How Our First Paid Vacation for Two Turned Into a Vacation for Three

When a critical vacation decision hinged on the pregnant woman’s twin companions — eating and sleeping — I chose wrong.

Photo credit: Jeff Gunn, CC BY 2.0.

Just in time for anniversary #5, my husband and I both earned a week of PTO, which we giddily blacked out on our work calendars.

After sponging joyful tears off my desk, I did what any budget nerd would do: I whipped out a monthly budget worksheet and began to plan. It was a flush but transitional time for our finances; we had two full-time incomes and no debt except our mortgage, but we were aggressively sinking money into a six-month emergency fund. I settled on a goal of saving about $100/month for six months toward the vacation. This $600 would be used for all lodging, food, and entertainment.

Two months later, a pregnancy test came up positive, and the vacation became a babymoon. Having set our sights on northern neighbor Chattanooga, TN, my chef husband began researching bed-and-breakfasts and notable restaurants. He lobbied for lodgings with fairy-tale names and sumptuous interiors. I number-crunched and pushed back. A decent B&B was too much; we’d have to skimp on food, and I was eating for two. I further reasoned—perhaps a bit paranoidly—that we couldn’t slow our emergency saving to pad the travel fund. What if baby or I had major medical bills come fall?

“Suppose there’s a tidal wave,” he teased, Downton Abbey-style.

But he capitulated to the pregnant woman, which was something he was getting used to. We agreed food would be the babymoon splurge area. He grudgingly let me book a 2.5 star surprise hotel via Hotwire Hot Rate for $168, and turned his attention to cultivating a list of interesting local eateries at a variety of price points: the eclectic hole-in-the-wall Aretha Frankensteins, Clumpies ice cream, and Public House for the anniversary proper.

June arrived wrapped in a cloud of miserable, muggy southern heat. At five-and-a-half months pregnant I felt it keenly, especially as I had been packing on the extra pounds before we ever packed our bags. Despite the weather, we excitedly hit the road for Chattanooga after catching up with our infant nephew and family and getting a taste of the parenthood journey in front of us.

Unfortunately, our current journey wasn’t going so well. We arrived for our first Chattanooga lunch and, though I only had to walk a couple blocks to the restaurant, I felt like wilted produce in need of a cool lie-down at our drab hotel. My husband was forced to break in the hotel TV while I broke in the bed for two hours before our evening adventures. The following day was a repeat performance. While my runner spouse was up for any trek anywhere, after visiting shops, the park, and River Street Deli for lunch, I was only up for climbing into bed. We attempted a scenic walking bridge; I made it halfway and no farther. Defeated, we returned to the hotel for the rest of the afternoon.

That evening’s romantic dinner at the elegant Public House, where we lingered over every rich morsel of every carefully concocted plate, was a stark contrast to the generic, forgettable, regrettable chain hotel. We didn’t want to leave, especially because we knew exactly where we were going next: back to the Humdrum Hotel.

Lesson learned: when pregnant, splurge on where the bed is, in deference to both yourself and the partner cooped up with you. In fact, splurge on both bed and food if you can. I am still face-palming over my belated calculation that shaving a mere $50/month for six months from the emergency fund in favor of the babymoon would have secured a B&B, piles of food, and still allowed for a full panic fund well in advance of my firstborn’s arrival. I comfort myself with the knowledge that future vacations involving tots will involve a new slew of probably hilarious financial decisions suitable for later analysis.

Zoe Hickerson is a writer, former financial aid counselor, and lifelong resident of the Dirty South where she reimagines communities through the lens of a stint in Central America.

This story is part of The Billfold’s Vacation Series.

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