Recession Mama

{April 11, 2009}   Introducing Pam & Vacationing for FREE!

Today’s post is from my friend, Pam. She is super stylish and fun! When she mentioned that this recession was affecting her too, but that she was still able to keep having fun…I needed to hear some of her secrets! But first, a little bit about Pam and her recession story:

It was November 24, 2008-just before Thanksgiving when my boss let me know that due to budget cuts in the department…they no longer had the funds for my position and basically gave me my two-week notice. By then, the “recession” was well underway and all around me and all around the country I’d been hearing stories of layoffs and more layoffs-but like everything else, you just don’t think it will happen to you. I’m no stranger to being out of work. I am a freelance TV producer and usually I work on a project by project basis for a few months at a time-then I’m off to find my next gig. But this particular job was a more permanent position…I had been there for seven months and just days before letting me go, my boss mentioned that I would be eligible for benefits soon. So I really didn’t see the layoff coming. Now, I am lucky in that I am not the only or main breadwinner in my family. I have a fabulous husband who works his tush off in the entertainment industry and makes a very nice living for us. But that is not to say that the income I was pulling in did not help us out to cushion the blow of our substantial mortgage on the house we bought less than 2 years ago. And truthfully, my weekly paycheck certainly made my shopping excursions much more enjoyable, frequent and guilt-free.

So, now it is inching on five months that I’ve been out of work, yikes! And although in the beginning it was nice to have the freedom to lunch with my fellow non-working girlfriends (most of whom have babies) and it felt great to be free of work-related stress, I am now starting to go a little stir crazy. Not to mention, being out of work is expensive…the lunches, the appointments and the endless list of errands start to add up. My shopping for clothes has been replaced by shopping for groceries on an almost daily basis so I can make a nice dinner for us and avoid eating out as much. Plus, it’s getting very difficult to resist spring fever and hitting the stores to replenish my spring/summer wardrobe. And I just can’t escape the looks from my husband that seem to say “ummm, aren’t you going to get a job soon?” I’m trying honey, I’m trying.

Pam on Vacation

Pam on Vacation

So how does a girl who hasn’t been working for five months go on vacation? Well, Pam and I had lunch the other day, and she told me that she’s about to go on vacation for free…or nearly free! I needed to know how she’s doing it, and I think she can explain it better than me, so here it is:

Ever since we’ve been together, my husband and I take a vacation over the spring/summer. We avoid the Christmas rush and choose to sweat it out in paradise during the warmer months. This is both a slower time of year for my hubby at work and since it’s considered the “off season” at many resorts, we usually can get better rates. This year as the time came to plan our yearly getaway, we found ourselves over-extended. Partly because I have been out of a job, partly because we decided to do some work on our house and mostly because thanks to the recession, we have been really trying to “tighten the belt” so to speak. So, a vacation wasn’t exactly a priority, especially since we live in sunny LA. Thankfully however, we had thought ahead. Almost two years ago, we decided to switch our main credit card from one that awarded us points on an airline carrier to Starwood points on American Express. This program awards points towards hotel rooms all over the world and flights on many airlines. We found that every time we went to redeem our airline miles for a flight, there would either be black out dates or we would have to use an exorbitant amount of miles for just one flight. On the urging of a close friend, we decided to try Starwood. I am happy to report that thanks to that switch, we will soon embark on a six day, five night vacation at a gorgeous resort in Punta Mita, Mexico-free of charge. (well the room is free). Even better, we were able to use miles from our original credit card to get free flights! Needless to say, we are very excited for our trip and feel proud of ourselves for pulling off our (almost) free vacation. Let me break it down…what would have been a $449/night room at the resort, we are now paying only the tax and service charge per night. And what would have cost upwards of $350/ticket for the flight…we were able to get using 60,000 miles total plus $168.88 in taxes. The points we earned for this trip was money we were spending on our credit card anyway, now we get a vacation out of it. There are no shortage of credit card programs that reward you for your spending… and I’m sure that many of you already partake in one of your choosing. But if you don’t, there is no better time to do the research and make sure you are getting the most out of the money you spend. Bon Voyage!

Pam — send us photos of your vacation and show us the receipts when you get back! ~Katy

Carla says:

Katy, thanks for sharing Pam with us. First of all, Pam I love your arms..where can I get some like that?! Seriously,’s nice to know you can travel and have fun if you use your head. Hope you have an amazing time!

recessionmama says:

Congrats the nearly free vacation. Those are the best. We took a lot of “free” vacations to our grandparents growing up. They were great! We slurped on homemade chocolate malts, gobbled up home cooked meals and hung out with our grandparents at the golf course and in the garden. We also spent hours playing with their dogs and going to the local pool. We thought the trips were perfect. So don’t forget, especially if you have kids, a trip to see a friend, or grandma and grandpa (or aunt and uncle) can be just as entertaining as an expensive vacation.

We manage to take a nearly free trip about once a year using reward points. This year we took a family ski trip to Vail, Co. We stayed in a five star hotel (Sonnenalp) for four nights and used reward points to pay for it. And because we booked the trip through our credit card company we got a room upgrade and a free breakfast every morning. (we’re talking the works! Normal resort charge $90)We also used airline points for two free airline tickets and saved nearly a thousand dollars on two other tickets because we took a connecting flight.)

But we did cut back on other items for the trip. Normally, we take one of the grandmother’s with us on vacation, so they can help with the kids. But we didn’t do that this year. We saved money on the extra plane ticket and room charge. We love “treating” our mothers, but we love saving money too.

We hired a well screened hotel staff member to babysit the kids two nights so we could go to dinner. That normally would make me nervous, but we were at the hotel and the kids were already in bed.

I would say it was one of our best vacations. Super fun! With lots of planning (it takes a day to cash in on the freebies sometimes)and creative thinking you can take a fabulous vacation for nearly “free”. Really you don’t even have to leave your hometown to have fun. Just make plans to do things you don’t normally do. And forget about chores. Just take it easy.

Afterall a vacation is just about getting away from it all and enjoying each other’s company. You just need a change of scenery. If you can’t go anywhere… send the kids to your mother’s, crank up the ac, turn on the fireplace and drink some wine. And Boom! It’s a romantic weekend on the slopes.

Heather B.

Katy says:

I think Ant and I will be cashing in points for a FREE honeymoon at some point.

[…] Mama {June 21, 2009}   GUEST POST: My Recession “Free” Vacation-The Recap By Pam Pam on her free […]

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