Paying for luxury

by MBT

How much are you willing to pay for the good life?

I know some totebaggers extol the virtues of paying extra for first class air travel, particularly on international flights. Others find big vacation splurges, or luxury cars, or home renovations to be worth it. What luxury experiences are worth it to you? Are you willing to pay extra to not rub shoulders with the hoi polloi, as the article suggests?

In an Age of Privilege, Not Everyone Is in the Same Boat
Companies are becoming adept at identifying wealthy customers and marketing to them, creating a money-based caste system.


220 thoughts on “Paying for luxury

  1. I agree with the comments that there’s something really off-putting about the arrangements. I particularly liked the point that cruising was popular because of the feeling that, outside of your cabin, you were on an equal footing. The ship was your oyster. Now, I’ve never been on a cruise, but I think that feeling is part of what makes the vacation experience exciting, just like in an amusement park–I can do anything here that I want. That was such an incredible thing to experience as a kid. It’s what made amusement parks so different from a fair, where you’re constantly budgeting your tickets and weighing which rides are worth it.

    I feel the same way about Disney World whenever I read about the increasingly rarefied touring options. And even there, we paid handsomely to stay at Baylake Towers with a view of the fireworks (I’m outnumbered on that one). It just makes the whole thing seem less friendly and more like you have to be on guard. I can honestly say that I’m less likely to go back to WDW as frequently as I otherwise would, and I’m less likely to go on a cruise knowing that they’re following the same model. I figured that the ships and lines themselves had all the stratification that was needed before you boarded, and once you got underway, there should be more of a sense of “we’re all in this together.”

  2. It represents a degree of economic and social stratification unseen in America since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, J. P. Morgan and the rigidly separated classes on the Titanic a century ago.

    Cite? You’ve been able to buy special treatment and special accommodations all along.

  3. I have never been on a cruise (I hate norovirus, TYVM), but this seems to be kind of gross. Just pay up for Seabourn and be done with it.

  4. Also, the pool pictured on the Haven doesn’t look all that luxurious. It looks isolated and small compared to the picture of the one for the masses.

  5. While choices for the rich are expanding, poorer Americans are benefiting less from product innovation, according to new research by Xavier Jaravel, a graduate student in economics at Harvard. Whether they are selling fancy cookware, natural cheeses or single malt Scotch, purveyors of goods aimed at the wealthy are competing more and offering new products. Downscale items like canned meat or tobacco aren’t drawing as many new entrants into the market.

    Oh yeah? Have you priced laptops recently? $300 will get you a really nice computer. This is a classic NY Times article that insists there’s a trend without providing the slightest factual support.

  6. I once got to fly first class to Brussels. I was with a friend who was an airline employee and we were flying space available. For the $50 I paid, it was quite nice. However, I doubt I would pay the prices I see listed for first class tickets

    I do regularly pay the extra fee/gouging to get an aisle seat, if the flight is over say 3 hours. I can’t sit in my seat that long.

  7. Just pay up for Seabourn and be done with it.

    I want to go on a cruise (but much like my RV trip to the national parks I’m not getting a lot of buy in) so I was looking at various options and I came across this:

    It’s Royal Caribbean suite class but to me a cruise seems very middle class. Who are these people who are spending $25k on a regular cruise? Personally, I’d pay up enough to get an ocean view balcony but not much above that.

  8. I did indeed. That was a good one. But she will have to talk, and he will hit hard.

  9. We don’t pay extra for upgrade in air travel, but we will pay extra to stay at good hotels/good locations/convenient times.

  10. And there have too been technological advances in tobacco! Those e-cigarettes and vaping are technological advances. Sheesh.

  11. “Who are these people who are spending $25k on a regular cruise?”

    Rich people who don’t have time or inclination to do their own boating but who aren’t rich enough to outsource it entirely to a yacht crew.

  12. It would never cross my mind to be offended by companies offering these services or by customers paying for them. It’s no different from offering rooms with access to a concierge lounge or expensive excursions. I wouldn’t feel bad paying for the services if they met my value-for-money criteria, nor would I feel the least bit slighted if someone else paid up and I didn’t.

    I also find the notion that these examples prove that we have more pronounced class stratification than in the past absurd. It is much more likely that Disney World and the cruise companies are finally figuring out how to convince the really rich to vacation with them instead of somewhere more exclusive.

  13. Rocky – I agree. The article pretends to focus on the woes of the underclass (canned meat and tobacco? really?) but it’s really a manifestation of upper-middle-class anxiety to confront the fact that we’re not as financially successful as we’d have hoped. Perfect for the NYT, like you said.

  14. Splurging is based on what you would normally pay. When we did WDW our kids were fairly young and we splurged on somethings that made the trip easier and more enjoyable, but did not do the fast pass type things. Our kids got out of school a week before most of the rest of the country, so we went that week so it was slower anyway. We did take advantage of Majic Hours – parks open earlier or later for on property guests.

    When I went with my mom on her (known then) last international trip to see a friend and celebrate her 92nd birthday, my dad paid for first class tickets all the way. Honestly, with her health and stamina, she wouldn’t have made it any other way. And her birthday lunch was a HUGE splurge.

    I think there have always been attractions, hotels, ships, summer camps, or options within them that are based on your ability to pay. If you are offered and made choices, such as no fast pass, it is not a big deal to me. But the article sounds like I would never even know Haven existed unless I stumbed across it on the ship or a passenger mentioned it. Finding out that way would sit less well

  15. I don’t shop in certain stores because I don’t like seeing parents hitting their kids and/or cursing at them. I am willing to shop else where and pay a little extra to avoid these scenarios. My sister does a lot of online shopping for the same reason.

  16. Rich people who don’t have time or inclination to do their own boating but who aren’t rich enough to outsource it entirely to a yacht crew.

    For them there is Seabourn or Crystal cruises. My pet theory is that it’s rich working class people. A guy who owns Houston’s largest HVAC installer or similar.

  17. Rhett, I would agree on the cruise lodgings. We went on one in December with friends who cruise every year. We really didn’t spend much time in our rooms at all other than sleeping, and that time was spent sitting out on the balcony. Our friends actually spent a fair amount of time in their room drinking and watching TV. So maybe if that is your personality, the suite would be worth it? But if that $25k figure you cited is real, then I would be taking a different vacation entirely.

    On the cruise, the moderate extra charge restaurant seemed to stay busy, so not really an escape from shipmates. I didn’t look at the ridiculous extra charge restaurant, but that may have been more of an escape.

    I’ll admit that I would like the perks if they were available to me. My brother has gone to Disneyland with people that have a guide or whatever they call it that lets you go into a side door and walk straight to the front of the line. I would love to visit Disney that way. Since it’s not, though, and having others have that access pushes me further back in the line, I’m less interested. I also prefer sporting events when I get to sit in an air conditioned suite with friends than when I’m in the seats I’m actually willing to pay for.

    If I were to spend the extra money I think I’d rather just take a different trip than try to carve out an area of specialness from a crowded mass-market experience.

    But in a way, isn’t that what people do with some small SLACs? It’s a way to differentiate a snowflake from the common kids at State U, and maybe get a higher level of service/hand-holding.

  18. “My pet theory is that it’s rich working class people.”

    Could be. I don’t know the cruise line hierarchy. I guess if they don’t want to go so far offshore in this:

  19. ‘there should be more of a sense of “we’re all in this together.”’

    Really? That’s not usually an important part of my vacation enjoyment, and this cruise stratification seems no different than all the other types (business class flying, premium hotel floor, etc.) that are common in traveling and other parts of life.

    Yesterday a wealthy acquaintance was telling me about his recent trip to Machu Picchu, where he enjoyed the deluxe version of a hike to the ruins. It sounded great.

    Regarding that Trump ad, a comment I saw from a Trump supporter was “Thanks Hillary, for spreading the word!”

  20. “Thanks Hillary, for spreading the word!”

    It’s true that a big part of his appeal is that people like Mitt Romney hate him.

  21. Rhett said “My pet theory is that it’s rich working class people. A guy who owns Houston’s largest HVAC installer or similar.”

    Yes, absolutely. We have people like that in my town – well to do contractors are a big part of our town – and yes, they would get into this type of cruise.

    Seabourn is for retired lawyers, banking people and other well to do but not rich retired professionals. Adventure cruises are for retired academics :-)

  22. Rhett – Looking at your $25k cabin picture on Norwegian, I’m guessing that you wouldn’t get something nearly as spacious for the same price on a higher-end line? If that’s the case, I could see the appeal.

    While I want to try a cruise someday, I think I want to actually feel like I’m on a ship, and have it seem like a “cruise,” whatever that means. While it looks fun in its own way, I’m not really drawn to the idea of just being in a big floating Great Wolf Lodge.

  23. “Also, the pool pictured on the Haven doesn’t look all that luxurious. It looks isolated and small compared to the picture of the one for the masses.”

    I thought the same thing.

    I also agree with Rocky. Classic NY Times trend article. I also wonder who spends that much on a large cruise ship vacation, but what do I know? I have also never been on a cruise. I am uninterested for the most part, although I’d like to do one of those Alaska trips in my lifetime, and I’ve heard the cruise boats are the best way to see some really gorgeous scenery on the way up.

    As for what do I splurge on when traveling? If a splurge is something that you pay over and above the norm, I’m not sure. We will pay more for a direct flight, but living in a big airline hub, that’s not usually a big issue. I’ll pay more for a suite with a bedroom door because staying in a standard hotel room with a kid is miserable for more than one night. We don’t get the smallest rental car available generally even though there are only 3 of us. I’m not sure that those things qualify as splurges. I would perhaps pay to upgrade a ticket to business class if we were flying to Asia or somewhere pretty far away.

