Frugal Eldercare Part 3: Managing Vacation and Entertainment Costs

While vacations may feel like a necessity, strictly speaking what we really need is rest and relaxation, which can be anywhere, including at home. Even taking a break of a few hours can help reduce stress. With time off work going to eldercare duties, there may not be enough time left to cover a full vacation. Family members may or may not be able and willing to care for your loved one so you can take a vacation. But, it never hurts to ask!

Caregivers will need to choose what is reasonable for their situation to recharge.

Air Travel

Traveling with a disabled adult is challenging. We took trip to visit family last year and it was exhausting as well as expensive. The airlines were very helpful in lining up wheelchairs in the airports and providing accessible seating on the planes. However, there are extra charges for traveling with an elderly adult. The most obvious is the extra plane ticket. Ask the airline if they offer discounts for seniors, AARP members, etc. to reduce this cost. If your parent requires an assistive device like a walker, you will need to check the item and the airline will charge for it; plan for extra baggage costs in advance. We also had to rent a larger vehicle to haul the extra baggage.

Make sure to allow extra time to get through airport security. You may need to answer questions for your parent to TSA. Expect to be separated from your parent for a short period in security. Make sure to tell your parent where you will be in line so they don’t panic. Don’t leave valuables with an elderly parent. Make a list prior to packing; don’t leave the Depends or medication at home. Ask your parent what they want to bring and pack it. It will save you angst later during the trip.

We also needed to book 2 motel rooms, one of which required a more expensive accessible bathroom. I do not recommend sharing a room with an elderly parent, as any other family members traveling with you and your parent will have difficulty getting enough rest. It does no one good to have all family members tired and cranky. Someone should get a full night’s sleep and stay sane.

If you are the caregiver, do not expect to get extra rest on a vacation with your elderly parent. This is because you are still the caregiver and will continue to assist with Actions of Daily Living (ADLs) which may have you up in the middle of the night, or interrupt a few minutes of solitude. You will also have the added stress of packing for a more complex trip and moving through airport security. At the end of it all, you may question whether the trip was worthwhile. In the case of visiting family the answer was “yes”, but for a regular vacation the answer was “no” for us.

Budget Vacation Alternatives and Cheap Entertainment Ideas

Americans spend over $1100 per person for a vacation, adding to family expenses. If you are on a tight budget, a vacation expense may not be something you want to put your hard-earned money into if you have viable alternatives. The Internet has lots of ideas to choose from.

Cheaper than a vacation ideas:

  • Staycation- this is the first choice after budget travel options. Take a few days or a week off work and spend the time at home relaxing or exercising. You get the benefit of sleeping in every morning and avoiding the hassle of airports.
  • Hire a caretaker for a day break. At $25 per hour, an 8 hour break will cost you $200, which is much cheaper than the average vacation cost.
  • Hire a housecleaner and used the time saved on your chores to catch up on sleep.
  • Pay to have groceries or other shopping items delivered, and use the extra time to rest.
  • Visit a museum or attend a ball game.
  • Go see a movie which has no basis in reality at the local budget theater or matinee. You will be distracted from the daily stresses of your life for a couple of hours. We recently saw an engaging Sci-fi movie and I felt better afterward.
  • Try a new restaurant.
  • Take a low cost class to learn something new.
  • Day off work- If you cannot take a week off, see if you can manage a day off instead to do something fun. We had a great day at the zoo one Monday.

Free or nearly free ideas:

  • Call a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while.
    • Read humorous greeting cards at a card shop for a good laugh. I used to do this in college with a friend once in a while. We called it “Cheap thrills”.
    • Ask a friend or relative to watch your parent for you for an afternoon off.
    • Entertain at home- play board games, watch movies, read a book, paint, go for a bike ride, play outdoor sports, walk the dog, etc.
    • Ask your parent about your family and their lives. My father grew up in Europe and has many interesting stories about his life there. He has also told me about predecessors I never had the opportunity to meet.
    • Spend time doing a quiet afternoon activity with your parent- My grandmother enjoyed working jig saw puzzles. Dad wants to update his stamp collection.
    • Learn to cook a new meal- this idea will add variety and interest to your diet. It can be a great way to try new foods and spend some time with friends or family in the kitchen.
    • Explore your local library if you have never done so before. The Seattle Public Library system has lectures, movies, and other free activities.
    • Volunteer for a cause you believe in- this can be for a day or more. Charities rely on volunteers to help their money go further. Some will provide food and other benefits to volunteers.
    • Have a picnic at a local park with family and friends.
    • Turn off all your electronic devices, including the phone, for a few days.
    • Delete old emails from your inbox. You will feel better seeing the clutter magically disappear into hyperspace.
    • Clean out a closet, drawer, or garage space. Donate all usable items and take a tax receipt. You will feel better having more room to move and knowing that you will get money back next spring.
    • Exercise for a couple of hours.

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