trip.

In 1997, Terry and I took Jay and Justin on a trip… which was the first vacation with significant travel for them. As an example, terry, Jay and Justin stepped onto a plane for the first time on that adventure.

While planning it, Terry wanted to include everything. Having never really traveled before… much less having never traveled with her boys before… she in part believed this might be a one-and-only journey to Florida. So we added Key West to the trip and stretched it out over two weeks. Disney… Universal… Dolphin Research Center… a catamaran sail with snorkeling… and it was a fabulous vacation.

In 2003, Terry, Jay, Justin and I went to Australia. My sister, who lives near Sydney with her family, suggested a walk on the Sydney Harbor Bridge. It’s called the Bridge Climb, and it is stunning.

So it could be a day… it could be the entire trip… and it might just be a single moment or event… the concept remains the same…

I don’t recall a time that I spent a bit more to get something extra… to experience something additional… to obtain something… during a trip where I regretted it later.

We all know that there are pitfalls and traps and expenses that go along with travel. It could simply be getting a bottle of water at the airport. Might be the incidentals that add up during a day in the theme park. And we all smile through them… trying to navigate the journey while tripping as few needless expenses as possible. (“See, if you eat breakfast in the room…”… “By bringing a bottle of water to the park with me…”… “We always plan as many picnic lunches as we can…”…)

Those ideas and efforts are all well and good (and smart). You should look for ways to save money when you can. And this entire rambling essay is about spending money wisely, not foolishly.

I vividly recall a walk I took with Terry, Jay and Justin through some Australian forest trails.

I cherish a picnic lunch overlooking the Pacific Ocean with Terry, Ellen, Richard, Louse and Mike.

Both, essentially, free to do. Also irreplaceable and unrepeatable as moments of my life.


In 2005 we took a family trip to Disney World. And by that, I mean is was a group of thirteen people.

Naya… one of my nieces… had a few moments where we perfected the “scoop and run” technique of attraction awareness. And by that, I mean she got scared, and one of us needed to get her out of the room as quickly as possible.

At one point we were in the Animal Kingdom, and on the Dinosaur ride. A few seconds in, I recalled that there was a surprise finish to the ride, with a dinosaur encounter. Not only was I sitting next to Naya, I also had no way of escaping with her. So… as the moment approached… I quickly lifted my hand and placed it over Naya’s eyes. It worked.

Sort of.

See… that also just so happens to be the moment they snap a picture of you. And there we were… the family in a ride vehicle… with Naya looking right at the camera and possessing all the proper body language that represents a girl that is both aware of what is going on as well as the direction of where it is happening, with Uncle Bobby’s hands covering her eyes.

Cost us a few bucks to buy the picture. It is priceless to us today.

On the walls of our home are photographs of similar moments. The boys on ET’s bicycle, or on a roller coaster at Busch Gardens during that 1997 Florida trip… moments from their childhood.

Justin remembers seeing a sea turtle while scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef in 2003.

This has been a funny essay to write. I don’t want to come across saying you have to spend money, because obviously, you don’t. That said…

I can tell you that when you can, don’t be turned off when it comes to treating yourself. You won’t regret it.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at