  24. When I was younger, I thought that the only truly authentic way to travel was to ride on packed trains, and stay at fleabag hostels or student hotels. At some point, I started valuing comfort, and the one thing I learned is that I met far more real people staying at comfy mid level hotels, or at bungalow parks for families, than I did in the fleabag hostels where everyone is a 20 year old drunken American or Aussie college student.

    Although the best way to meet “real” people in the US or Europe is to stay at campgrounds. I can recall having some great conversations with people in Belgian campground bars.

  25. MBT – My issue is if I know that is an option and I have some inkling of how it will affect my experience to choose or not choose it, then I am absolutely fine with the choice I made. It is when, because I am not considered the target market, I don’t even know it is an option only to observe it at the experience, that bugs me.

  26. I’m not really drawn to the idea of just being in a big floating Great Wolf Lodge.

    I’m the opposite, I want the full mega-ship experience:

    Notice, not one but two wave machines!

  27. This is like the Yankees’ attitude about not wanting the riff raff in the premium seats:

    “It’s not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for a ticket and (another) fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it’s frustrating to the purchaser of the full amount,” Trost said.

    He added: “And quite frankly, the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base.”

    They are not letting people use print at home tickets or sell tickets on StubHub this year because there is no price floor on Stubhub. Of course people can still sell the hard tickets at a discount, but it is much more difficult. Although that didn’t stop John Oliver from doing it.

  28. I’ve been on one cruise with my sisters and mom and not sure I’d want to repeat the experience. I definitely would not splurge to be in some sort of exclusive area on a cruise. $25K on a vacation would be at some luxurious resort, not on a boat.

    I had the same thought about the NYT typical fake trend thing that always has to do with inequality. I’ve not seen one comment on my FB feed bemoaning wealthier people getting perks at Disney that the middle class doesn’t get and I have a lot of middle class people on my FB feed (from high school/family). They all seem to go to Disney quite often too.

  29. Do we have any cruise fans among us? Or, is cruising other than to Alaska or Viking River Cruises a totally non totebaggy vacation option?

  30. I’ve flown to China several times, always a miserable experience. I have flown on United, and China Eastern. Both were bad. Most recently, I paid extra for Cathay Pacific and was glad. It is marginally more comfy, you get Haagen Dazs ice cream and noodles on demand during the flight, and you get the perky Pan Am style stewardesses who all arrive in a little formation to board the flight. Most importantly, the transfer is through Hong Kong rather than Beijing or Shanghai, and that made the extra cost totally worth it. The Hong Kong airport is efficient and sane, with enough space, good wifi, and lots of eating options. And everything is in English. Shanghai and Beijing airports are like massively overcrowded versions of JFK, with that same unfriendly attitude, poor facilities, andl lines everywhere. And their signs are all in CHINESE!

  31. Do people here really pay for first class tickets? I have never done that. I will happily accept an upgrade or use FF miles to upgrade, but they are so expensive to buy. I have become much more princessey about hotels, but flying generally is still a big shift for me.

  32. I have very Totebaggy friends who love to cruise. We have never tried it because my DH gets seasick on any floating device, even inflatable duckies in a pool. He can’t even handle a one hour ferry without dosing up on enough Dramamine to put him out. And I tend towards claustrophobia, so the idea of being cooped up on a boat with a barfing DH doesn’t sound that great.

  33. We paid for concierge deck on a Disney cruise. It’s the only cruise I’ve ever taken so I cant compare to another experience. It wasn’t a large price difference because we cruised during an off peak week in May. I wouldn’t have paid a lot because the services were minimal.

    The ability to board at any time with no line was great. The deck wasn’t private and the rooms were not different because the concierge rooms are on the top deck so all guests use that floor to get to the pool.

    I think I got a few more free drinks and lots of access to characters without waiting in line. Also, the people that worked there were amazing, but I really found that to be true about everyone on the ship.

    Weve started to splurge more on stuff like that, but we are still frugal so we like to look for deals. For example, using miles to upgrade on planes, or using certain credit cards to upgrade rooms in a hotel.

    Age is starting to play a factor in our decisions too. The whole life is short, enjoy it while you’re here etc.

    90 percent of my trips in business or first class have been paid for by my employer. It was allowed on overseas flights because the expectation was that you would arrive and go straight to work. We always fly coach when we’re paying, but we’ve really been trying to get the upgrades because the airlines have made it so uncomfortable to travel.

  34. My issue is if I know that is an option and I have some inkling of how it will affect my experience to choose or not choose it, then I am absolutely fine with the choice I made. It is when, because I am not considered the target market, I don’t even know it is an option only to observe it at the experience, that bugs me.

    Yes, this, It’s the idea that they are trying to hide the options for the rich from the unwashed masses that doesn’t sit right with me.

    I have no problem with offering higher levels/classes of service for people willing to pay. That’s marketing. At Universal, we paid extra for their fastpass things, and we do the same at Water World. But if you are going to offer a service, then you should publicly offer it to everyone. Hiding it like they are sure makes it seem that they are more concerned about the social class of people that might want in on it.

  35. Do people here really pay for first class tickets?

    Domestic first class tickets are often only $99 more than coach. As for international first class? I’m not sure. But, you can often get a deal on international business class for not all that more than coach. When BA is having a sale you can get business class tickets to Europe for $2k which is only a few $100 more than coach.

  36. I’ve never paid for first class tickets and rarely stay at premium hotels anymore. DH and I just have a hard time overcoming our middle class upbringings of always seeking value. Before kids we stayed at places like the Ritz or St. Regis most of the time but we just don’t care about it as much anymore, especially when traveling with kids. We tend to just book the perfectly adequate condo for beach vacations. If we were going away just the two of us I would probably pay up for a nicer hotel but only in certain situations (like if you were actually going to be in the room a lot).

  37. I don’t like premium hotels because they nickel and dime you to death on everything, and often have less space. I also despise those boutique hotels. They never seem to have enough lighting in the rooms, and often have horrible things like transparent bathroom doors. I am so firmly middle class in my lodging choices – Hampton Suites, Summerhill Suites or Residence Inn all the way. Love those free breakfasts and free “happy hours” with all the bad popcorn you could want.

  38. Rhett – I will have to look around a little more. I feel like most of the flights that I have taken cost a lot more than that for 1st. I would do it for $99!

  39. I would do it for $99!

    Well, 99 each way depending on the distance. I was looking at JFK to SFO and it’s $250 extra each way but you get a bed:

  40. The appeal of a cruise to my husband is that you get in the ship (which is not a long drive for us), then don’t have to do anything else. Driving in unfamiliar cities and having to figure out where we’re going keeps him from really relaxing. If we were to do another, I think I’d prefer a river cruise. We have friends that have done smaller boat cruised around the UK or the Mediterranean, and that might be a workable compromise for my husband and I.

  41. “Do we have any cruise fans among us?”


    I don’t know how to score this on Totebaggy scale, but when I was in 7th grade, my parents left me home, under the halfhearted supervision of my friends’ parents, and took off on a three-week trans-Pacific Cunard cruise, on which my Mom was part of the entertainment. She gave several lectures, maybe a couple hours each, on an academic topic. Other than that, they were treated like passengers. Every dinner was mandatory black tie. The people at their table were all older and richer, but very nice and friendly and they were genuinely interested in each other.

    But they never felt a burning desire to do it again.

  42. After much internal debate, I did buy first class tickets for our summer trip. It is a 9 hour flight one way, longer the other way, and one of the flights is overnight. If it turns out it wasn’t worth it, then lesson learned. I’ve never paid for first class tickets before, although I’ve gotten upgraded a few times. Nearly all our flying is for shorter haul trips so not remotely worth it, but this seemed different.

    The difference per ticket was $800, I think. I will report back in September on whether it was the best money ever spent, a total waste, or just okay.

  43. I, too, enjoy cruises. It’s a great way for an extended family to vacation with each other, because everyone can do their own thing and then come together for dinner or activities.

  44. I would be willing to spend the $250 for SFO to JFK if I got a bed. But not JFK to SFO.

  45. I’ve done one cruise, DH 2. We both liked them. I like idea of seeing multiple places and only unpacking once. My MIL likes them for the same reason as Houston – everyone can be together without having to be together all the time.

    We are only starting to have the money to splurge on trips. Next week’s trip to Boise/National Park Tour, is our longest trip yet, but also one of the cheapest. We are staying with a friend, so the flights were the most expensive part. Even then we are traveling during shoulder season so it was a bit cheaper.

    We’ll see how we splurge next time around… whenever that will be.

  46. “Or, is cruising other than to Alaska or Viking River Cruises a totally non totebaggy vacation option?”

    A lot of my friends are really into the Disney cruises. I think that is absolutely a very common vacation for UMC class families. Right now, I have two different FB friends posting Disney cruise vacation photos. Now, in the true “Totebag” half a dessert tomato portion of the UMC demographic, maybe not.

  47. I have paid for first class when it was a relative bargain. A couple of years ago Delta and Alaska were slugging it out on flights in and out of Seattle. My flight from the Bay Area to Seattle was $20 more in 1st than coach. Definitely worth the price of 2 drinks.
    And I took Air France’s offer to upgrade to Business from Paris to JFK last year for $150. Really worth it from an access to the Delta Club for my relatively long layover in NY and service perspective when my bag was delayed…they paged me right away and had the claim ready for me in a minute. And the bag showed up early the next day at my house.

    For our trip to Lisbon in July I’ve reserved a junior suite. Not much more $$ than a “superior” room and sometimes European hotel rooms are small, really small.

    The Yankees’ policy “And quite frankly, the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base.” is complete BS. There has to be a first time for everyone, right? Or does it only count if your first time is when you were 6 and your grandfather took you, thereby proving you’re ‘old money.?” I HAVE been in premium locations, so does that qualify me to buy super discounted stub hub tickets to see a rather bad, at this point, baseball team play again?

    And what’s a splurge, anyway? I could have found less expensive digs for our 10-day trip to Hawaii over Christmas, but the locations would not have been as good for us. And spending to get to the next level hotel would not have increased my enjoyment / memories, since we were out of the rooms so much of the time.

  48. I pay for luxury when it lasts – home renovations in the home we will stay in for 25 years or a car we will drive for a decade, yes; first class tickets, no.

  49. Actually I just looked back at my email – the difference was $690 per person for first vs. coach.

  50. I would be willing to spend the $250 for SFO to JFK if I got a bed. But not JFK to SFO.

    It looks like that option would be $459 round trip in coach and to upgrade to a bed on the SFO to JFK red eye would be $389 extra for a total of $848. A bed both ways would be $1149 I might splurge and pay the extra $201 to go business class both ways.

  51. I also enjoy what MBT’s DH enjoys about a cruise–not having to plan where to eat, where to go, how to get there, etc. I tend to book either cruises or resorts when I’m burnt out and don’t feel like planning everything.

  52. Never mind it would be $301 not $201. I might just go with extra leg room seats and take a risk that my upgrade clears.

  53. On the Yanks’ policies – what if you are gifted the tickets by the owner? Does that still make the fan “unworthy” because s/he didn’t pony up the premium price?

  54. And by owner, I don’t mean Steinbrenner… I mean the season ticket holder. If Steinbrenner gifted you seats, you better be in his box and away from the premium seat peons.

  55. One area where we’re not splurging right now is we decided we’ll finally repaint the kitchen to a warmer, more neutral cream, the same cream that I painted the living room years ago. Then I used Benjamin Moore; this time DW took the same paint sample to Home Depot and they’re matching it with a Behr. We’ve taken about an hour each of the past couple of nights cleaning the walls and taping; there’s really not much wall surface area, but plenty of edges.

    Between the garden and now this, some sort of home improvement bug has bitten DW, and she’s been working me like a rented mule.

    I suppose we’re saving about $800.

  56. I’ve never been on a cruise but I’ve been along two sections of the Alaska Coast on the Alaska Marine Highway System. We hope to take the kids sometime.

    My boys really enjoyed the amenities at the new La Quintas in the Central Valley. Both had make-your-own-waffles, one had an indoor pool, and the other overlooked a semitruck wash/repair business which had lots of activity to observe. Final report was that the La Quinta with the indoor pool outranked Disneyland, which narrowly edged out the La Quinta with the truck wash.

    Other areas where price differentiation occurs are public/private schools and vehicle safety. I often wonder how many people writing about “closing the gap” in public schools are willing to put their children into the schools where that gap gets closed.

  57. A big part of the airfare upgrade prices is the multiple factor when you are traveling with the family. It’s one thing to pay an extra $690. It’s another to pay an extra $2760. Even an economy plus upgrade for $45. It’s hard for me to justify it on a 3 hour flight, but $180 is impossible to justify.

    On hotels, I’m with Mooshi on preferring the middle class ones. But we usually do VRBO or AirBNB anyway. It’s usually not much more than a MC hotel and you get a ton more space, a kitchen, and other amenities. I don’t recall very many times we’ve stayed in hotels with the kids.

  58. We have stayed at more upscale hotels and resorts as well as standard hotels. Our family to my mind doesn’t take full advantage of things like having made to order omelettes vs. standard breakfast buffet and other things that are built into the upscale price. I hate that there are no laundry facilities at the resorts. The issue we have faced are in many places the best beach locations are taken by resort hotels, the standard hotels don’t have direct beach access. The resorts have activities for kids but we usually spend some time on area attractions so again don’t take full advantage. I do like flying first class on longer flights. We do this using miles.
    My parents did the Carnival cruise with a room with balcony. They loved it. They thought it offered very good value for money. I would like to try a cruise but DH would prefer the Alaska or Viking River cruises, he doesn’t have a good impression of the Carnival cruise customers (my parents excluded).

  59. Rhett – Nobody cleans the bathrooms in a vacation rental. You might wipe down the counters and load and unload the dishwasher, but I much prefer that to being dependent on going to some sort of restaurant for EVERY SINGLE meal, especially when the kids are hungry and you’re not, or vice versa.

  60. Rhett, not at all. What we use the kitchen for is breakfast, which is something simple like cereal, muffins, toaster waffles, etc, and for lunches, which are usually sandwich stuff or other easy things that we can eat in or pack to take with us. We usually eat dinner out. There is usually no real cooking and very little prep and cleanup involved.

  61. I hate that there are no laundry facilities at the resorts.

    Another big reason we prefer condo rentals. Plus everyone gets their own beds. Our kids would kill each other if they had to share a bed.

  62. From the OT link:

    “From 2010 to 2014, the number of American households with at least $1 million in financial assets jumped by nearly one-third, to just under seven million”

    I’m skeptical that there are fewer that 7M such households. I’d guess there are more than that just based on home values.

  63. @ Denver – yes, but it goes both ways. Easier for me to just suck up discomfort when I’m by myself, but when I have to suck up discomfort AND I’m traveling with children…the best solution would be to stick them in coach and have DH and me be in first, but I think our youngest is still a little too young to sit entirely by himself. Couple more years and we would absolutely do that.

  64. I’d guess there are more than that just based on home values.

    I think they use the term financial assets to mean liquid capital as these numbers are usually prepared for investment firms. That you have $1 million in home equity doesn’t do Fidelity or Merrill Lynch any good.

  65. Again from the OT link:

    “Spending by the top 5 percent of earners rose nearly 35 percent from 2003 to 2012 after adjusting for inflation, according to a study by Mr. Fazzari and Barry Z. Cynamon of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. For everyone else, spending grew less than 10 percent.”

    I’m going to guess that the newly 5 percenters account for a disproportionate share of that spending, e.g., buying homes.

  66. I agree with DD and Milo about the condo rental. It is easier to have a kitchen with kids a lot of times because of the ability to grab a quick breakfast or lunch. Laundry is key, especially at the beach. I far prefer the trade off of having to do a quick load of beachwear most days to having to pack a bunch of beach outfits and/or having to dry them all over the resort room.

  67. DD – I wouldn’t mind a condo but MIL would never relax in a condo. She would feel the need to clean and cook. It would not be a vacation at all. That’s why for the foreseeable future we’ll stick to standard hotels.

  68. Finn, I’ve learned over time that “financial assets” is finance marketing speak for wealth excluding housing, 401(k), or [usually] other real estate like apartment buildings, farms and ranches. It seems to be shorthand for “wealth you could manage for a fee.”

    The original article fails to draw a distinction between big spenders and people with wealth. When we went to Dutch Harbor/Unalaska on the ferry, many of our fellow passengers were birders with expensive gear, including scopes. But they were gracious early retirees and none of them gave the impression that they thought the steward should be helping them rather than the Mom of three young children who was camping in a tent with them in order to join her mechanic husband for the summer in Dutch Harbor. (Flights were crazy expensive or simply unavailable to Dutch Harbor in June.)

  69. We usually like Country Inn and Suites, but the one we visited in Petersburg recently, where DW was running a half-marathon, had a lot of deferred maintenance. I think, like most hotels these days, they’re independently owned but lease franchise and operating licenses through the parent companies, so corporate may need to tighten up their brand’s quality control on that one.

    Petersburg, itself, seems to be pushing itself as hard as can be through its own attempt at revitalization and gentrification, with some success (a big reason for hosting a half marathon). I also enjoyed touring City Point, which for about a year, between 1864 and 1865, was the busiest seaport in the history of the world.

  70. So what is a splurge, anyway? I guess YMMV in this as in all things.

    I have never been on a cruise and don’t want to (norovirus, plus I get carsick). If we traveled more I suppose I would look into first class tickets, but DH doesn’t think they’re worth it, so…no. I haven’t ever stayed in a super fancy hotel like a Four Seasons or anything, either. We usually favor Embassy Suites or something because of the free breakfast and room for DH to spread out/do work.

    OTOH, I buy all my makeup at Sephora and fancy shampoo in the Ulta liter sale.

  71. To me, a hotel splurge is staying at the Four Seasons or something along those lines, which we have done for our honeymoon and some big anniversary trips. Usually we would stay at a more Westin type hotel for a couples trip or a all-suite hotel like Homewood Suites for a family trip. Keep in mind that we don’t travel much for work, so whatever we do, we are footing the bill, not using points.

  72. Also, I don’t think we will ever do a beach vacation with the family where we have to stay in a hotel. DH hates the beach (too much sun) so my parents’ camp will be our version of that for the foreseeable future.

  73. Keep in mind that we don’t travel much for work, so whatever we do, we are footing the bill, not using points.

    Yes, there is a different experience staying at higher-end hotels when you are Joe Blow than when you are a preferred guest, similar to the airlines.

  74. I would also mention that for a given income level and vacation budget people can have from 0 days to +6 weeks of vacation time that can be scheduled with the entire family. So, if you both have 5 weeks of vacation and you can work from home or have a flexible schedule for kid events, doctor’s appointments, etc. You may be trying to economize by doing 2 weeks a beach condo, a week at a ski condo, and a Carnival cruise. While you could have another family that might have to move heaven and earth to get 5 or 6 days a year where everyone is avialble. So, they might prefer to spend more per might to get the most out of it.

  75. WCE, we’re taking the Alaska Marine Highway ship from Juneau to Sitka on our trip this summer. It’s an overnight boat. DH and DS are going to roll out their sleeping bags in one of the common areas (which apparently many people do), but I insisted on a cabin for myself (DD will join me). We’re definitely doing “low-budget Alaska,” not “Disney Cruise Alaska”, but I’m looking forward to the trip.

    We also use VRBO/AirBnB when we travel. DH and DS eat so much that we’d go broke if we couldn’t self-cater.

    These days, I will pay extra to have things look nice in our house. For example, last year, we replaced our exterior shutters. I paid for well-made wood shutters in a custom color, rather than stock vinyl shutters. This year, we ordered a new sofa in a custom fabric, rather than the bland stock fabric. I don’t mind that our house is small (by Totebag standards), but I want it to look pretty.

  76. NoB, Sitka was my favorite stop, due to the Russian history. If it fits in your schedule, you might consider the extra boatride up to Haines/Skagway and back- very scenic.

  77. WCE – Unfortunately, we couldn’t work Haines/Skagway into the itinerary. However, we are spending a few days in Glacier Bay National Park (staying at the Park lodge there), which I am really excited about.

  78. NoB, I’m sure you’ll get your fill of scenery. We did an overnight up-and-back to Skagway/Haines because we had to spend the night somewhere and sleeping on the boat was a cheap option.

    Now that I have kids, I’ve had to cut my vacation activities to ~12 hr/day.

  79. And, piling on, the $1million is (probably) what’s called ‘investable assets.’ Meaning in addition to whatever equity you have in your home, it also ignores the $$ you have socked away in retirement accounts no matter how liquid it is.

  80. We splurge on Disney Cruises. It is definitely cheaper to cruise other lines, but Disney Cruises are luxury. Not to mention that the public restrooms are cleanest bathrooms I’ve ever seen. We also splurge to get a balcony. My kids enjoy the “freedom” they have on the cruise. You want to go to Deck 11 and get some chicken fingers? Go right ahead, I’ll be sitting right here on the balcony reading my book.

    I’ve noticed on the online boards that concierge is not much different, but the cabins have restricted access that celebrities use. When I have peaked through the door to the concierge pool/sun deck no one has ever been out there.

  81. Lemon, the sun deck for concierge is boring. there is little to no protection from the sun, and just a shower thing. The only time we used it was for a character meet and greet.

  82. I have to agree with Denver Dad about having a different experience on the same trip if you are not a frequent traveler. We took identical flights and stayed in the same hotel as our neighbors when we took a vacation in May. Their youngest daughter actually asked why everything was so different because she could see it.

    For example, we all spent an hour in Delta lounge before flight due to DH status and our platinum cards. Free food etc. We all had TSA pre due to Amex platinum. We boarded and sat in first due to upgrades, miles from DH status on Delta.

    When we checked in at Hilton, they waited an extra two hours for their room because we had earlier check in due to status at Hilton.

    On the way home, they went to the airport a full hour before us, and we still got to the gate ahead of them because of our seats and TSA pre.

    So, even though we actually spent less – because our airline tickets were all miles – they waited longer for everything.

    The trade off is that DH will arrive home on a flight tonight at 11 if he is on time, get home by midnight and be back at his desk in NY by 7am. Our leisure travel is much easier due to all of his travel for work, but that work travel is exhausting at times.

  83. Lauren, see so not worth it, unless the price difference is minimal. It seems the people that really like it (based on my reading of online boards) are the people that have never really experienced great service before and are just overwhelmed with the thought that someone will be at their beck and call. Although, non-concierge on Disney are getting just about the same treatment. I do think that concierge get the best tables at the restaurants, so that is a perk, along with special meet n’ greets, and first dibs on the cabanas at Castaway Cay.

  84. Lauren – At least now I can feel a little more vindicated for hating flying when so many others here seem to like it.

  85. I looked at your link, Milo, and was surprised at the price until I realized it was just an outbuilding-turned-into-nice-house that was for sale, not the whole pile.

    On the topic, I agree that what the NYT article is really getting at is the sense that we — successful professionals with good incomes! we travel regularly! we thought we were the success stories! — are actually the hoi polloi that the real economic winners want to be insulated from. We might spend an extra couple thousand here and there on the first class tickets, the nicer hotel, but an extra $25K (per person?) is another story. That’s college tuition level money. It’s not that this group wouldn’t ever spend that much on a trip — perhaps a big memorable family trip to some exotic locale — but spending that much *extra* for a fancier version of an experience you could get for a fraction of the price? Not at the same time you’re worrying about paying for college or daycare or private school, or funding retirement. In other words, these upgrades are for people to whom $25K is maybe one percent of their annual income so they can comfortably afford it without jeopardizing big life goals.

    And we realize that, and think, well, damn. We’re not the Downton Abbey Crawleys. We’re just their solicitors or maybe their bankers.

  86. “Then I used Benjamin Moore; this time DW took the same paint sample to Home Depot and they’re matching it with a Behr.”

    Doesn’t Consumer Reports rate Behr above Benjamin Moore?

  87. “overlooked a semitruck wash/repair business which had lots of activity to observe.”

    I’m guessing this is not listed on the hotel website as an amenity.

  88. The marine highway is crazy expensive! I had an idea that it would be fun to do with the kids this summer – go to Haines from Bellingham and back, 2 adults, 3 kids. The tickets alone (no cabin, no vehicle) was >$4000. We could do a cruise out of Seattle for cheaper.

    I’ve cruised once, and liked it well enough. I am really looking forward to a Disney cruise in January – I am anticipating a vacation where there is lots of time for grown up activities and not so much herding kids and arranging three meals a day and snacks, nap time, etc.

  89. $25K (per person?)

    I just looked for next April vacation and for two adults and two kids it’s $17,998 for 7 nights. But, it’s currently on sale for $12,767. IIRC that includes the booze package for the adults and there are no up charges for the nicer restaurants. I think 25k was full price for 11 or 14 days.

    Real rich people are here:

    And even then you’re just renting it for a week. Owning it is yet another level waaaaay above totebag.

  90. I am way too cheap to fly first class if I am paying the bill. Maybe because my legs are short so the regular seats are not that uncomfortable? I also feel like first class is way more than $100 different for each leg. I’ve looked into flying to DC this summer to visit friends. Cheapest non stop coach is $365, nonstop first is $935. I can put up with a lot of pain and misery for $2850 (the difference x 5).

  91. I’ve never flown 1st class, doesn’t seem worth the $$ to me

    hotels: we usually stay somewhere like a Hyatt Place, sometimes boutique hotels depending on the price difference

    have we ever done a thread on best hotels/resorts/beaches we’ve stayed at?

  92. “Doesn’t Consumer Reports rate Behr above Benjamin Moore?”

    That I don’t know. I’m fed up with researching every GD thing. I understand that there are different levels of paint in each brand. When I painted the living room, I used Ben’s Aura, supposedly the paint and primer in one. Since we were going darker to lighter, it still required a second coat, but whatever. We’re also getting the all-in-one from HD, but again we’re going darker to lighter, so I’m expecting to do two coats.

    HM – In addition to everything you said, I think it also comes down to who, generally, is writing for the NYT. People who grew up more affluent than I did, but typically not $25,000-cruise-affluent, and went to Ivy League colleges (not state schools or service academies), so not only did they always imagine that they were, more or less, at the top, but they probably personally know at least a few college classmates who are in that $2.5M earning category, and they fu(king loathe them.

  93. “And we realize that, and think, well, damn. We’re not the Downton Abbey Crawleys. We’re just their solicitors or maybe their bankers.”

    +1 Reminded of this quite frequently in NYC.

  94. “we are actually the hoi polloi that the real economic winners want to be insulated from.”

    Yeah, exactly.

    But, relative to the real populace…we are genuine winners. The view from the top of the bottom quintile to let’s say the top 5%, I think happens to be less steep than from the bottom of the 1% to the 1% of the 1%.

  95. “We could do a cruise out of Seattle for cheaper.”

    I’m guessing because of where the respective ships are flagged, the cruise line can pay its service workers $2 an hour.

  96. “Our leisure travel is much easier due to all of his travel for work, but that work travel is exhausting at times.”

    Lauren – same. DH and I are currently in NYC this week and traveling well, all thanks to the status he’s earned w/ his many work trips. I’ve thanked him repeatedly this week, and the kids and I do that daily on family trips. We all get these lovely perks that he has toiled for.

  97. Cheapest non stop coach is $365, nonstop first is $935.

    I’m not sure what city you are in but Denver to DC is $514 in coach and $885 in first. So, maybe it’s more like an average of ~$150 each way.

  98. Ada, we’d AMHS one-way, with stops in Ketchikan and perhaps other towns, and then fly home. I haven’t priced it out yet, but it’s precisely because we’d want to hike, see villages, etc. that the AMHS appeals to me. Our family size also means we’d probably have to get two cabins on a cruise ship.

  99. “I just looked for next April vacation and for two adults and two kids it’s $17,998 for 7 nights. But, it’s currently on sale for $12,767.”

    For a minimally higher fee, can you add more people to the same cabin? Are there two staterooms in there, and is there a pull-out couch? I’m thinking that typical occupants are prosperous grandparents treating the three generations.

  100. Upgrading to first class can be a little funky. If I log on to United (yes, I hate United, but it owns Denver and all our miles are on it) and it shows me a high price for first class, then I’ll just get economy or economy plus. Okay, so now log back on a few days later, look at your reservation, and United may well send a message saying “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to upgrade to first for $120?” or similar. When the dollar amount drops low enough, I’ll pull the trigger. And then sometimes you can get upgraded just by asking when you check in if you’re some level of Premier.

  101. I have a number of truly elderly comfy but super well to do acquaintances who cruise all the time. By all the time I mean 4-5 months in the winter and even one couple who go 8-9 mos a year. Frequent cruisers get certain points and upgrades, but basically they like the lifestyle, the socializing (not for most of our totebag introverts). Also other younger friends who run the bridge games on board. I was recently asked last minute if I could go along as a helper, so I might end up having the experience of one of those great big boats sometime.

    I raise my totebag hand as guilty as charged on the type of vacations I prefer. After a number of different groups, we found a sweet spot in the retired academic adventure group – not my alumni tours. We are doing a (relatively budget) Road Scholar (fka ElderHostel) trip soon. We’ll see if we like the travelers and the quality of guides. I give it a 50-50 chance. Now that I have to learn about cruises for hubby’s health, I will figure out where we fit in there. I am using my data from land/rail trips as a guide.

    Rhett – that picture you posted from Royal Caribbean is the elite common room. I found the original site. The bed upstairs is from one of the suite rooms with the shades thrown open. One of the flagged comments on the NYT article pointed out that this is not what elite UMCers or more to the point actual rich people would normally book. They go on other lines at a higher price point. I would think a prime target would be a large family reunion gathering with many children that can be more easily handed back and forth among the adults and where the kids are free to roam within the gated area. If you look at the types of cabins in the area there are almost none for two persons.

    The Columbia river cruise this fall will give us an idea of a “regular” UMC retiree cruise. For the next level up, we booked a North Sea ocean cruise with Viking (new 700 person ship) at the one year in advance at the “half-price” amount. We took the top quality stateroom below the real suites (I think there are 10 of them on the ship) – it is dubbed a “suite” but all that means is that there is a floor to ceiling partition between the bed and the sitting area and a private balcony – not two real rooms. With the airfare (premium economy) and a two day pre-excursion in Norway it will run 30K for the two of us. Plus tips, shore extras. We also get more cabin service and reservation priority for some of the extras, but the entire ship is fancy. We may find it and the people too hoity toity to use Milo’s phrase, but we will probably enjoy the scenery and the lectures. And the cabin HAS to be big enough and comfortable enough for us to want to spend time in there and for me to be up and about the four hours more than DH per day that I am actually awake.

  102. Splurge: Depending on where we’re going and who we’re going with, lodging with a great view. Especially if we’re with the older set that’s not as mobile, since they spend more time in the room or VRBO enjoying the view. Also, a hotel/VRBO in a good location. And a splurge on a memorable outing, something that’s unique to that location.

    For my recent trip with DD, we did a hotel in one city (paid for with points; included access to the executive lounge which was great), AIRbnb in another, and the last portion of the trip we stayed with family. By the time we got to the AIRbnb location, we needed a washer and we really wanted to eat normal home cooked food as opposed to eating restaurant food three times a day.

  103. What on-board cruise activities do you cruise lovers like? I took one cruise and felt meh about the time on the ship. Laying by the pool, spa, shows, and various activities like karaoke/trivia games just didn’t do it for me. There were tennis courts that I may have liked and maybe other stuff I missed. But probably more than anything, what I didn’t like was that I, along with other family members, felt a bit trapped on the ship. We liked the excursions, but they left us wanting to spend more time at the stopping points. However, I could see that going with extended family or a larger group of friends would work better.

    I’m reminded of David Foster Wallace’s Shipping Out essay in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

    “I have now seen sucrose beaches and water a very bright blue. I have seen an all-red leisure suit with flared lapels. I have smelled suntan lotion spread over 2,100 pounds of hot flesh. I have been addressed as “Mon” in three different nations. I have seen 500 upscale Americans dance the Electric Slide. I have seen sunsets that looked computer-enhanced. I have (very briefly) joined a conga line.” …

    “Organized shuffleboard has always filled me with dread. Everything about it suggests infirm senescence and death: it’s a game played on the skin of a void, and the rasp of the sliding puck is the sound of that skin getting abraded away bit by bit.”

  104. “I think it also comes down to who, generally, is writing for the NYT.”

    I think you nailed it. Yeah, flying and cruises are so much more stratified than the good old egalitarian days. Never mind that, in those good old days, lots of people never even considered flying anywhere, and cruises were for rich people.

    Like a previous anon poster, I also would prefer not to be around people who yell at and hit their kids in public, so I will only shop at Walmart under extreme duress. I gladly pay the “surcharge” to shop at our nice local supermarket rather than save money at Aldi’s or Walmart. The new EZpass lanes on the Beltway are awesome and I would definitely be a regular user if we still lived there because it is so much less stressful to avoid the stop and start traffic, and all of the extra exits. The membership fee at the Art Institute in Chicago is totally worth it, even if we only visit once or twice a year, because of the Members entrance. I have no interest in norovirus so cruises aren’t appealing.

  105. yes, I hate United, but it owns Denver

    Not that I fly a ton, but I hardly ever fly United. We are doing more travel than usual lately and here are our trips going back to last year through the rest of this year:

    Tucson: Southwest
    San Francisco: Southwest
    Phoenix: Southwest/Frontier
    Kids’ school trip to DC: United (we had no choice)
    New Jersey: Southwest
    Iceland: Iceland Air
    Ft Myers: Not booked yet but could be United

  106. Upgrading to first class IME is usually at least twice as much. I just quickly checked Kayak for RT between the coasts and AA showed cheapest nonstop economy was $387 and cheapest first class was $2029. Maybe I need to improve my search skills.

  107. Lemon, I agree that it has to be a small differential to make it worth it if you already have a nice cabin on another deck. Also, if you cruse with Disney a lot, then you get to board early anyway. It was our first cruise so we would have no choice at boarding time etc.

    Also, you can really take advantage of the free drinks if you’re just a couple, but we had DD and the drinks are during part of the early seating for dinner. The concierge lounge was really nice, and I really did enjoy that part of the experience because you really get to know the concierges since they’re always with you.

    We were very excited about the cabana until I discussed the price. I thought it was INSANE unless you have a huge party with multiple friends or family traveling with you to share the cabana. For three people, it made no sense at all. We just got to castaway early, and got chairs in a great spot for free.

  108. We are not splurgers. I think it awesome that people are willing to pay more for similar experiences since I think that helps pay for the entry level experience.

  109. Rhett – I wonder if that yacht charter $150k includes fuel? My spit-balled, out-of-the-air guess is when you’re cruising pleasantly, you’re somewhere around 300 gallons (or close to $1,000) per hour, literally going up in smoke.

  110. AA showed cheapest nonstop economy was $387 and cheapest first class was $2029.

    AA flies three class service from LAX and SFO to JFK.

    Business class:

    First Class:

    Business class is lie flat with 4 seats per row. First class is 2 seats per row.

  111. My spit-balled, out-of-the-air guess is when you’re cruising pleasantly, you’re somewhere around 300 gallons (or close to $1,000) per hour, literally going up in smoke.

    Not to mention the power demands of the HVAC, water maker, etc.

  112. What do I like to do on cruises? I like watching the water, sitting on deck while reading a book, eating with the family, watching movies, generally just hanging out. The entertainment is fun, and there’s always some sort of workshop or activity going on. I like the cruising part more than the shore excursions. This sounds terribly lazy and it is. Most of our vacations are very active–touring cities, skiing, national parks, etc. So cruises are a treat for me. Also, I’m not responsible for anything, which I love.

  113. CofC,

    I show AA JFK to SFO 7/9 to 7/16 is pricing out as Coach $561, Business $1097 and First is $1636 on

  114. Agree with Houston. Our vacation are typically hiking and skiing, or exploring a city and visiting museums. I actually hate the beach and sitting around all day, but the cruise is a true vacation with small children, not just a trip. The cruise is more about being on autopilot. Heck, I’m hardly responsible for my own kids on the cruise. They’re mostly off in the kids clubs. During sea days, DH and I will see a movie or two, read books, go swimming, grab a drink in the adults only area.

    Meme – my parents are UMC who think they are middle class. They love the European Viking river cruises and what not. There is a fair share of hoi polloi from the US on them. My parents seem to enjoy the company of the Europeans, Australians, and Canadians that frequent those ships, as they are less likely to be showing off their wealth.

  115. Rhett, that’s still a hell of a lot more than “Domestic first class tickets are often only $99 more than coach. “

  116. Rhett, that’s still a hell of a lot more than “Domestic first class tickets are often only $99 more than coach. “

    That’s transcon in a bed. DEN or ORD for example is $129 extra each way.

  117. “That’s transcon in a bed. DEN or ORD for example is $129 extra each way.”

    Yeah, but $129 for first class on a 2 hour flight. Meh. So many better things to do with $129.

  118. Even flying first class, our tickets for this summer are still cheaper than coach tickets to Italy would have been, which was the other trip we were seriously looking at doing.

  119. Yeah, but $129 for first class on a 2 hour flight. Meh. So many better things to do with $129.

    I agree – I’d just risk my upgrade not clearing.

    However, if we’re pricing out CofC’s anniversary trip to Napa, it’s $278 per person to upgrade to a bed on the red eye home from SFO. A night at a mid range chain hotel in SF is $300 so you throw in a few before bed cocktails on the plane, a meal, etc. it’s only ~$100 per person to be vastly more comfortable and you don’t have to waste a vacation day traveling.

  120. Lark,

    Have you tried Iceland Air? It’s 1450 Boston Paris on AA but if you fly Iceland Air it’s $1050 and you can stop over for 3 days for free in Iceland. WOW Air is $920.

  121. Meme – I am taking note of the prices for different cruises.
    If we go cruising river cruises will probably be more our thing. I try to plan a vacation like Houston describes but DH turns vacations into trips. He says things like “now I will relax” but next thing he will be deciding on what local attraction to visit. By the time our kids finish with school they’ll have seen lots of the U.S.

  122. “However, if we’re pricing out CofC’s anniversary trip to Napa, it’s $278 per person to upgrade to a bed on the red eye home from SFO. A night at a mid range chain hotel in SF is $300 so you throw in a few before bed cocktails on the plane, a meal, etc. it’s only ~$100 per person to be vastly more comfortable and you don’t have to waste a vacation day traveling.”

    Yes – this makes much more sense than the ORD DEN flight.

  123. Rhett. You are correct. I clicked thru to the wrong page. However. Since kids 12 and up are adults. A family of five would be spending. List price more than 100 000 a week for that. No chance. Even 50 000 a week is impossible to imagine on that sort of ship that stops at major ports only. Our North Sea trip is 14 days and you get to see fjords and the midnight sun and all sorts of amazing sites.

  124. Disney is not UMC. It is a MC/LMC experience that is priced to feel like a UMC experience.

  125. I’m with DD and her friends at Bieber. SO loud. SO much shrieking. I can’t wait until she’s old enough to come alone with her friends.

  126. BTW, we are not in the privileged suites. We’re so high up that I’m eye level with the top of the Nets banners.

  127. Lauren, when she’s old enough to come alone with her friends, she probably won’t be going to see Bieber.

  128. I got sucked into reading the NY Times comments…entertaining – the for and against cruise vacations, whether you are spending $3k or $30k, class warfare and comments pointing to all the luxury items advertised in the NYTimes including a $2k back pack which I must check out. I have a fondness for luxury back packs.

  129. My husband and I love to travel by car and we pay for a suite with a door between the two rooms, Most hotels tell you they have suites but what they have is a large room with a bed and sitting room furniture sometimes with a half wall or a small floor to ceiling panel,

    Milo – we are finding hotels more expensive and in marginal conditions this year, We have stayed in two Residence Inns this year that had a lot of problems (one had a couch that was falling apart and the chair’s upholstery was disgraceful).

    We just left a LaQuinta Inn that had two nice rooms but numerous problems. While some of our complaints seem nit picky they really aren’t when you consider the pattern of lack of caring on their part. One of the remotes didn’t have any batteries (understand someone took them), refrigerator didn’t work (we have meds that need to be kept cold), electrical plugs in lamps in bedroom didn’t work, ice machine didn’t work, no towels in exercise room, no tv remote in exercise room, sink in bathroom leaking – not a little but a whole lot. They did get a plumber in while we were out. I can’t remember being so aggravated with our rooms.

    Drury Inn and Suites was the only hotel so far that is as good as ever. The only problem with Drury is that there are not enough of them.

  130. “By all the time I mean 4-5 months in the winter ”

    I was going to make a comment about winter only being 3 months long (from winter solstice to spring equinox) but remembered how it is “winter 9 months of the year” in Yellowstone.

  131. “Doesn’t Consumer Reports rate Behr above Benjamin Moore?”

    For interior paints, I don’t think it really matters. Interior paints are mostly (entirely?) for aesthetics anyway, not to actually protect building materials from the elements.

  132. “I am really looking forward to a Disney cruise in January”

    And we are looking forward to hearing about it when you get back.

    I think you will enjoy it. I know several families who’ve taken Disney cruises, including a couple that we’ve traveled with, and they all have very good things to say about them, and several of them have done multiple Disney cruises.

    That’s consistent with what I’ve heard about other Disney experiences, and my personal experience staying at Disney properties. Pricey but well done.

  133. I’d like to do a Disney cruise, but I’d have to borrow a child so that I don’t look like an oddball. Maybe if I advertise on the local “Moms” group someone will let me have an 8 year old.

  134. “the $1million is (probably) what’s called ‘investable assets.’ Meaning in addition to whatever equity you have in your home, it also ignores the $$ you have socked away in retirement accounts no matter how liquid it is.”

    Much of DW’s and my retirement assets are in self-directed IRAs at investment firms.

    But it just seemed to me like the author was trying to find data to support his thesis.

  135. “Other areas where price differentiation occurs are public/private schools and vehicle safety.”

    I’m seeing some change in vehicle safety. Historically, advances in vehicle safety typically first show up on higher-end models, and often only in the most expensive option packages.

    But as I posted here recently, many of them are making it down to lower models, to the point that DW and I are considering modifying our plan to let DS drive DW’s 12yo Camry when (if?) he gets his license. When (if?) he gets his license, we will probably quite seriously consider buying something like a Honda Civic LX, the least expensive Civic trim, with backup camera and the Honda Sensing™ Feature Suite, which includes things like Collision Mitigation Braking System™. I think we can get it through Costco for under $20k.

  136. Rocky – do you want three? They’re usually very good, and pretty easy lately.

  137. Damn, Milo beat me to it. I was going to offer up my kids too. Or you can just join us in January.

  138. For interior paints, I don’t think it really matters. Interior paints are mostly (entirely?) for aesthetics anyway, not to actually protect building materials from the elements.

    The paint that covers in one or two coats is better than one that needs three or four coats.

  139. We did have one luxury hotel experience a few years ago. DW’s family was having a reunion in Clearwater and for some reason there are hardly any VRBOs there. SIL finally was able to work out a group rate at the Hyatt. I forget the prices, but we just went with a standard room for the four of us because the suites were still ridiculously expensive for our budget (I’m sure they would’ve fit Rhett’s budget just fine). When I went to check in, they said they upgraded us to a two-bedroom suite because they like to help out people who are part of a group. So we ended up with the upgrade of a lifetime to a two bedroom suite with a balcony with a gulf view.

    But as others mention, they try to nickel and dime you to death. My big complaint was that the pool area had no shade so people would want to rent cabanas for $150 a day. And you weren’t allowed to bring any outside food in if you rented one, you could only buy food from their overpriced restaurant.

  140. So, pricing out a cruise for WCE in July, because I am still annoyed by my Alaska maritime highway dreams dying about 10 minutes after I started planning.

    They could have two 3 person cabins, for a total of 5100 (with a $750 onboard credit), round trip from Seattle. A buffet with fresh chopped fruit at all hours of the day, activities for (most of) the little ones, beds – with blankets and pillows!- to sleep in, fancy dining, swimming pools, warm cookies delivered to the room.

    Or, for $1970, a place to pitch a tent and access to hot water (but no kitchen or refrigerator). That’s one way between Bellingham and Anchorage, would need to transfer to the city (a few hundred dollars), and buy 6 one way tickets home (at least $2k). No food, no beds, no warm cookies, no kids club. Adding on a cabin for the 6 night journey, makes it 3k, which means it becomes a wash. And there’s no warm cookies.

    I realize there is some hiking and less gambling on the latter option, but it just surprises me that ferry is so-uneconomical. When I was a kid, people used to talk about the walk on option costing almost nothing – though I suppose everything costs a lot when you multiply by 5 or 6.

  141. Ada– $5100 makes me want to plan that trip! We’ve done a cruise once (before kids) and I wasn’t a really big fan, but I can see having so much taken care of being a perk when traveling with kids.

  142. @Tulip: In the interest of full disclosure, the Disney cruise will cost us 2900 (one cabin for one adult + 1 kid) + 3900 (one adult +2 kids) =6800 +airfare and logistics before and after. But that is for the top of the line, lower middle class experience (thanks anon @5:59). If we wanted a lower, lower middle class experience, we could do a similar cruise for around 4000 with a different cruise line.

    The idea of having readily available food during all waking hours that I do not have to prepare or clean up for (or plan) seems magical. The ability to “fine dine” while my kids are entertained by people who are good at entertaining kids brings the magic to a whole new level.

    I will report back. Also, note the marginal cost of including extra people in the room. It is hard to find rooms that sleep five, and actually cheaper to go for adjoining rooms, in many cases. However, that means that adding RMS barely costs anything, Just saying.

  143. We went on a Norwegian cruise 10 years ago and vowed never again – DH gets seasick, and the average age of our fellow cruisers must have been 75.

    The food was fine, but since we had high NYC standards we weren’t impressed.

    Now I would give a good deal to have someone take over the shopping, planning, and meal prep, but we couldn’t take advantage of it due to food allergies. We would not go on a cruise now – or any remote vacation – because we try to stay within 15 minutes of an ER.

  144. Another aspect of when the prime time to book a flight is the unfathomable way airlines open up seats in the time before the flight departs. This affects cost if you’re like me and want an aisle seat. So maybe two months in advance the price is better but there are no aisle seats available at that price so you have to pay extra to upgrade, but ten days in advance suddenly lots of aisle seats open up. I guess in theory you can go back and cancel your upgrade, but maybe not. In any case, it can be a lot of work to find the “best” price. There are probably websites that help with this.

    I’m willing to pay for the luxury of just booking my flight and not spending lots of time looking for the best deal. (And now after my search yesterday I’m getting Kayak alerts about price changes for NYC to LAX flights.)

  145. Sky – My nephew who has severe food allergies went to a sleep away camp at age 11. I was very surprised that SIL and BIL would let him go but the camp did accommodate him well. It may be something if you are comfortable with, you can look into.

  146. RMS, there are people on a Disney cruise without kids. It is not like going to one of the parks where it is overwhelming Disney everything. It is a more sophisticated form of Disney, and there are certainly plenty of adult only bars and clubs that could be on any ship.

    Scarlett, there were so many teen girls and 20 somethings without parents. I’m sure the teen girls got picked up, or met a parent outside. We took the subway back to Manhattan to pick up our car, and the subway was packed with 20 something women.

    I know she loved it, but I think he is low energy and without the dancers and special effects – ugh.

  147. @ Rhett – no, have never looked into Iceland air. Will keep it in mind.

    DH was not sure he was going to be able to secure time off during the kids’ spring break, and I had made up my mind (based on feedback here) that if he couldn’t, I was going to do a Disney cruise by myself with the kids. In the end he got the time off and we did something else, but I’m keeping that alternative in my back pocket. Spring break is a tough time for him to get off, so it may pop up again.

  148. I cannot sit in the second row of a car without feeling queasy! Thought of cruise makes me shudder.

  149. Dell – my Mom was very apprehensive about getting sea sick on the cruise. She had travelled years ago on a much smaller boat in Europe and had gotten quite sick. On the huge cruise ship, she was fine.

  150. I don’t have high NYC standards, but was still unimpressed by the food on the cruise. It was fine, but when they are preparing for so many people, I found that most dishes didn’t have much seasoning. The food-related item we actually liked the most was the Dylan’s candy bar on the ship. We never go to a candy store in real life, and we ended up stopping in there almost every day for some gummy bears or something.

