Summer is in full swing and for divorced families/single parents, managing the summer financial vacation routine can be more stressful than the daily routine of the school year.
Summer vacationing can be hard on the pocket-book. You have the children with you, which is great, but with half or less than half of the money. While this presents a challenge for day-to-day living, it also makes planning summer holidays even more stressful on the bank account. Summer vacationing with the children is often a highlight of the summer and the year. Families take off to the lake and/or mountains to enjoy nature, family and friends in an environment away from the day-to-day routine.
Unfortunately for some this also means spending money that they simply do not have. No parent wants to deny their children a summer holiday and so what can you do to keep up the tradition without going into further debt. The last thing you want to do is come home to increased credit card balances that result in interest payments far beyond the original cost of the vacation in the first place. While perhaps adjusting expectations down from the four and five-star hotels, you can actually create experiences that go far beyond housekeeping services and pillows laden with hotel chocolates.
The key work and summer vacation value is creating memories. We all know that the most memorable times with our parents were about experiences that were often simple in nature but full of emotional connections. It is important that both parents honor the other parent's pocket-book limitations and if there is a mass discrepancy then consider lending a short-term financial hand -- if not for your ex -- then for you kids.
Here are a few fun holiday options and things to consider:
- Camping. There is nothing like campfire conversation under an evening of stars, plus learning to cook over a fire certainly creates lots of interesting challenges and dialog.
- Renting a pool for the back yard for a week and creating a summer vacation at home. Make sure you have a plan for each day so that household chores do not distract you.
- Volunteer as a family either in your hometown or in some other city or country. Perhaps helping a family build a home as it certainly puts things into perspective with regards to the haves and have not's.
- Plan on going to see family. Perhaps the ex did not want to or did not get along with your family but maybe it is time for new beginnings in this regard.
- If you have your favorite place to go but you can no longer afford it -- then consider still going but for less time. Memories do not need to take a week to get -- perhaps a few days are good.
- Consider a fishing trip or a horseback-riding trip. There is nothing like connecting to nature to make us feel grounded, fortunate and blessed.
- Ensure your mediator prepares a comprehensive parenting plan so that vacation times do not need to be readdressed and bartered each year. Find a timeline that works for you at the beginning and stick to it. If this is something that was overlooked in your parenting plan you can meet with a Parenting Facilitator to renegotiate.
- Include in your parenting plan details around the kids contacting their other parent while away. (ie: how often, what times and via text, skype, phone etc.) This may seem unimportant right now but having these small measures in place could save your vacation.
- Be creative and make the best of what you can afford.
- Do not go into debt to go on vacation. Stop the financial bleeding that our society has condoned and live within your means. Your means are good enough and will result in peace and therefore free you up to be the best parent you can be.
Remember, "Fail to plan -- plan to fail".
This wonderful saying hits the nail on the head when it comes to ensuring a smooth summer with the kids. There is no question that co-parenting adds a level of complexity and stress to planning but if you take the time to map out the summer months in advance -- the reward will be well worth it. The irony is that planning meticulously actually allows you to live more freely and spontaneously in the moment.
Children are very flexible and will be empowered in almost every situation as long as the parents are positive, mutually supportive even when conflicted and do not allow their personal agenda or issues to impact the children. Keep your bad news to yourself and share the good news about the summer plans ...and have fun.