The Beach: A Bargain or A Bummer?

In this weekend’s New York Times, Roxane Gay gives a litany of reasons to hate the beach.

In Haiti, beach bodies are simply bodies, and beach reads are simply books, because the beach is all around you. … But for the rest of us, the beach exerts a different kind of gravitational pull. Sixty-one percent of Americans don’t live anywhere near a beach. We spend a surprising amount of time hearing about this place we will hardly ever see. We watch commercials, TV shows and movies in which nubile young women and their strapping male counterparts frolic on sand, their hair golden and sun-streaked. Long walks on the beach are the supposed holy grail of a romantic evening. The beach becomes a kind of utopia — the place where all our dreams come true.

Vacations I’ve Taken And What They’ve Cost Me

The week before we left for Hawaii, someone stole my debit card and spent what little I had in my checking account at a Target somewhere in the middle of the country. I spent hours on the phone to the bank, trying to figure out if I would have money before getting on a plane and zipping off to an island where I presumed I’d need to spend money.

I Am Currently Away From the Office

New York magazine has a list of some of the worst kinds of vacation email auto-responders, and says if you must have one, it should simply say that you're out of the office and will return on [x] date. Plus maybe another contact for emergencies.

Death by a Thousand Small Purchases?

So Mike/Readers, if I may ask: What tricks do you use to make sure you're properly stocked/organized/under control and avoid overspending dumb money because you're not prepared. — S.M.M.

Stranded at SeaWorld vs Whale Watching

“You know Epcot Center?” a friend asked me yesterday.

“I’m familiar in a general way,” I replied, “but I’ve never been.”

He gave me the same look, an eye-cocktail of surprise, pity, and incomprehension, that I instinctively give people who tell me they haven’t seen When Harry Met Sally or Chinatown. My parents did some mainstream-ish American things: they took my brothers and me to the Southwest, where we gaped at the Grand Canyon, and to New England, where we attempted to go “whale watching” and instead spent an interminable afternoon supine on a wooden bench, moaning as waves lifted and dropped us, lifted and dropped us, and I lost all faith in both whales and God.

They did not, however, take us to Disney, any Disney, or to SeaWorld, where presumably I could see proof that whales, at least, exist, and where, this weekend, visitors got more excitement than they bargained for when the power went out on “the Sky Tower,” stranding 40+ tourists 200+ feet in the air for 4+ hours. To compensate those tourists for their high-altitude suffering, SeaWorld is offering free admission to the park for their next visit, which is kind of hilarious, like the whale watching company saying to me, “So sorry you spent the whole time puking in a nightmare that was equal parts Dante and Melville. Here’s a gift certificate for another go!”

But part of me is kind of jealous of those SeaWorld guests. At least they got a real experience for their $50+, and a story to tell. Have you been “whale watching” – which costs about $30 today – and/or to SeaWorld? Which was more worth the money? Which would you rather subject your children to?

The Cost of Spring Break with School-Age Children, Illustrated and Annotated

Of all the coming sacrifices that you fail to consider when you have kids (so many!), the most insidious is how all the vacation time you accumulate will be divided in equal measure between staying home with them when they are sick and taking them places when they are on school vacation. This is not to say that raising kids isn’t wonderful and enriching and etc. etc., but for much of their lives, they are whiny travelers who insist on doing boring stuff. Important pleasures that they generally fail to appreciate include ocean sunsets, after-rain forest smell, and weekends walking around Philadelphia and getting drunk. Also, entertaining them costs money.

Is This the Best Way to Ask for Time Off Or Only the Second Best?

How to ask for time off.

How Heidi N. Moore Does Money

We all do money differently. How do you do money, Heidi N. Moore, Marketplace NYC bureau chief and Wall Street correspondent?

Budgeting for Vacations, Other People’s Weddings, and Other Summer Stuff (Yay Summer!)

Mike: So Ester, it officially feels like summer! Maybe because it was 90 degrees the other day (but I still haven’t put in my air conditioner, perhaps to Josh Michtom’s delight). But I will! I did it in July last year.

Ester: We haven’t either! I always hold out ’til the last possible moment, til I feel like a wax person whose own skin is melting off my body. For environmental reasons.

Mike: I guess for me it’s part environmental reasons, but also because I don’t think it’s so terribly hot yet? I’m also not home very much, so that may be one reason. I’m at the office right now, and it’s usually on, but it’s quiet here today so I have turned off the a/c and opened the windows. It’s below 80! Who needs it? Okay, so, the thing I wanted to ask you is whether you have summer travel plans and if you planned for it financially in advance.

Ester: Last summer, as you may recall, my husband Ben, babygirl and I decamped for seven weeks — we stayed in Vilnius, Lithuania, in an AirB&B that thankfully did not burn down (the Lithuanian rain would have taken care of that right away anyway I guess), in a couple different places in England, and then in a family friend’s house in Spain. That was pretty amazing — and kind of ate up our travel budget for two years. So we don’t have anything planned for this summer, really, except to figure out how to have, entertain, and enjoy time with a kid in the heat without leaving NYC. How about you?

Mike: I have a savings account through Ally that is specifically for vacations. I just checked and there is $400 in it.

A Holiday in Montana

Montana wasn't a state I ever gave much thought to until I found myself staring out the window of an Amtrak train at the seemingly unchanging scenery of big sky country. As the train rattled down the tracks I started to wonder if we were even moving—the scenery seemed to repeat itself every 30 seconds like the fake background behind a car in an old movie. It's hard to explain it, but the miles upon miles of emptiness gave me a sense of reverse claustrophobia.

Out of Town Guests Mean BLANK For Your Budget (What Is, ‘What Budget’)

What we spend when friends are in town.