Long-Distance Love: Weekend Getaways on a Budget
Oh summer, how I love thee! From the longer days and warmer nights to road trips with my husband and puppy, I just adore summer. Even after just four-and-a-half years together, we still cherish the weekends just as much, and plan our summers by those two (sometimes three) days.
Of course, it wasn’t always as easy as planning a trip over a shared computer screen and packing up the car together. For the first, three years of dating my husband, we were in a long-distance relationship. He was stationed over twelve hours (six states) away from me. He deployed twice during those three years and was out of contact for many additional months on training evolutions.
Needless to say, the weekends we got to spend together were very needed, cherished, and loved. We tried to see each other once a month, but that sometimes became once every three months, depending on our finances. One thing we didn’t know was how hard and how expensive it would be to maintain a long-distance relationship, especially in the summer when so many others are also traveling. I was a recent college grad and he was in the military, so we weren’t exactly rolling in the dough. But we were determined.
Consequently, we had to get creative and seek out affordable ways to see each other. Here are some budget-friendly ideas for how you can see your boyfriend/girlfriend, fiance, or spouse and still have the perfect weekend getaway.
Stay on the installation. One of the biggest worries for us was always where to stay. After all, hotels always take up a pretty big chunk of the budget. My first recommendation is to check out the lodging at your service member’s duty station. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the accommodations at the installations I’ve stayed at, especially for the price. Price per night is generally comparable to staying out in town or cheaper. Plus, why not spend less on the hotel so you have more money to go out and do things?
Camp out! This can be so much fun. Sure, you may have to twist his arm a bit if he’s already been sleeping in tents all week at work (ahem… not guilty), but once he sees how much money you can save by camping instead of staying in a hotel room, it’s so worth it! I made it special by cooking up pasta salads, baking cookies, and packing drinks the week before, then I brought them to the campsite so we didn’t have to share our time together with people at restaurants.
Meet halfway. Not only a metaphor for relationships in general, meeting halfway is also what worked best for my husband and me when planning trips. It broke up our trip into just six or seven hours each so neither of us was more tired nor overspent than the other. Plus, “halfway” can be relative. We never met at the same place when we met halfway. We found all sorts of cool towns and cities by picking out places that seemed an equal distance away on the map, and just going for it. There is so much to discover!
Find free fun. I can’t even tell you how many museums, beaches, and national monuments my husband and I found while we were long-distance dating. Each made for a fun and memorable experience, ones that we will cherish forever. The Fountain of Youth in Florida, Fort Macon in North Carolina, Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland, window-shopping in Washington DC… no matter what state or town we visited, we could always find something free to do.
Buy one plane ticket. If driving isn’t your thing, or if you’re too far apart to drive, consider taking turns traveling to see each other. Instead of both of you buying plane tickets to go see each other, just buy one and go the full distance. It may mean longer gaps between when you see each other, but it takes a little stress out of planning a trip for two if only one partner has to travel.
Travel at night. If you’re a night owl, traveling at night can be a blessing because you avoid the weekend traffic. Sometimes, we would both go home after work to nap, then get up around midnight to hit the road and see each other. This is only something to consider if you’re comfortable driving in the dark— otherwise, stick to daylight!
Go with friends. Not only will you have a travel buddy to keep you company, you’ll also have someone to split the gas with on the way there and back. Even though it wasn’t always ideal, we also shared hotel rooms with our friends when money was tight. All that mattered was that we were together!
One last thing to remember when planning your getaway is to always check for military discounts. There are many hotels, restaurants, and public venues that offer a discount because of your loved one’s military service. This is a perk and a privilege, so take advantage of it and save yourself a couple bucks!
There are plenty of ways to make a long-distance relationship work. Traveling on a budget is one of them! Although it’s not always easy to plan vacations in a military relationship, with a little preparation you can at least get away for the weekend and have an affordable, fun, and memorable time!