Our Italian Road Trip – Affording it.


In the comments section of our Italian Road Trip post Jennifer has asked:


How are you guys affording this? We only have five children and I have dreamed of taking trips with them, but we NEVER have the money. I’m sorry to ask such a personal question, but I don’t understand how these large families can do these extravagant trips.


Mike suggested I answered with a short, sharp “We’re rich” but I thought otherwise.

I began answering in the comments section but the answer grew and grew and grew and was in danger of becoming a life form all of its own so I thought I’d address it in its own post right here.

Here goes:

I have already spoken about going without, making sacrifices, planning this trip for years and sticking to a tight budget.

The money isn’t just “there”. It doesn’t appear from nowhere. Neither was this “extravagance” arranged or planned on a whim but for over ten years. A very long time. Half of which we didn’t have a holiday at all.  Plus we’ve been paying off debts during that time too so hopefully (God willing) we will be completely debt free by the end of this year.

We don’t drink, don’t smoke and rarely go anywhere that costs.  We often wonder how people can afford their cigarettes or bottles of wine every week!  I wouldn’t quiz them about it though, it’s not my place.  Car usage and fuel costs is at a minimum as we don’t have school runs and we generally work from home.  On the whole, we’re pretty boring.

We were planning on putting our house on the market and moving.  That has been put on hold.  With the money which was ear-marked for that we now have a choice between re-decorating the house (most rooms haven’t been done since we bought it five years ago) and replacing furniture or doing this trip. We’ve opted for the trip of a lifetime. An “extravagance” once in our lifetime and likely never to be repeated.  Re-decorating will be done slowly on an as and when basis.

As you may or may not know, we’re both self employed.  Mike will be squeezing any and all work he can before the trip as he obviously won’t be able to work during the time we are away.  Any “extra” money we make between us is ear-marked for the trip.  I’m still going to be working during the trip, earning at least half if not most of our fuel and food costs (remember, we’re still going to be sticking to a budget and not spending left, right and centre) whilst we are on the road.  We made a point of renting properties which have Wi-Fi so that I can do just that.  Plus we’ll be getting any book sales revenue whilst we’re away too.  You have to love residual incomes, don’t you?!

Home educating and self employment means that we can take advantage of going out of season.  The beginning of April through to the beginning of June is a great time to find some fabulous bargains.  We found a week in France in May for under £300.  In fact, four rentals (that’s one month of our trip) cost us less than five nights at Disneyland this year did for four adults (we paid for my mother in law and as Cait was over 12 we had to pay adult price for her too.  The younger children all went free under their “Under 12’s go free deal” – and we thought that was a bargain!).

Out of interest I researched and found out that a seven night caravan break at Haven holiday park in Dorset costs £949 for a maximum of eight people in August.  Personally, I wonder how people can afford that.  We would need two caravans if we did that yet our finances probably wouldn’t be questioned if we did.  Nobody would care to do a little homework to compare the possibility of a trip to France, even to Italy for the price they’ll pay out for a camp site, automatically assuming a camp site would be cheaper.  Apathy, ignorance and laziness can be costly.  The entire accommodation costs for our whole trip come to less than the amount we have paid out for the last two years ordinary holiday costs.  We’ll be driving, so paying out the fuel costs but we’ll be eating regardless of whether we’re at home or away, so those costs will be the same.

By arranging accommodation directly with the owners (many of whom are happy to negotiate on the advertised price), driving and arranging our own travel and keeping to a budget means that our way of making this trip a reality is much, much cheaper than automatically opting for a package deal, flights and hotels.  That would be way out of the question and nowhere near possible to do financially.

We won’t be paying out our home educating curriculum costs during the time we’re on the road which will save a pretty penny.  This trip is an investment of several sorts.  It’s an investment in our children’s education (and our own), and it’s also an investment into the book we will be writing about the trip, which will in turn provide us with some kind of revenue and income long after the event has ended.

A couple of other commenters on our Italian Road Trip post also stated their plans or commented on similar trips.  I think you’ll find a common theme of planning and budgeting mentioned in all of them.

So, having now found myself in a position where I’ve ended up having to explain myself again I’d like to ask you a question.

If you were to implement changes to your own life and budget for the next 5-10 years with a goal such as this in mind would you still not be able to achieve it?  Would you take on extra work?  Put takeaways on hold?  Reduce the use of a vehicle or sacrifice things you wouldn’t normally think twice about paying out for?  You say you NEVER have any money.  I will be so bold as to say that everyone can save or earn extra money somewhere if they really want to and have a goal in sight.

5 thoughts on “Our Italian Road Trip – Affording it.

  1. People really do have an issue with making assumptions about ‘expensive’ things and ‘cheap’ things. My husband and I eat out at restraunts regularly (that will change when we have older children but right now, it’s just the two of us and a little one) and I suspect some people frown upon it. But I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve paid full price at a restaraunt. We also order water by default, unless we’ve discussed splurging on a drink. I’ve done the math, and it is only marginally more expensive for us to eat out at most of the mid-range restaraunts we choose with the vouchers we get, and some of the vouchers I have gotten over the years actually make it cheaper! (cooking for two is more expensive per person than cooking for 10, and we choose to prioritise our food and nutrition above most all other expenses, so while we use mince and cheap but healthy options regularly, our meals are generally not $2 a serve wonders). When I am suffering hyperemesis (severe morning sickness), even when it’s managed with medication, my appetite is tiny for most of pregnancy. It hardly seems worth cooking, which leaves my husband eating junk instead of cooking a real meal. When my appetite is like that, my husband, daughter and I can often happily split a single meal, maybe with a side to stretch it on a good day, or I’ll order an entree instead of a main. Again, in that specific situation, it’s actually quite cost effective for us.

