Best.Vacation.Ever. How I Prioritize My Spending
My wife and I just took the best vacation ever. So what does this have to do with our personal finance blog? It’s all about goals and setting spending priorities.
We are not rich (we both work in academia), but we do have a good, steady income. In addition, I teach extra summer classes, run a blog, and help run a financial education business. Basically, I earn some extra money – which is what we have used to pay off debt, make improvements to our home and take awesome vacations.
Sandals LaSource Grenada
We went to Sandals LaSource in Grenada. The island is beautiful. But the Sandals resort is absolutely amazing. We really splurged for this vacation and even got the butler service! This is our first time upgrading to the butler services – and we will ONLY use the butler service from now on!
I wish I could describe how relaxing the vacation was, but there is no way I can put it in words – although I will try. Here is our typical day:
- 8:00 AM – The butler delivers the breakfast we ordered the night before (Each day I had something different – chocolate chip pancakes, chocolate chip waffles, breakfast sandwich, egg whites, etc.)
- 8:30 AM – We arrived at the pool at the cabana the butler had reserved for us (he also reserved the two chairs in front of the cabana since we had friends at the resort as well).
- 9:00 AM – Butler brought us mimosas or some other light drink (It didn’t really matter to me what it was!)
- 9:30 AM – In the pool (yes, the one with awesome swim-up bar)
- 10:00 AM – Still in the pool – starting on the banana/strawberry daiquiris
- 11:00 AM – Played pool volleyball
- Noon – Butler brings us a shrimp cocktail and shrimp salad (per our request) and ordered lunch
- 12:30 – Butler delivered our lunch
- 1:30 PM – Back in pool (utilizing swim up bar to its fullest)
- 5:00 PM – Back to room to change for dinner and entertainment
- 6:00 PM – Butler arrives to escort us to dinner, seats us, etc.
- 8:00 PM – Entertainment begins (different activities each night)
- 11:00 PM – Arrive back at room and butler has bubble bath drawn with rose pedals and towel art (they do this once, but you can request more nights)
Was The Vacation Too Good to Be True?
Was it perfect? No. Our villa actually lost power a couple of times. We arrived back at our room and it was very warm. But here is the best part. We just called the butler and he handled it! We didn’t have to call the front desk or explain anything or wait around if we didn’t want to. EVERYTHING was handled by the butler! Also, Sandals gave us some compensation for the inconvenience of the room losing power. So it was awesome to have the butler handle the problems and still receive compensation for the inconvenience.
We had never used the butler service before, but we have been to Sandals three times before (Jamaica, St. Lucia, Barbados). We absolutely love these vacations. They really are super all-inclusive. The food, alcohol and activities are free. There are things you can pay for if you want to spend extra money, such as a massage or excursions off the resort through an outside company, and of course pictures (photos). We literally have only spent a combined total of $50 out-of-pocket at the four resorts we have been to over the years (not including the Red Lane Spa massages and the tips for the butlers). I think we have purchased bug spray in Jamaica in June and a few souvenirs at the gift shop.
How relaxing was it? Since returning from our vacation I have reduced my posts to one blog per week. I am that relaxed. The butler service provides a phone that you just press send and they answer. When I got home, I was sad to use my regular cell phone with no butler call button! I wish I could explain how great it was, but I just can’t because there aren’t words to describe it!
It Sounds Expensive
I mentioned in my post Why I only Take All-Inclusive Vacations, the advantages of choosing this type of resort for budgeting purposes. Again, it’s not that it is an inexpensive vacation, but if you are going to budget several thousand dollars for a vacation, its great to know exactly what it will cost.
If you go to the Sandals website, you will see that prices for a full week can range from just under $3,000 to more than $10,000! It depends on the level of service and the type of room you want to pay for. You can also get a price quote on the Sandals website that includes airfare or just search for the airfare yourself separately.
You will notice that they have a sale of up to 65% off, some airfare credit and/or one night free. These are permanent sales (at least they have been for the past 12 years). Now, they do change a bit, but nobody pays full retail price which would be $10,000 – $35,000 for a week. This is just how Sandals has chosen to do their pricing. They inflate the prices but then offer discounts between 50% and 65% and airfare credit between $0 – $1,000. They also offer other freebies such as a Red Lane Spa certificate, or free beads, etc.
Who Should Go On A Sandals Vacation?
Sandals vacations are not for everyone. If you want to take kids with you, then you can go to Beaches instead. I have never been to a Beaches Resort, but I hear they are wonderful – and they even have a swimming pool with a bar so the kids are not allowed. That means peace and quiet for the parents!
Sandals is a couples resort. It is not a place for singles. There are other adult-only results that are not specifically for couples if you just want a relaxing vacation away from kids.
Sandals is best for couples who:
- Are on their honeymoon
- Want a destination wedding
- Want to rekindle their relationship
- Want an awesome luxury vacation
- Want an incredibly relaxing vacation
- Want a romantic vacation
- Have some money to spend on a vacation
To get the most from a Sandals vacation it helps if you are at least a bit outgoing. Most of the people we have met are incredibly friendly. And while you may be getting away to have nice romantic “together” vacation, it is still nice to find another couple or two to socialize with on occasion while you are there.
Where to Find the Money?
Yes, they are expensive vacations, but not outside the reach of most Americans and Brits. They are not overpriced either, they just offer a lot of amenities and, in their words, a super luxury all-inclusive vacation. So let’s say you do want to take one of these awesome vacations.Where do you get the money?
You can come up with some quick cash for vacation using these tips, or save on previous financial mistakes with these tips. But that will not pay for the whole vacation. The key is to budget or prioritize your spending. This is what is important for my wife and I so we make it a priority.
In this TV segment, I talk about why setting goals with your spouse is so important. By setting a goal of saving, let’s say $5,000 for vacation, you now have a way to prioritize your spending. You are no longer sacrificing when you skip a purchase, instead you are saving towards your vacation.
The third way we pay for vacation, and this is the biggest way is that we use 50% of our extra income to increase our lifestyle. That means if I teach an extra class, receive royalties from one of my books, or earn speaking fees, then half of that money is used to pay down debt or invest. The other half, however, is “play” money. We can use it to increase our lifestyle. This method allows us to enjoy the fruits of our labor for working hard, while also doing something for our financial future as well. This is the method we have been using which really helped us pay off debt, which I discuss in detail in our Turn Your Debt into Dollars workbook.
The point is, we are very happy to work extra hard to earn the money that allows us to vacation even harder!
We absolutely love Sandals vacations. That is pretty much the only vacations we take now. And we have moved up to butler service. And we definitely recommend the resort. Our favorites so far are either LaSource Grenada or Grande St. Lucian. It’s a toss-up, although the Grande St. Lucian has the main pool with the swim-up bar facing the ocean, so that gives them a little bit of an edge. We also enjoyed our time at Sandals Negril. It was so incredible that is why we went to St. Lucia that same year for a second vacation! The good ole’ days before I left the industry to teach 🙂
We did not enjoy Sandals Barbados quite as much. It seems to draw a heavier European crowd, so if that is where you are from, then you may really enjoy it. That particular resort location had only been open six months, which may have ben part of the reason we were not as impressed as the other locations. It is also a smaller resort and we seem partial to the larger resorts with the larger pools.
Next year we plan to go to the Sandals Grande Antigua. That way we will have been to every Sandals island (but not every Sandals resort since there are several in Jamaica).
Tell me about your favorite vacations, and if you have visited or considered Sandals before!
As part of my blogging journey, I have started to join in on some link parties. Here are some below: