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My husband bought a new carry-on suitcase for me for Christmas. It’s what I had asked for. My old one had become a little too worn and looked like the zipper might give out before too many more trips. It had been a good suitcase. We bought it right after we had finished paying off our last debt (except for the house) which was my student loans. For years we had not taken any vacations. We had been on the Dave Ramsey plan and were going through his Baby Steps to Financial Peace. We had been on Step 2 for years, but when we finally sent off my last student loan payment (when I was 40 years old), we were at the stage where we could afford to take vacations again. My mom bought my husband, daughter, and I luggage for Christmas that year, and we couldn’t wait to put it to use.

The first trip was to Washington, D.C., for my daughter’s seventh grade school trip. We had saved up for her to go, and since we were both teachers at the middle school where she attended, we got to go along as chaperones for free. It was a great trip, and I learned so much!

In June of that year, we took a family road trip to Vegas and Disneyland. We took my daughter to see Michael Jackson One by Cirque Du Soleil in Vegas while we were there.

March 2016 was the big one. We had decided that each year we would take turns picking a trip that the family would take on spring break. We let my daughter choose first. She was in 8th grade, and she chose London. We had so much fun planning the trip. I had never been to Europe, so there was so much to read and learn about before the trip. We paid all cash for everything. We were still working on the Dave Ramsey Baby Steps, so going into debt was not an option. I had cash envelopes set up for each day with enough money for all the meals and activities we had planned. It was my favorite trip ever. Dave was right, taking a vacation that didn’t “follow you home” had a whole different feel. I just couldn’t believe we were there and able to share that experience together.

Spring Break 2017 was my husband’s pick. He chose Italy. In 2018, we split our trips. Our daughter went to Spain on a school trip. It was my turn to pick, so I chose Memphis (to see Graceland), Nashville, and Dollywood because Dolly is my favorite famous person. My husband and I took that trip alone since our daughter was in Spain.

In 2019 it was my pick again since I hadn’t gotten to choose a trip for the whole family yet. I chose New York. We saw three Broadway plays while we were there.

We had a trip planned to Japan in 2020. It was Mallory’s (our daughter’s) turn to pick, and she was going to get to bring a friend since it was her senior year. We had to cancel that. We rescheduled a trip to Budapest (her second choice) instead since there weren’t many cases of Covid in Budapest at that time, and we were in denial that this “pandemic” was going to be a big deal. We were so wrong. We had to cancel that one too. Maybe one day we’ll try for Japan again.

In 2020 my daughter started college. Her 2021 spring break and ours were not at the same time, so she came home to Montana for her spring break, and Hank (my husband) and I went to Savannah, Georgia, for ours. That was Hank’s pick.

My parents have been snowbirds in Nicaragua for the past few years. In 2022, Hank and I went to visit them in their paradise away from home.

We’re still on the Dave Ramsey plan. We’re on Step 5 out of 7— save for your children’s college. This is an intense one. Our daughter will graduate in May with her bachelor’s degree but will need a fifth year to get a teaching certificate. It’s been a long, expensive haul, but she’s held up her end of the bargain, and if all goes as planned, she’ll finish five years of school debt free which, as Dave says, “will change your family tree.” We’ve had to pause vacations for her last few years of school. All vacation money goes to either visiting her or bringing her home. But we’ll get back to taking trips again soon.

When I opened my gift of a new suitcase for Christmas this year, I got excited. The last suitcase led to so many new adventures, I can’t wait to see where this one takes me.