This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may receive a small commission (at zero cost to you). Please see my full disclosure policy for details.
Don’t follow the travel advice you see online. Including ours. While you’re at it, don’t follow travel influencers either (including us).
That’s right. I said it. And I mean it. Do I really mean it, though? Yes and no.
I’ll save you the build-up and picture painting and just get to my point:
Do what you want to do on your vacations. Spend your money however you want when you travel. Don’t let others dictate how you should spend your time and money, especially when it comes to family vacations. For most people, you only get a limited amount of time off from work or school. Use it in whatever way makes you happy.
If you’ve followed us for a while, you’ve probably noticed we rarely post photos from exotic international locales. That’s because we don’t travel outside of the U.S. very often. It’s not that we don’t want to, although the desire isn’t as strong as many other travel content creators. Barb has an autoimmune disorder, so we’re not comfortable traveling to certain places, even within America.
Could we travel outside of the U.S. despite health concerns? Absolutely. People do it all the time. People with far worse circumstances than ours too. Barb’s health isn’t the only reason, but neither of us has a strong enough desire to travel internationally to push the boundaries of what we can do safely.
Every time I open Instagram, I see fellow creators posting gorgeous photos from distant lands. Talking about how traveling the world expands your horizons. How experiencing other cultures will change how you view the world. I absolutely believe that’s true. We see the value in international travel. But I don’t think it’s the only way. And I don’t think less of our family because we choose not to travel that way.
There’s also a large contingent of travel bloggers that write about slow travel versus being a tourist. Well…
We love being tourists!
No joke. I grew up doing “touristy” stuff, and we still do “touristy” stuff. We buy souvenirs and collect postcards. We visit the most popular tourist attractions wherever we go. Sometimes, we eat at gimmicky restaurants and occasionally stay at chain hotels with sofa beds to save money. We prefer Disney World over the mountains (well, most of us) and stop at almost every beach store along the strip, even if they all sell the same exact horrible t-shirts and trinkets.
Here’s another secret — we don’t always get the most value from our travel rewards.
That’s right, sometimes we use them in the worst ways possible (No, we don’t redeem them for gift cards or magazine subscriptions). We don’t care, and neither should you. While we love to maximize our rewards and use them to stay at deluxe resorts and fly first class, that’s not our priority. As a family of six, we use travel rewards to get us from Point A to Point B and stay at places that sleep six and either serve free breakfast or come with a kitchen.
Are there times when we use rewards to book luxury travel? Absolutely, but typically, that’s only if it’s just Barb and I or only part of the family traveling. It’s challenging to save up enough rewards to pay for an entire trip for six people without opening up a handful of new credit cards or jumping into manufactured spending (which we don’t do or want to do).
If you’re into travel rewards, spend your points and miles how you want, not based on what some website says is the best way to spend them. Or gives you the most value. I don’t care if my points are worth 1.4 cents for this redemption, but only 1.2 cents for another one. We use our points where we need to and don’t sweat the small stuff. Someone else can worry about that. If you spend any time in points and miles groups or Reddit threads, you see people get grilled for not squeezing the last cent out of each reward earned. There’s an elitist attitude in many rewards communities, with people claiming their way is the only way.
Well, our way works for us. Do what works for you.
When I say stop following travel influencers, I don’t mean you shouldn’t hit the follow button on Instagram. Read their travel posts. Watch the videos. Seek out travel advice from other travel enthusiasts like us. I want you to follow us on social media (in fact, go make sure you’re following us now) and other travel bloggers and influencers. We follow tons of travel content creators. I consider many of them as friends and recommend their content to people all the time.
However, the reality is that with the emergence and expansion of travel and other content on social media platforms over the past decade or so, it’s become increasingly more difficult to enjoy travel without comparing your adventures to the ones you see on the Gram. The filters. The editing apps. The snapshots of gorgeous destinations, luxury amenities, and perfect family photos (without a single kid on an electronic device!). All while leaving out the temper tantrums, lost luggage, lousy lighting, wrinkled clothes from the bottom of your suitcase, and all of the other imperfections that make a family vacation a family vacation.
I’m not suggesting that travel creators are at fault. We’re all guilty of curating our accounts with the very best parts of our lives. We probably do this with the Family Money Adventure accounts too. I’d love to say that we show as much of the bad as the good. We’re trying to work on that.
Travel basically disappeared due to the pandemic. It seems to be returning in almost full force, although it may look slightly different. We missed traveling. I’m sure you did too. Travel creators are jumping back in with both feet, hoping you’ll engage with their content. We want that too. But it’s so easy to fall in love with what travel influencers are doing, only to feel bad that your adventures don’t live up to the hype. Or you don’t have the time or money to fund epic trips that inspire people to tap the little heart.
It’s no different than when you and I were growing up, except it’s moved from the classroom and watercooler to our mobile devices. We are still chasing the Joneses. Well, stop it.
Despite the incredible adventures you see online, you don’t have to:
- Quit your job and travel full-time
- Spend months in one location
- Buy a van or
RVand live in it
- Became a graduate-level travel hacker
I absolutely love all of those ideas. I have tons of friends who travel this way. And you can travel like this too. But you don’t have to, and you don’t have to feel bad for not wanting to travel this way. It’s not even thinking, “That’s cool, but I don’t think I could do that.” Not everyone is in a place to quit their job or become a digital nomad, but it’s probably more possible than people realize. But if that’s not your thing, there’s no harm in saying that.
Plan and create adventures that are 100% you. If that means planning a fantastic, luxury-filled trip with overwater bungalows and outrageously priced food and drinks, then do that. If it means packing sleeping bags, so everyone fits in a hotel room or resorting to a staycation instead of a “real” trip, who cares. Do it. And challenge yourself too. Try new things, but do it because you want to, not because some random internet celebrity said to.
And yes, follow us (and other bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, influencers, and travel websites) to get info, learn travel tips and tricks, and research for your next adventure. We will continue to share our experiences and provide travel advice. Use what’s helpful and ignore the rest. Throw it out.
Your kids and spouse will love it no matter what you do or where you go. Embrace who you are, do what you enjoy, and forget what everyone else says you have to do—even us.
What’s your favorite way to travel? Let us know in the comments below.
Kevin Payne is the co-founder and budgeting and family travel enthusiast behind FamilyMoneyAdventure.com.
Kevin is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and travel. He is a regular contributor to Forbes Advisor, MoneyGeek, CreditCards.com, Credit Karma, Money Under 30, and Student Loan Planner.