    But people see us eating out and they think of the bill they recieve when they order entree, mains, sides, dessert and drinks, and think we are spending a fortune! Just choosing not to buy drinks would save them a LOT of money going out.

    We have the same issue with ‘things’. My daughter has a lot of toys and clothes. What they don’t see is that last christmas I wanted to get her a baby activity table but couldn’t imagine paying $80 for one brand new, which, in Australia, was the going price for anything not junky. I looked online, and ended up with two activity tables, as well as two other large toddler activity station-type toys, for a total of $40! We now rotate these toys on a weekly basis, and I know when the second baby is home we will have more than enough to share between them. I’ve never bought her a stuffed animal, and yet she manages to have a huge pile of them. And clothes? She is often noticed for her nice clothes. Occasionally I’ll buy something from the shops, but 95% of her wardrobe is made up of hand-me-downs and weekly trips to the thrift store, picking up one or two items each time and being patient and organized. We have ended up with so much nice clothing I can now, as I unpack for our second baby, pass on or sell a large amount of it.

    I remember as a child our family of 6 managed to have a holiday every year. A lot of people seemed to question it. What they didn’t see was our entire 4 day holiday including extras for luxuries and the food we brought from home cost less than two weeks of rent (trying to use comparisons since actual dollar amounts don’t translate between countries very well). All they could see was how their on-peak, eating out, souviners and activities holiday easily cost 10 times their weekly rent.

    On the other hand, people seem to consider DVDs to be cheap, snack foods are considered cheap, coffee is considered cheap, but it’s only because it’s a small, short term cost. I’m going to work in Australian dollars here so translate it to whatever makes sence in your country. People don’t think about handing over a $5 note 5 times a week for coffee, but they would hesitate to hand over $1300 in one lump sum during the year. One $20-$30 DVD each week dosen’t sound like much to most people, but $1040-$1560 in a lump sum is suddenly expensive. Just choosing to direct that money from DVDs to dinners out, we could eat out anywhere from 3-6 times a month on the lower amount alone, 4-9 times on the higher one (depending on whether I’m pregnant and the level of restaraunt we visit) and yet no one would bat an eyelid if we bought 4 DVDs a month, that’s considered a normal, cheap everyday expense. It’s all about perspective. Now, it’s not wrong to buy DVDs, don’t get me wrong, the point is making the concious decision about where your money is going to go. If family movie night is a big thing at your house and you like to re-watch movies, it makes perfect sense to buy them. My husbands family watched movies together most nights, so it made a lot of sense for them. We don’t tend to re-watch movies, so we find renting them out or borrowing them makes more sense, but we DO love to watch TV series’ on DVD, so we do purchase those.

    The question is in your priorities, which is worth more to you, $1300 in coffee, or a $1300 holiday (and let me tell you, if you know how to find good deals and plan a budget holiday, that’s a LOT of money for a holiday!). For us, neither is a priority actually. We prefer mid-term costs. That $1300 goes onto mid-sized monthly purchases like cooking and craft equipment, special days out, games and special treats, new technology, learning experiences, dinner out, etc.

    It’s not about expensive vs cheap, it’s about budgeting and priorities.

  2. Well written. We have 6 children and usually take at least one “big” holiday each year, either a camping trip or staying in rental accomodation. My husband’s workmates often ask him how we can afford 3 vehicles, a house, and regular holidays let alone feeding and clothing 6 children (and paying fo their ballet, gym, sport etc…) He just tells them basically what you’ve written …. we plan and budget …. we often go without the ‘daily’ luxuries (like coffee from a coffee shop) so we can afford the things we think are important.

  3. we are a family of 6, (will be 7 in November) and since we met in 1999 and had our first child in 2000, we have had holidays every year, at least one but usually 3 or 4!

    The last three years we have been abroad.

    Someone actually asked my eldest son this year when we came back from tenerife if ‘charity’ paid for it!! I was livid.

    Like yourselves, we do not smoke, drink or go out very much spending lots of money.

    We do both work and live to a budget so we can afford luxuries, even our food shopping is budgeted to the penny, mainly because I hate waste.

    We also get rid of our unwanted ‘stuff’ every few months, last year the money we made paid for a much needed new sofa and this year has paid for a newer trailer tent.

    We too are planning a camping trip abroad, hopefully for 6 weeks, either next year or the one after, taking our own accommodation makes it even more affordable.

    I get quite defensive about what we spend and hate people making assumptions.

  4. With 6 kids at home and 3 step children during holidays we save all year round so we have a little extra so we can spoil and do things when we are all together as a family which isnt as often as we would like.

    With 6 kids at home its hard when it comes to financial budgeting as they always need something. My husband and I always go without, I buy my clothes from cheap places, I feel guilty if I treat myself.

    At the end of the day whos business is it how you afford to take your family away? They need to go and spend more time looking in the mirror than slating you!

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