Do We Ever Regret (What We Spend On) Travel: A Friday Chat!

Nicole: Hi! Happy Friday!

Ester: Happy Friday to you too! I hear you have exciting real estate news, potentially?

Nicole: Well, I’m going to look at a one-bedroom apartment this afternoon, if that’s what you’re asking. And yes, I am SO EXCITED.

The apartment is in Seattle, not Portland. It is kind of interesting how it all went down: essentially I got a new phone, bought a bunch of clothes, decided to kick this moving plan into gear, booked a (thankfully refundable) Airbnb in Portland for a week, ran some math on my potential tax burden, realized it might cost me $6,000 extra in taxes to live in Portland, started bumping around Craigslist looking for adorbs apartments in my price range, found one, contacted the landlord, and I’m going over there this afternoon.


Ester: This is great! It’s sort of what my friends in college used to refer to as the “absence of desire,” meaning that when you reorient yourself to want X and really go after X, suddenly Y will throw itself at you. Much the way that, once you start dating one person, you become desirable to these other people. I guess Seattle noticed you noticing Portland and was like, “Hey now!”

Nicole: Well, and the thing is that this is in the neighborhood I originally wanted to live in when I first moved here two years ago, but I couldn’t find any apartments there, two years ago. (I’m being deliberately vague, but if I get this place, trust me, I’ll tell you all about it.)

It is so weird that taking action on things makes opportunities appear. I mean, that sounds so “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstrappsy,” and I don’t like that part of it. But you can’t move until you start looking at apartments, I guess.

Or it could all fall apart! I could go, and the place could be much worse than its pictures, or the landlord could rent it to someone else. This is one of those decisions that someone else can make for you, which makes it extra nerve-wracking.

Ester: Sure, of course! But it’s always promising when things like these happen, and we don’t have to spit three times and throw salt just because the universe seems to glance favorably in our general direction for a moment. You’ll go, you’ll see how it is, and then you’ll have a great one-week vacation in Portland regardless, right?

Nicole: I may cancel the Airbnb if it works out. Haven’t decided yet. It would be the financially prudent thing to do, since I’ll need that money to buy a couch or something.

Ester: Ooh, well, okay then. Either way! You get to go and have a great week figuring out whether you want to live in PDX or get to stay and rent a new apartment — presumably one with an actual sink for dishwashing? — and use the money you save to buy a couch. Win-win.

My family’s been having a somewhat stressful time figuring out how we’re all going to convene in New Mexico for a memorial service this fall, and much of that stress is money related. Ben and I were looking at airline tickets and the only itinerary that made good sense in terms of the logistics of traveling with a small child cost, literally, I’m not even joking, $2500. So, we did not do that. The opposite itinerary, the most affordable one but least kid-friendly one, cost $1700. And we just kind of looked at each other and shrugged and said, “OK, I guess that’s what we have to do.”

Nicole: By “kid-friendly” you mean “not at 5 a.m. and also as direct as possible?” Or something else?

Ester: Yes, exactly. Small children are not known for moving quickly, unless it’s to get to the only free swing or the ice cream truck. They are especially not known for moving quickly if you shake them away while the stars are still shining and tell them they need to get dressed and come with you to an airport in New Jersey to make a flight that leaves at dawn.

Nicole: I will tell you this: that’s how we did it when our family flew (or, for that matter, when we drove, since the drives were always 8+ hours), and I turned out okay. The pain of being exhausted and uncomfortable will be forgotten.

Ester: Well, she’s too young to remember being exhausted and uncomfortable — she’s still only two years old — but in the moment I know that she will be grouchy and difficult, and maybe tantrummy, and I get stressed out enough trying to travel without dealing with the extra encumbrance of a toddler who doesn’t understand why she can’t still be safely and happily asleep. So instead we’re going to fly at night! Which will also be terrible. All of our options were terrible.

