Monday, June 09, 2008


My mother-in-law passed away a year and a half ago. She went quickly, a particularly aggressive ovarian cancer. Affectionate but not close in life, in death, she has become somewhat of an inspiration to me. Living on very little money, she still managed to indulge her greatest love, travel. She also managed to leave my husband a little money, and this year we're trying to use that money to travel the way we know she'd want us to. We've already spent a week in Disney (for the kids!), and right now I'm planning our trip to the Pacific Northwest in August.

Planning a trip with two kids is a bit challenging. We have to always consider whether they'll be able to handle an attraction. I think we've planned our trip well, 2 to 4 days in each part of the PNW we'll be visiting. 3-4 days in Seattle, 3-4 days in Portland visiting one of my oldest friends, and 3-4 days on the Oregon coast. It's enough variety to keep the kids - and us - from getting bored.

What's funny is that money isn't really an obstacle. Our plane tickets have been paid for (we no longer keep debt on the credit cards) and all we need are accommodations for about 6 nights in Seattle and on the Oregon coast. And yet I cannot bring myself to pay the $200+/night prices in the midrange Seattle hotels.

There's a frugality inside me, born of years of living on a teacher's salary (my father's, then my own). I remember September as being the hardest month. My father saved part of his 9-month salary to cover the summer, and he supplemented with summer work such as building houses, working at summer camps, and even working as a seasonal US Customs Inspector at JFK. But it was never enough, and we waited and waited for that third Thursday in September, the first paycheck of the year.

I guess I do not understand how paying for a more expensive hotel nets any benefit to me. I can see that location may be worth the extra cost, but there is a pleasure to be had in navigating the non-touristy areas of an unfamiliar city either by car or public transit. Amenities? All I want is a cold Diet Coke in the morning and a hot shower. A pool for the kids would be nice, but not necessary. Higher quality beds or linens? That can't compensate for not being in my own bed; I can't see that luxury ensuring me a good night's sleep.

When you scrimp on some things, you can splurge on others. We may be staying in a quite affordable guest apartment on a college campus in Seattle, but that means that on the Oregon coast we can splurge on an oceanfront or oceanview beach house. I won't pay $200+/night for a cramped hotel room, but for a hot tub overlooking the Pacific Ocean? You bet I will.

I don't remember if my mother-in-law ever made it to Seattle or the Pacific Northwest (she was well-travelled in Europe and the Caribbean and had been to Alaska). But you can be sure I will dip my feet in the water (she loved the water and loved swimming) in her memory when we're there.

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