So, how, you may be wondering, does a poor homeschooling church worker manage a 2-week vacation to Grenada, especially when the wife only brings in a part-time income?
Well, he doesn't, not really. Not like some people. We know people who take vacations like this on a yearly basis--heck, on more than a yearly basis. For us, this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Yes, my husband and I came once before (it was the honeymoon we never had, fifteen years after the wedding). And we dream about coming back here someday. But I doubt that we will ever be here again as a whole family.
But back to the question at hand. How did we manage this? It took some doing. A huge portion of the cost, of course, was simply getting here. When my husband and I came in 2002, our round-trip plane tickets were about $600 each. Multiply that by five people, and you're talking $3000 just for the airfare. That alone is a deal breaker.
That is, unless you take out an American Airlines AAdvantage credit card and spend 3-4 years charging every last possible thing you can on it (and paying it off every month). By doing so, you rack up enough miles to be able to get your family to Grenada for about $180 in taxes and fees! (That's $180 total, not $180 per person).
But there are other costs, you say. Yes, there are. Passports, for one. But now we have them, and they're good for some time (for all that other international traveling we're going to be doing in the near future, donchya know). But by far the largest part of the expense is lodging. We paid about 25% of that up front, but will still have the remainder to pay once our vacation is finished. It will take a few months to do so. And then there's the food. But by staying in a cottage and cooking for ourselves, we significantly minimized that cost. Since arriving in Grenada almost two weeks ago, we have eaten out about five times total. Three of those meals were of the quick and economical variety (pizza, Chinese, sandwiches--less than $50 US for a family of five). The other two were in the splurge category, but we were celebrating birthdays and probably would have spent that money some other way if we were in the States. And all of this is offset by the groceries we are not buying and eating at home right now.
Our expenses are also offset by the gas we are not putting in our cars, the utilities we are not using, and the various day-to-day sundries that are not being purchased as we navigate our fast-paced Chicago suburban lifestyle. Yes, we did rent a car for a week. But the car enabled us to go on several sight-seeing trips at little or no cost because we did not have to pay for a taxi or tour guide.
Finally, all of this is helped by the fact that American dollars spend very, very well in Grenada. One U.S dollar is equal to $2.71 EC (Eastern Caribbean) dollars. And what that means is that when converted we are paying either the same or less than we would for most things in the United States, making a trip to Grenada much more affordable than one to Europe or even to many American tourist attractions. We are paying less per night in Grenada than we would to stay at a place like Cedar Rapids Lodge, a Minnesota fishing resort we visited and greatly enjoyed some years ago (and I daresay that with today's gas costs, it was cheaper for us to fly to Grenada than it would be to drive to Cedar Rapids Lodge right now).
So all things considered, this has been an extremely affordable vacation. Grenada is one of the cheapest destinations in the Caribbean, and it is certainly cheaper than any European destination we might choose. And when considering the car, hotel and restaurant expenses associated with taking a driving trip somewhere like Williamsburg or the Grand Canyon, it beats those on affordability as well. Certainly it is way, way cheaper than that most popular of family vacation spots--Disneyworld--and significantly more relaxing, healthy and ultimately, edifying.
In spite of all of these things, however, this vacation has still been a stretch and sacrifice for us. There are a number of things that we will not be spending money on for a long time because we chose to spend it on this, and they are things that for many people are givens, not options. But the memories we have made and the things we have learned here will last much longer than the new windows or driveway or dining room table. And that is something you can't put a price tag on.