Mini-retirement update: And the winner is…


As many of you know, I took a bit of a risk recently and committed to taking a mini-retirement sometime before the end of next year.  I say “risk” because I hadn’t talked to either my wife or my boss before I wrote this post, but sometimes ready, fire, aim is the best approach.

Since then, we’ve spent many nights at the dinner table discussing the how, where and when (and if!) of mini-retirement numero uno.  Early on, those discussions revolved around convincing my wife why a month in a foreign land was a higher priority than that kitchen remodel that she’s been wanting.  She loves to travel as much as I do, however, so the discussion quickly shifted to “where are we going?”

For this first adventure, she thought it would be a good idea to go somewhere English speaking.  Language hasn’t been a huge barrier on previous trips (although China was a bit of a challenge), but since we’re going for a month and we’re taking our daughter with us, minimizing potential stressors seemed like a good idea.

After throwing out a variety of options, we quickly settled on Ireland and England.  I’ve always wanted to visit the land of Guinness and my wife has always wanted to visit an area of England called the Cotswolds.

The Planning Process

Step 1 was doing some research.  We stopped by the bookstore and picked up travel guides for both countries as well as Lonely Planet City Guides for Dublin and London.  We started going through the guides and listing out things we wanted to see and do in each place.  That gave us a good idea of what our trip itinerary would look like, so we started looking for places to stay in each destination.

I’m not a huge fan of staying in hotels on longer trips.  Not only are they expensive, but they don’t give you much of a local flavor for where you’re visiting.  If we’re staying for more than a few days, I prefer to rent a small house or apartment.  There are only three of us in my family, so it doesn’t need to be anything large or extravagant.

I typically use a site called Vacation Rental by Owner, but for this trip I also used a site called Airbnb as well as a company that specializes in renting cottages in the Cotswolds.  So far we’ve booked a small cottage in the Cotswolds for two weeks, a cool old barn that’s been converted into a house in Ireland, and a hotel in Western Ireland because we’ll only be there a few days.  No turning back now!  We still need to get places in London and Dublin, but because those are large cities, there are plenty of options.

I haven’t booked the airfare yet, but I’ve been using the Kayak App to track two different options.  Option 1 is buying an open-jaw ticket that goes from Omaha, to Dublin, to London, to Omaha.  An open-jaw ticket is where you leave from a different city than you originally arrived.  Option 2 is to just buy a round trip ticket to Ireland and then either use our British Airways points or low cost carrier Ryanair to book a round trip between Dublin and London.  I’m leaning toward Option 2 because it’s about $500 cheaper per ticket, which translates to $1,500 for the three of us.  I’ll probably pull the trigger on that soon.

We’ll need a car for part of the time in each country, so I reserved (and prepaid because it’s cheaper) for those as well.  I typically use Avis.  They have a program called Avis Preferred that costs nothing, but saves a huge amount of time and hassle.  If you sign up, it allows you to bypass the rental counter (i.e. Dante’s 5th circle of hell) and go directly to your car.

What I’ve Learned

So that’s where we’re at so far.  Here are a few takeaways from the process:

1)     I was reminded again about the importance of deciding.  Big goals can be challenging, scary, complicated and overwhelming.  Because of that, it’s often tough to get started.  Once you commit to do something however, the tough part is over.  The rest is just logistics.

2)     Planning early has allowed us to digest the expenses over time.  I’ve mentioned before that we are by no means a wealthy family.  We live on a single income and have what I have referred to before as an extravagantly modest lifestyle.  We spend on key things that are important to us (e.g. travel), but keep a tight rein on the rest of the budget.  Starting this process early has allowed us to pay for things like housing, transportation and plane tickets as we go rather than buying all those things at once and then facing a huge credit card bill.

3)     There are some amazing tools available to travelers.  I mentioned some of the sites I use for booking as well as travel apps that I’m fond of, but that’s just scratching the surface.  Researching and planning a trip has never been easier.

4)     I have some great readers!  I’ve heard from quite a few of you who are putting the mini-retirement concept into practice in your own lives.  Keep at it and let me know if there’s ever anything I can do to help.

How about you?  Is there something you’ve always wanted to do?  Don’t save the best for last.  Get started now.  Feel free to share your plans in the comments section and we can be cheering you on.

I hope you’re warm wherever you are.  It’s a beautiful negative 3 degrees in Omaha this morning.  If I hadn’t already committed all of my vacation time in 2014 to this other trip, I’d be researching an island getaway right now.  Have a great weekend!

