Vacation: Pensacola Beach

We took our first real family vacation this past week at Pensacola Beach with my sister’s family. We had a blast at Portofino Island Resort, and will definitely consider going back in the future. A few memories from the trip:

  • drove up to Dallas on Saturday before waking at 4 a.m. and left Sunday at 5 a.m. Took I-20 to Jackson, then to Mobile, on to Pensacola
  • night-time crab hunting
  • Zane did not like walking on sand at first, but warmed up to it
  • the little pool and pop-up angled tent were both great ideas for the beach
  • majority of beach time was spent looking for sea shells in the very clear surf a few feet deep by everyone except me, I typically just hung around them in the water
  • we left our sunscreen in the car, so Instead of going to get it, Kenn convinced us to use some free stuff he got at work. My family lathered up with it, and when we got back we were all red, especially me. We looked at the sunscreen bottle, which stated “to remove, rinse with water”
  • kids and adults throwing a ball in pool, the wife getting hit in the head by the adults and them not acknowledging what happened until I brought it to their attention
  • Kenn, Connor, and I took out a kayak a 200-300 yards off shore and found a big group of (20-30) dolphins playing. A few got within about 40 feet of us
  • 100 yards off shore Kenn and I jumped off the kayaks with goggles and he got stung by a jelly fish
  • saw a huge sting ray (small dinner table in size) about 150 yards off shore, scared the crap out of us
  • hiked through some very rough woods and sand to fish with Case on bay side
  • Case and I woke up early to fish on gulf side but caught nothing. The next morning we tried the bay side on a kayak and got nothing either. We were using frozen shrimp, cut bait, and squid; wish we would have tried live bait
  • we ate every meal at the condo except our last dinner, it was impressive that we did not give in to spending money at restaurants
  • saw the Blue Angels practice at the Naval Aviation Museum, which was awesome, but lunch fiasco was not fun
  • went to the U.S.S. Alabama on the way back, which in itself was cool, but we also saw a few USAF PJs practicing their skills by climbing and pulling dummies up to the top of the ship
  • the entire trip cost about $1900

We bought a camper

kids_with_camper_first_picsWe recently bought a 2006 22′ Pioneer Raptor camper.  We had been saving for a while, and motivating our kids to help save money.  Their primary responsibility being to ensure that all lights are turned out “so we can buy a camper”.  The kids were so invested that one of our friends came out of the bathroom and forgot to turn out the light, so my 4 year-old son said “Katy, turn out the light so we can buy a camper”.

While this was a pretty big purchase, it is in camp-ready shape, and we hope it will help us save money on vacations over the next few years, as well as motivate us to get out of the house on a regular basis, especially lazy weekends.  There will be scheduling conflicts (tball, softball, etc.) on weekends that might make trips more difficult, but we still hope to take it out on a regular basis, even if it’s just for one night at a park close to home.

A couple of years ago we had a 1994 24′ Mallard bumper pull camper, which was a piece of junk that required a great deal of TLC before it was camp ready.  Most of that TLC was done by Mrs. Octo, and she spent an exorbitant amount of time cleaning, painting, and preparing that camper for its maiden voyage.  At the time, we did not realize that this camper’s primary deficiency would be so annoying: it did not have a bed.  It had a dinette bed, couch bed, and a bunk and a half: the previous owner cut one bunk in half for some reason, which worked out for us because we put up a baby gate and turned it into a crib.  After a few months, we decided to sell this one and buy another one with a bed, but after selling it, we decided to hold off on buying another one.

Growing up, Mrs. Octo’s family had a Class-C motor home (one with the bed above the cab), so convincing her to get one was not difficult.  The difficult part was trying to decide which kind: Class-C motor home vs. 5th wheel vs. bumper pull.

A Class-C motor home is awesome for lots of activities: going to weekend baseball tournaments, tailgating, etc.  You can take it out and as long as you have enough gas in the generator, everything is good to go in a parking lot or a camp site.  The downside is that it requires insurance, and it’s another vehicle to maintain, which could become expensive, especially given our desire to retire early.  So we had to pass on the Class-C.

A 5th wheel is what we want, but we are not in a position to have one just yet.  The truck I drive could probably handle a small 5th wheel, but it would be pushing the GVWR of the vehicle.  So unfortunately, we had to pass on a 5th wheel for now, but it’ll be the one we save for in the future (along with an appropriate truck).

That brought us to the bumper-pull that we have now.  It was a little cheaper than the others, and will fit our young family just fine.  However, if we continue to be a camping family, we will grow out of it in the next 5 years, if not sooner.

We hope that the camper will be a better ROI for taking the kids on more frequent adventures instead of only one or two big vacations a year.  After our initial investment plus a few things to get the camper ready, our adventures should incur relatively minimal costs: gas, food, site fees, etc.