Nicole: Flying at night will probably be the most terrible for you, LOL. I bet Babygirl will be able to sleep on the plane, right?

Ester: Either she’ll conk out eventually or she’ll spend five hours jumping on the seat and hollering. Guess we’ll find out!

Is there toddler Benadryl, I wonder …

Nicole: There totally is, except some parents say it has the opposite effect on their kids. Isn’t “whether you drug your child on an airplane” one of the minor skirmishes in the Mommy Wars? A quick google search reveals A LOT OF ARGUING, from both sides.

Ester: Hmm. Well, as the trip draweth nigh, I’m sure I will tiptoe into that swamp. Meanwhile I’m just trying to recover from having to spend what will ultimately be over $2000 for a weekend of travel, since we also have to rent a car. BUT: I am telling myself: This is what the money is for. We will get to see family. We will get to say a proper farewell to my uncle, who died very suddenly. We will set a good example for Babygirl, maybe, that this is the kind of thing we splurge on.

Nicole: This is absolutely what the money is for, so it makes sense to spend it. But it also feels like you’re getting taken advantage of. Even though I know that air travel is expensive for a reason, and that there are a lot of people who work for airlines but don’t make a lot of money, and I want to give them more money! Just … not my money. Eughh.

Ester: Yes. And I feel taken advantage of. I think that’s part of the resentment. Is $1700 a fair price for three people to fly coach ⅔ of the way across the country and back? Maybe. Is $2500 a fair price? Hell no. (Especially since the $2500 option would have us pay extra to check bags and so on. It’s not like $2500 = private flying spa!) So we will be uncomfortable and inconvenienced for $1700 and hope the trip still feels worth it.

Nicole: It will. Or, I hope it will. Or, at least, I suspect you’ll quickly forget the awful travel parts — unless they are particularly memorable, and in that case, you’ll have a great story.

Ester: How often do you regret spending money vs. not spending it? I feel like I only rarely if ever look back on something like a trip and think, “I wish I’d saved my money and not gone.”

Nicole: Wow. Um. I regret spending money on things it turns out I neither use nor value. Like, books I buy but don’t finish reading. I also regret spending money on things where I could have saved it if I had planned ahead more. Like buying emergency takeout if there is no food in the refrigerator.

I rarely regret travel. The few times I have, it’s been one of those “wake-up moments” where I’m all “okay, something about my life needs to change.” And I don’t think that’s your situation here.

Ester: Right. Even then, I don’t think I’ve regretted the entire experience, only aspects of it. My Worst Family Vacation Ever™ was still instructive and brought me to places I was glad to go. (Like Bisbee, Arizona! Everyone visit Bisbee, it’s adorable.)

Nicole: See, now I’m trying to think, as a child, of our Worst Family Vacation Ever. And I can’t remember any of them as being bad. I remember little-kid things, like having to hold your pee until someone finally stops the car, but I don’t remember bad experiences. So that is a plus, in terms of Life and How We Remember It.

Ester: Yeah, I was an Adult Child once I experienced The Worst Family Vacation ever, and that might have been part of why it was so bad; I felt like Bruce Willis, looking around the emotional wreckage, shaking my head and saying, “I’m too old for this shit.” It’s so funny to be on the planning side of family vacations now. I am responsible for planning stuff! For paying, for driving! It still feels surreal.

Nicole: I’m thinking about how much work my folks must have put into planning our trips. We had the cooler full of food, we had all the clothes, and then my parents would do things like give my sister and me a little surprise every morning, to keep us entertained in the car. Nothing too expensive; a comic book, or one of those games where you push the button and a ring floats through some bubbly water.

Ester: Aw! Good parenting. If you think of more successful tips, feel free to pass them along. Meanwhile, lots of luck today with the potential new place!

Nicole: Will do! I think the only successful tip I’ve heard of (or seen parents use on planes) is “TABLET COMPUTER.”

And I’ll let you know how the apartment visit goes!

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