#1 - Everyone contributes ideas
It is important that everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the experience. It is my vacation, but it is also my mom's vacation and my sister's vacation. We have similarities, but we also have differences. The key early on is to communicate, manage expectations and go into the vacation with a plan that we all agree on.
During the pre-planning stages, the three of us research the destination and throw out different ideas and events for consideration. Everything is open for discussion, including but not limited to: hotels, restaurants, live music, parks, etc. We also each pick out our individual top 3 must-do's.
For example, I really love being around animals. So, if there is a petting zoo or deer park at the place we are vacationing that would certainly make my must-do list. My sister on the other hand lives on a farm, so paying $10 to pet a few goats seems absurd to her. Sometimes she comes along and sometimes she goes to the coffee shop until my mom and I are out of goat milk.
My mom loves to garden. On her must-do list is a nursery. I on the other hand have zero interest in flowers or plants. So, I may wander around for a few minutes before I find a cozy spot in the sun to sit and listen to music or read or write.
My sister loves self-care experiences. She loves custom coffee and deep tissue massages. I will get a massage any day of the week, but my mom will pass and you can find her under an oak tree making art until we are done.
The point is that we have different interests and different ideas of what makes up a great vacation. The success is in the details, in the planning, so that each of us have something that is ours that we are excited to experience.
#2 - create an iteneriry
Based on the recommendations provided during the planning stages and everyone's must-do's, I draft an itinerary. I look at the locations of the activities and if there are certain days or times when the activity is taking place. For example, the farmers market might only be open Thursday morning's and a live band we want to see will only play on Saturday night.
It is a bit like putting a puzzle together. You have all the pieces and now you need to fit them all together in a way that maximizes the time. Ideally, we are not driving back and forth to activities but have a day or half a day when we are in one location.
We also have a list of shopping venues and their locations on-hand. When we get to the destination for the day we may also hit some of those up. Also, if we past by something in the destination for the day we may choose to stop. The itinerary is meant to show the big picture plan and then we fill in the details depending greatly on weather.
Last year, we vacationed in Door County, WI. Here is an example of that itinerary:
#3 - the money pot
After the itinerary is finished we determine how much money each person needs to contribute to the money pot. You have to do the planning first, because how do you know how much money you need if you don't know what you are going to do. Are you going to a show? Renting a boat? Getting a manicure? Going mini-golfing? When you are researching activities, take note of how much the activity costs per person.
Here is an idea of what expenses you may split.
Last year, each person had to bring $525.00 cash to the vacation. $228.00 of that went towards the hotel. As soon as we arrived we paid for the hotel. We did not want to carry around more cash then necessary and it was nice to have this big expense out of the way.
That left us with $297.00 each to go into the money pot or $891.00 total for the entire trip. I am the one assigned to the money pot. I only keep half of the money on me and put the other half somewhere else until we need to pull from it.
Every time we do an activity or eat a meal or get a snack (or drink) we pull funds from the money pot. If we need to fuel up or get groceries we pull funds from the money pot. The only time we do not use the money pot is when we are shopping. If I purchase a shirt, obviously that comes out of my own money. I have two different pouches to ensure that my personal money does not get mixed in with the pea pod pot money.
At the end of the vacation, we count up the money left over and divide it three ways. I cannot recall a year when we didn't get money back. Sometimes it was only a few bucks and sometimes we get $100 back. If we get a large sum of money back it usually means that we skipped an event like a play because of the weather, etc. What a great feeling to go home with money in your pocket. A perfect end to a perfect vacation.
Having a money pot prevents arguing about who is going to pay for what and when. It keeps everything simple and fair. We are all respectful of the money pot, meaning no one is purchasing a $30 glass of wine. We get what we want at the time and it at equals out in the end.
#4 - whose bringing, what
We also create a list of who is going to bring what to the vacation. Most recently, we started making and eating breakfast in the hotel room.
For one, this saves money. And second, finding a place to eat breakfast without an hour wait time was impossible on most days. We just assumed to eat at the hotel and get on the road as soon as possible to enjoy our scheduled activities. By the time we waited at a restaurant, it was already mid-morning and it became more frustrating than enjoyable so we switched it it up.
Here is a list of what we each decided to bring last year.
Tiffany to Bring
Mom to Bring
Sister to Bring
What to Buy When we Get There
#5 - vacation recap
After we get back from vacation, we each send each other a recap. What did we like? What did we not like? What should we do again? What could we skip? Did we bring too much money? Not enough? Should we stay in the same hotel again? We each give our thoughts about the experience.
Here were some of our thoughts from last year's vacation:
Doing this recap is extremely helpful for when it comes time to plan next year's vacation. You think you will remember, but you don't. When we visit Door County again these notes will help us so that we do not need to start from scratch. And, even if you don't go to the same location some of the recap notes are general enough that you will reference them no matter where you go.
16 years and counting
So, in summary...
This year mark's the 16th year of doing Pea Pod. The vacations are fun and stress-free because of the work we put in BEFORE and AFTER the vacation.
DURING the vacation we spend the time actually enjoying each other, the experiences and less time saying "what should we do now?"
I'l love to hear your tips for successful vacations. Please comment below.