~ Joe

15 Responses to “Mini-retirement update: And the winner is…”

  1. Dan December 6, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    Congrats on the decision! When are you guys going? I spent 4 months in England and 1 month in Ireland if you want any recommendations when I get back. We’ll probably have nothing else to chat about anyways. 🙂 Responding specifically to your Ryanair comment, I did take it from Ireland to England and back. I had no problems and it was dirt cheap although they will nickle and dime (pence and pound?) you to to death if you’re not careful. Looking forward to being back there and catching up with you!

    • Joe Hearn December 6, 2013 at 11:28 am #

      Hi Dan. Hope all is going well in the Congo! We’re heading out next summer. We figured that would be easiest since the little one is still in school. Thanks for your thoughts on Ryanair. I noticed that they charge for prettty much everything (I even heard they were considering charging for bathroom use), so we’ll have to take that into consideration. I’ll definitely be picking your brain when you get back. Travel safe and I’ll talk to you soon!

      • Dan December 6, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

        Cool, so plenty of time to chat about it. Yeah, I had heard the same about Ryanair bathrooms. BTW, I still have in my e-mail inbox our blog post discussion we had before I left. 🙂 Maybe when I get home???

        • Joe Hearn December 6, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

          Sounds like a plan!

  2. Tim December 6, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    Have been enjoying reading your blog the last few months. My wife and I have also been considering the Cotswalds and walking the Cotswalds away. We always like to stay local and rent like you do. Would you mind sharing the name of the company you used to rent in the Cotswalds? Thanks

    • Joe Hearn December 6, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

      Hi Tim. Thanks for the comment and for following along. The company we used for the Cotswolds rental was Manor Cottages. Their website is So far they’ve been great to deal with. Hope that helps. Let me know if there’s ever anything else I can do. Also, if you decide to go, shoot me an email and we can compare notes.

  3. Tim December 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    Thanks Joe
    We’ll definitely touch base after we go (although it may not be for 12 months or so). We’re also looking forward to hearing of your adventure.

  4. Buck December 6, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    Good for you, Joe. And kudos to your family for making this a ‘go’. I’m really looking forward to hearing about your adventure next summer. Another helpful site I’ve found for similar longer-term housing needs is

    • Joe Hearn December 9, 2013 at 9:24 am #

      Thanks! Anything new on Spain?

      • Buck December 9, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

        Just prepping the paperwork for the long-term visa that we’ll apply for in early 2014. We’re targeting the start of our adventure in July.

        • Joe Hearn December 10, 2013 at 10:31 am #

          Sounds great! Keep me posted on how things go. I’m jealous since yours is for an entire year. BTW, there was an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal titled “The Case for a Midlife Gap Year.” I haven’t read it yet, but I thought you might want to check it out.

  5. Mark December 7, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

    Hi Joe,

    Congratulations! You’re using a lot of “nuggets” my wife & I use. We’re 53, emptynesters. I’m not retired. Kudos for: VRBO -use it all the time (also, monthly rates can be lower); planning/buying way ahead & spreading out the credit card payments (we earmark additional funding from tax returns & bonuses). For the cheapest car rentals we “snag”/ cancel many times –up to 24 hrs before pickup). Consider monthly train passes (same, lower rate reason). It’s hard to completely leave work for a month. But, as you’ve written before -the computer has allowed people (like me!) to do & “be” anywhere…anywhere in the world. For planning to “experience a place” on extended adventures (immersing into the culture) –look into the very local festivals and events. These end up being our fondest memories.

    • Joe Hearn December 9, 2013 at 9:28 am #

      Great thoughts Mark! I’ll do some research on the local festivals and events. That sounds like a great way to connect with people and have an experience that goes beyond the “touristy.”

  6. Robert Fowler December 28, 2013 at 12:31 am #

    Hey Joe, my wife and I just did the British Isles cruise and a stay in London on the back end, for our 40th wedding anniversary. It was in August. It was great. I think you will have a great time also.

    • Joe Hearn January 7, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

      Hi Robert. Thanks. Glad to hear that you guys had a great time. That gives me some encouragement that we chose the right place for this first one. We’re really looking forward to it. BTW, sorry for the slow reply. I’ve been out of town. Thanks again for touching base. Let me know if there’s ever anyting I can do for you.

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