MONEY Travel

How One Family Discovered a Vacation in a Box

201407_SPE_VACATIONBOX
R. Kikuo Johnson

Buying a $1,000-plus roof cargo box sure sounded like a waste of money to this dad. Here's why he was wrong.

My go-to strategy as a smart consumer is simple: inaction. Unlike, say, folks who own 3-D TVs—80% of whom now say they regret the purchase—I rarely wish I hadn’t bought something. That’s easy when you follow the gospel of doing, and buying, nothing. Sometimes, though, sitting on your hands can get you into trouble. Like when your wife asks about the roof cargo box that you were supposed to buy, and that the family needs for a vacation in three days.

I could blame only myself. We’d talked about this purchase months earlier, but the options had seemed chintzy (bound to fall off on the highway), bulky (where the heck would we store the thing?), bizarrely expensive ($1,500 for a hunk of plastic?), or all of the above. Plus, we’d use it only a couple of times a year.

Maybe the issue would resolve itself, like the way I tell buddies that I’m debating buying a new tool and poof!—there’s one available to borrow. How this would happen for the roof box, I hadn’t a clue. That didn’t stop me from doing nothing.

Which is where things stood days before my wife expected to see one atop our Honda Pilot. I resorted to my go-to response: “Ummm …” To which Jessica disgustedly left, bound for the local ski shop to buy the box herself.

Sure enough, our Thule Force XXL 626, plus roof rack and “Aeroblade load bars,” cost way more than it should—north of $1,000 with installation. Guess what? I love the thing. Yes, we use the box sparingly. Half-dozen times a year tops. When we need it, though, we really need it. Our clan, already large enough to field a basketball team, recently welcomed child No. 4. With the Thule, our six-person family can once again go almost anywhere and do almost anything together.

I worried the box would be dust-collecting clutter. Instead, it’s come to represent freedom and adventure. Not the adrenalized kind in ads (we’re not going kite- surfing anytime soon) but in the real-world sense, like “Finally, a place to throw these beach chairs!” The Thule genuinely makes life easier and more fun, which is rare for any purchase, let alone some stupid piece of plastic.

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