    I agree with Houston’s pros on the cruise – I did completely relax, because I didn’t have to do anything. I am rarely at that level of relaxation.

    What are some of your favorite mid-priced hotels? Our go-tos are Embassy Suites, except on football weekends at our destination when they almost triple the price, or Hyatt Place. With both, we can get a single room for the 4 of us, and my daugher takes the 2nd double bed while my son sleeps on the couch. We prefer Embassy so that if either/both of the kids are on their phones late texting or something, it does not bother us. I recently used Priceline for unplanned stop in Denton, Texas, and stayed at a new Best Western that had very large rooms, slate tile floors, and was much nicer than I had expected.

    My favorite hotel was La Cantera resort in San Antonio, which had my then 6-yr old son dancing while we waited in line to check in, singing “we’re rich, oh yeah, we’re rich” over and over, which pretty much let all of the other guests in on the secret that we’re not. I priced it out at the time, and decided it was comparable to the cost of assisted living, and the hotel staff was probably more helpful than the employees of assisted living, so that was my plan for when I can no longer live at home.

  151. Louise, the allergist told us that based on her history and blood levels, we have about fifteen minutes between ingestion of the allergen and cardiac arrest.

    Whether that’s really true or even possible to estimate, I don’t know.

    But it has made me very cautious.

  152. Lauren,
    20-something women? Seriously?? Were they attending ironically? Will ask college DS whether Bieber is a thing with his female friends.

  153. Rocky, I was also going to offer to let you take DS on a Disney Cruise :)

  154. Lots of the kid’s friends have been on a Disney cruise. What I have been told is that this is a way for relatives to get together. We could go with family since we all have kids, but one set of relatives would look down on it and would rather go on a European vacation.

  155. If we were to ever cruise we would probably go Disney – heard so many good things and sounds like DS would love it

  156. If we were to ever cruise we would probably go Disney

    I was sitting next to a guy on the plane who was a harbor pilot in Caribbean cruise port. He said the Disney captains and crew were by far the most skilled and professional he’d encountered. IN his opinion everything was done to the absolute highest standards of seamanship. I was impressed that not only is the customer service top notch all the behind the scenes stuff was executed to the same high standards.

  157. My parents joined us on the last Disney Cruise. They are in their 70s and previous long weekend trips with them were exhausting (for all of us). The cruise allowed them to come and go with us as they pleased and get their daily naps in with out inconveniencing the rest of us. The crew was just as accommodating to them as they were to my kids.

  158. Reading about the air fares to Paris, ugh, ugh. We were planning to go this summer, but due to the costs incurred rebuilding our stupid shed/garage which collapsed in the snow the winter before last, as well as the insane air prices, we may have to pass. Very frustrating – this is a place I really want to take my kids before they get too old to vacation with us. I want my kids to see the Paris I love, not the Paris of the high school/college tour groups, first. The sad thing is, we did take DS1, when he was about 20 months, because it was so CHEAP back then. We managed to find reasonable airfares 2 years ago to Brussels – wonder what the problem is this year. Or maybe we just need to fly to Brussels and take the train down?

    We are at the point now where we can’t punt to going at Christmas, because the kids would have to miss school and they really can’t any more.

  159. We nixed a trip this summer to London for the same reason, Mooshi–the plane tickets were insane.

  160. Ada– Keep us posted about your trip. Our one cruise trip was on Norwegian, and we had the same experience. Lots of 75 year olds, people in walkers trying to navigate the hallways, and everyone complaining about everything. (We got really wonderful service merely by being decent humans who thanked the staff for the good work they were doing.)

    Disney, before I had kids, sounded like my version of torture. But with kids? It sounds like it would be a fun experience. (Sort of the way that the Legoland Hotel was perfect with kids, but I wouldn’t have wanted to stay there before kids. It was for them, and we just accepted that and went along with it.)

  161. Why is Washington DC the school trip of choice for late middle schoolers ? Are they focusing on US history at that time ?

  162. Legoland Hotel would be awesome for my kids; Disney Cruise not so much. My kids have never shown the slightest interest in Disney, and DD actively despises all Disney princesses. Now, if someone did a Pokemon cruise, they would be all for it.

  163. Maybe we should just head to Vegas, and stay at a hotel with a good swimming pool. Or at the opposite end of the scale, how expensive is it to fly to Newfoundland?

  164. As a side note, investible assets does include retirement. I have a client with a $9M IRA that is the bulk of his estate, and that definitely counted toward his investment manager’s minimum.

  165. Maybe we should just head to Vegas, and stay at a hotel with a good swimming pool.

    The Mandalay Bay is nice:

  166. My 8th grade kid is off on his Wsahington DC trip right now. I don’t see a lot of culture or history involved in the trip. It mainly seems to be about racing through monuments, laying a wreath at Arlington, doing the Holocaust museum (which I am sure is interesting, but at the price of skipping all of the Smithsonian museums), and then spending lots of time in entertainment venues: playing video games at Dave & Busters, and then a dinner dance (for which they have to dress up) on a boat. Seriously, they could have done a lot of that in NYC and saved us some money. They do stop at the big Air & Space outside of the city on their way home (I think they are there now), and they stop at a monument at 11 pm for a photo after the dinner dance

  167. mandalay bay is one of the ones I was thinking of. For those of you who do Vegas, who has the most over the top swimming pools? A volcano show or two might be nice too. Is there anything else in Vegas for people who don’t really gamble much?

  168. I’m traveling to Europe for work soon and the airline ticket prices are staggering. Glad its not on my dime and I get business class. DH was considering coming too until he saw the price.

  169. The social studies curriculum for my kids when they were in 7th & 8th grades was US History. So an 8th grade end-of-year boondoggle makes sense from that perspective.

  170. Re Europe airfares: Consider flying to a secondary city (add it to your vacation itinerary?) and travel by bus or train to your final destination. DD and I found some very reasonable fares, between 10-30 Euros, during our travels between cities. The buses were especially reasonable. Most of them were clean and modern doubledeckers, with table seating on the first level and wifi throughout. Very doable for a 4-5 hour ride.

  171. One of the downtown hotels, I think it is Golden Nugget, has an amazing pool. Staying downtown in Las Vegas is very different than staying on the strip. However, The pool has a clear tube slide that goes through a shark tank. So there’s that.

    One of our days at sea on the Disney cruise is Star Wars themed. I got a special email to tell me how lucky we were to be selected for that experience. There will be a Star Wars characters, and Jedi training school and I’m sure some themed cookies. According with Disney’s overall plan, I will probably introduce my kids to that before we go so it will be more fun for them.

  172. I’ve been using Google flights to look for secondary cities in Europe that would be cheaper to fly to. We had hoped to go to Italy at the end of June, but we’re waiting for our house to sell to free up some cash flow. There is surprisingly little difference in price between flying to Frankfurt (which is a hub) and Milan. Probably we won’t spend 2500 for the two of us to go (in coach!!) so we’re looking at not Europe alternatives.

  173. My district had to stop going to DC due to high cost. They do an overnight now in Philly or Boston. Two long days and one night instead of 3 or 4 in DC.

    They also cancelled a sixth grade program that was four days about nature. No overnight replacement, but a day in a state park was added instead.

    I think the overnight trips are a hassle, but most kids will have fun and remember the trip.

    Some kids have never spent that many nights away from family, and I think that’s important too.

  174. I don’t find this particularly expensive, and you can easily get anywhere from Frankfurt:

    Philadelphia (PHL) to Frankfurt (FRA) — Mon, Jun 20
    American Airlines Inc. 700 Dep: 7:10 pm Arr: 9:10 am Tue, Jun 21 8h 0m Airbus A330

    Frankfurt (FRA) to Philadelphia (PHL) — Wed, Jun 29
    American Airlines Inc. 701 Dep: 11:00 am Arr: 1:55 pm 8h 55m Airbus A330
    Cost per passenger (including taxes & fees) $790.86

    You can get the same price from JFK.

  175. It looks like Icelandair would be about $1000 to Paris, and $900 to Copenhagen (there has been some discussion of doing some biking in Denmark and then visiting Legoland). We could do a stopover in Iceland which would add to the fun

  176. Lark, if you take Iceland air, consider a stopover in Rekyavico. There is no charge for it (contrary to usual rules), and when would you go there otherwise?

  177. Mooshi, we did an Arizona-Vegas trip several years ago with kids and it worked well. We stayed at Scottsdale resort for several days (we relaxed, kids did the pool and lazy river), then on to Sedona and the Grand Canyon (hiking, river rafting, sightseeing) and then on to Vegas to visit with family. While in Vegas, we walked the Strip, went to the Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon, and we hung out at the Mandalay Bay for a day. They had a nice pool area with a wave pool, a lazy river and real sand. The place was packed with college students on spring break. If I had more time, I would have liked to visit Bryce Canyon.

  178. We did a trip to DC in middle school. It was really fun.

    Mooshi – The Holocaust Museum is excellent. Really done well and, I think, the best museum here. It is also small enough that it is easy to get through. The Smithsonians are so big and crowded and it is hard to see much. My kids love the Air & Space museum near Dulles. I think watching paint dry is more fascinating.

  179. Here is the link to the 15 day cruise we are taking in June 2017. We have a penthouse jr suite on deck 8. Premium Economy – they don’t guarantee Icelandair, which is my vast preference to BA, but it is most likely. This line is for older people. Childfree 40-50 year old at the same price point choose Silversea.

    I looked at Disney cruise line (here to Montreal or some such) as a possible solo cruise trip with my granddaughters, and I couldn’t see how it would be anything but a chore for me and at the price I would prefer to do something I enjoy, too. And everything special was reserve in advance big bucks extra.

  180. my 8th grade class went to Chicago for 2 nights (took a bus) assuming we didn’t do DC because it would have been a much longer drive

  181. Kate, I have no doubt it is a good museum. I just feel like a class trip to Washington DC should concentrate on core US history, but neither of the museum stops chosen were really about that.

  182. There was no such thing as middle school class trips back in my day, nor high school ones except in France where we did 4 days in London. Oy, London with 3 busloads of screaming French teens, not fun!

  183. I chaperoned our school’s DC trip once and I thought it was well done, with sufficient time to enjoy both the historical and social aspects. Granted, it could seem rushed for someone like me who prefers to spend less time at fewer spots, but I think it worked for its purpose. As expected, there were plenty of bored kids who did not seem interested in some of the history, but that is not surprising.

    I’m interested in visiting Vegas to catch a particular concert, plus enjoy another show or two and maybe a side trip to some parks.

  184. I wonder if there will be tons of parents going on the DC trip, not chaperoning but caravaning their kids. It is a drivable distance from our location.

  185. DD – I’m flying off the West Coast. The same dates have me stopping in Canada (18 hours of travel) and traveling on an airline I don’t know for $1150. Nonstop is $1300. Another $150 to get to our final destination from Frankfurt. A nonstop flight to phl on those days costs $500. Perhaps it’s just the West Coast to East Coast portion of the trip which costs so much money.

    Of note, secret has some great deals from Denver to Belize today.

  186. Ada, thanks for the cruise estimate. Since Sitka was my favorite city, I only looked at cruises that included Sitka, which started at ~$9k for six, vs. $2k plus one-way airfare for AMHS. Maybe there’s another way to see Sitka. I’d also need to research if passports are needed for the Victoria, BC stop.

    Mr WCE and I would have to talk. Cruises, with their crowds of people, appeal to him not at all. He drinks minimally, as do all our friends, so I’d have to learn about whether the cruise environment would be something I’d be comfortable exposing my kids to and whether all the extras they wouldn’t get would frustrate them, compared to the free hot water (all the hot chocolate and cup o’ noodles you want!) on the AMHS.

  187. Dang, sorry I missed this — will have to catch up later.

    Re: cruises: I am generally not a fan — being a big introvert, being surrounded by 2000 people in forced-fun events is closer to my version of hell than something I will voluntarily pay for. But DH and I did go on Norwegian once for a long weekend pre-kids, and it was *awesome* — we got upgraded to a suite, and got to exit the ship before everyone else at the locations, plus $50 in shipboard credits (which, since it was a free upgrade, was basically free money).

    Given that experience, the one upgrade worth paying for is being able to cut line getting off the ship. When you have 6-8 hrs in one location, you don’t want to waste 2 of that just trying to exit the ship. I think the Haven would also suit my personality, a little quieter and more private, not the big buffet every meal, etc. (same reason we chose Norwegian for that one cruise all those years ago).

    Coincidentally, I did look at the Haven last week — DS wanted to look at a cruise for his “spend $1MM” project, and that article had just come out, so I pulled it up. The Haven was ridiculously expensive — but it also was the only option for a 2Br suite, and it wasn’t that much more expensive than two regular rooms with balconies. I think it priced out at $27K for a 14-day cruise for 4 people. The 8 or 10-day cruise we were looking at on RC last Christmas priced out around $13K for two regular balcony rooms, so it’s not like it’s double or triple.

    Not sure about the comments about the Haven being “hidden” — I think the article meant visually, once you are on the ship, not “we don’t allow MC people to book.” I pulled up the Norwegian page, and it was advertised right there next to all of the other rooms. It’s not exactly hard to find, and you don’t need to submit a credit report or full genealogical tree to book a room.

  188. Lauren, they dump the cost of the DC trip on the parents. Which is part of my annoyance – I am paying big bucks for a trip I don’t consider to be to be that great. And we really don’t have a choice in the matter. The only kids who don’t go are the ones who got into some kind of trouble. We have taken the kids to DC numerous times, so I know we can plan a more interesting trip for far cheaper.

    I am not as convinced that it is important for kids to have overnight trips. Until I was in France, I had never been away from my family. It wasn’t a problem. I actually think it is far more important for kids to spend some time out of their social milieu, which unfortunately our kids, in our safe little microdistricts, don’t get at all. One good thing about making our kids take Chinese school is that the two older ones stick out like sore thumbs. At least on Saturday morning, they get to be the visible minority. But it isn’t enough at all.

  189. “The only kids who don’t go are the ones who got into some kind of trouble.”

    Really? None of the kids have trouble affording the trip?

  190. What we splurge for: I am old enough to now feel forced into upgrading for any overnight flight — I have lost the ability to sleep in a regular seat, I need a plug for my CPAP, and if I don’t get sleep it will ruin the first 3-4 days of the trip. I don’t know where y’all are finding these $200-$900 upcharges — the cheapest business/first fare I could find to Europe this summer for our locations and dates was $5K per person (so, like DD pointed out, multiply by 4). Freaking heart attack. Luckily, we then found Condor Airlines, which was something like $1K for first class, with the full lay-flat bed and plugs and everything. Even upgraded on the way home at that price.

    My other splurge is for a view or location. Nothing makes me happier when I travel than having a great view. And when I’m in a major metropolitan area, I want to be able to walk places, so I will pay up for that location. And, finally, the $50-100 extra baggage fee on the way home, so I can bring a case of wine home with me. :-)

    For my regular travel, it’s Residence Inn. Agree with WCE that entertainment value for kids is critical. Having a 2 Br and a little kitchen to store milk/bananas and make my tea, with a waffle bar in the morning and snacks in the afternoon, and a pool to boot — well, that’s just awesome.

    DH and I talk in terms of “knee of the curve.” Places like the Residence Inn meet our needs most times for a pretty darn reasonable price point, but we’ve spent a lot more than that for the place in Tuscany, because it is just awesome and special and a fabulous place to spend DH’s 50th. I have a huge fondness for low-end food (cheesesteaks, pit beef shacks, etc.), and I brownbag almost every single day at work, but then we’ll have a nice meal and expensive bottle of wine for date night, and we don’t begrudge a single penny because it’s just delicious. If we did another cruise, I would totally pay up for the early exit to not waste my time standing in line, just like we paid up for the FastPass at Universal, because we had one day there, and it was worth the (ridiculous amount of) extra $$ to be able to squeeze in more of what we went there for. Etc.

  191. I chaperoned the DC trip for my oldest and was not terribly impressed. The museum trips seemed based on the idea that the kids could only handle half an hour at the museum before going to the gift shop. i thought we should have spent much more time on the monuments and museums, and ditched or greatly cut back the shopping.

    The food was terrible and our guide was obsessed with both JFK and the movie “National Treasure”.

    The National Holocaust Museum was breathtaking, though.

    My middle one didn’t want to go. None of her friends were going. We’ll see how the youngest feels about it.

  192. For regular travel, I really like the hotels with the free breakfast. It just makes life a little easier when whoever is ready to go can amble down and get coffee or juice or a waffle or whatever while the slower people continue to get ready.

  193. Thanks for the comments about the lines to get off the ship. That’s the sort of thing that I would need to know before deciding on a cruise vs. AMHS. On AMHS, I loved relaxing in my sleeping bag, looking out the tent flap, watching the mountains go by, which I wouldn’t get with a low-priced inside cruise cabin. I’d have to upgrade to a balcony, which would be a different price point.

  194. “for some reason there are hardly any VRBOs there.”

    Maybe there are legal limits?

    Here, there are a lot of VRBOs, but very few legal ones. Most of them are illegal, and IMO are a major contributor to our homelessness problem.

  195. “The only kids who don’t go are the ones who got into some kind of trouble.”

    “Really? None of the kids have trouble affording the trip?”

    I knew some kids who didn’t go, and I’m pretty sure affordability was the issue.

  196. “Is there anything else in Vegas for people who don’t really gamble much?”

    There is a ton of non-gambling stuff to do in (and around) Vegas.

    There are a lot of shows there, from the ones with the venues built just for those shows (e.g., Phantom, Celine Dion) to the acts that just play there for short times.

    Ada mentioned the Golden Nugget, which is considered one of the better downtown hotels (at least it is relative to the California Hotel, which is the standard against which most hotels are measured by most folks here). The Fremont Experience is nearby in downtown.

    There’s a lot of shopping, including several outlet malls. For those living where there is no Trader Joe’s, there are multiple TJ’s locations in Vegas.

    There are also numerous day, overnight, or multiple night trips you could take from Vegas, e.g., Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion (one of my favorites), Death Valley, Hoover Dam.

  197. “For regular travel, I really like the hotels with the free breakfast. It just makes life a little easier when whoever is ready to go can amble down and get coffee or juice or a waffle or whatever while the slower people continue to get ready.”

    Yeah, whoever gets to the bathroom first also can go down to eat first, and whoever finishes eating first can head back to the room to brush their teeth and get ready to leave.

  198. My two DS’s both have friends who are decidedly not UMC (one dad is a a cop for the NYC public housing authority, for example), but those kids still went on the respective trips. The parents just sucked it up. It is possible that around the point of the big layoffs in 2008 and 2009, there may have been more families who couldn’t send their kid due to a layoff, but this year, my 8th grader doesn’t know of anyone not going except for one who had some kind of family scheduling conflict.

  199. Mooshi, the cost is dumped on parents in our district too. The reason that they had to stop is that parents said they couldn’t afford it. Event he two day trip was $440 this year. The PTA provided over $3000 in donations for families that couldn’t afford the total, or partial amount. It is anonymous through the guidance department, but DC was closer to $800 so they said no way.

  200. More generally, beside the shows and shopping, Vegas is probably a good starting point for exploring the SW continental US. Easy to get to by plane, then rent a car or RV and hit the National Parks, Painted Desert, etc.

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