Hey, long time no see. Forgive me, as I’ve been severely blog delinquent. I spent most of last week enjoying the holiday with family, foolishly thinking I was going to write posts at night. Luxe–you silly. To compound on that, I’ve been sitting on about 10 drafts on serious and important topics that I can’t ever seem to finish. If you’ve ever thought this blog seemed “polished,” the only reason it’s not word-vom central is because my husband reads most of my posts and he’s an excellent editor. For example, he read an investing post that I thought was 75% done, but then he told me his eyes glazed over in a few parts (which is the WORST), and now I’m paralyzed by how to fix it.
So in an effort to get over “it’s not perfect-itis,” today I’m doing the totally normal thing I should do more, which is write about what’s currently happening in my life.
Here’s what’s happening: I’ve been a victim of vacation scope creep. Iceland was supposed to be the last trip we were going on this year. But have you ever worked on a project and thought you were close to being done, but then the client decides to add on new asks way at the end? Yeah, life has a way of doing that, too. Not like I’m so innocent, but the opportunity came up to go on two extra trips this year, and now we’re going on them. The first surprise trip is going to Texas on a sort of family mini-reunion. And the second new trip is a multi-city tour through Southeast Asia. Before either of those trips, we’re going to Iceland, as we had originally planned. So lately my life has been taken over by trip planning! Literally. The night we got back from seeing family I stayed up until 2am watching Youtube videos on how not to get swept away by (warning: terrifying things start happening at the 2-minute mark) sneaker waves in Iceland. That’s how serious I am about safety, guys.
Besides planning for safety, I’m thinking about how to be savvy about trips from a financial perspective. I used to just accept that trips cost what they do, and so I’d go on fewer of them, but once I discovered the ways to get more for less, trips haven’t been the same since. Now I do a lot of upfront planning so I can reduce trip costs as much as possible.
First, how much do we typically spend on travel a year?
Last year, we spent a little less than $7,000 on travel, which includes Hawaii and New Zealand.
This year we’ve already spent $4,600, and I estimate we’ll spend about $7,000 total, for:
- 6 local-ish trips to see friends/family (involves renting cars/buying train tickets)
- 1 anniversary weekend trip
- 2 cross-country trips to see friends
- 2 international trips (one with business-class seats)
I count all food eaten while traveling as “travel,” by the way.
Once I list out all the trips like that, it really seems we get a lot for our money. I mean, $7,000 could easily cover just two international trips. That’s also less than 3% of our gross income, which seems relatively frugal from a proportional standpoint. Anyway, I had no idea how much other people spend on travel and I was curious, so I found this Reddit thread where money-minded people divulge their annual travel budgets. Reading through makes me feel like our spend is not totally out of whack for people who prioritize travel.
So what kind of new trip costs am I dealing with now?
4 days in Texas:
- Three roundtrip flights cost about $850
Food and lodging will be covered by my brother-in-law. While we were in Cape Cod, he texted this trip idea to my husband and father-in-law. He wanted to get the whole family together and spend the weekend on a resort ranch in Texas. My husband and I are fortunate to be well-off, but my brother-in-law is an entrepreneur and owns a Lamborghini. Not just any Lamborghini. A brightly-colored one. So when I heard the word “resort,” my initial thought was that this vacation would definitely be out of our league. After they got the text, my husband and father-in-law both looked at me at the same time and asked what I thought of this trip idea. I tried to hedge by replying, “I don’t know yet, I need to check the budget.” Then my father-in-law looked at me like I had three heads and said everything would be covered by my brother-in-law. We just had to get ourselves there.
OK, so $850 on flights. I asked my husband to try to travel hack the Texas trip the other day, and after a somewhat traumatic experience of trying to find a button on a website for 20 minutes, he told me he finally felt like our relationship was 50/50 (because relationships NEVER are). He does most of the domestic stuff, like the cooking, cleaning and most of the laundry, and I do the invisible back-end stuff, like the money management, trip planning, and general organizational tasks. Basically, I tell him which credit cards to sign up for, and he shows up to our flights without a worry in the world. I’d say it’s a pretty fair exchange!
Anyway, I decided we’ll be using 56k Chase Sapphire points to cover the Texas flights. I didn’t see a solid reason to save those points for Asia (Do you? If so, let me know!), and we’re saving cashback from our credit cards to reduce the Iceland costs. Iceland is hard to travel hack, and is also an expensive country, so cashback is where it’s at.
Next up, the biggie. I’ll explain how this trip came to be in another post, so for now, let’s just talk costs.
17 days in Southeast Asia:
- Two roundtrip flights to Asia cost about $2,468 each in economy and $6,038 each in business. We used 125k points each to book the business-class seats with a stopover in Tokyo.
- Then two multi-city flights will cost about $750
- Lodging will cost about $1,600 (mid-range)
- The budget for food is “IDGAF”
The flights to get from NYC to Asia are covered by points. Our theme for the trip is Anthony Bourdain-style, focusing on food and soaking in the local culture. The tentative multi-city route is Hanoi —> Luang Prabang —> Chiang Mai —> Ho Chi Minh City —> Tokyo. For a hot second I was obsessed with adding in a beach spot in there (Phu Quoc or Thai islands), but then I remembered that those don’t really fit in with the theme of the trip. I was just getting sucked into the whole “while we’re there we should add this on just because” thing, which can really set you up for disappointment. Plus, I’m angling to stay at hotels with nice pools, so there’s a compromise.
The regional flights we’ll probably pay out of pocket, but I’m working hard to figure out how to get hotel costs down. Paying out of pocket isn’t so bad in Southeast Asia, but I see an opportunity to stay at nicer places by leveraging credit cards. I’ve never been into hotels before, but now I am, because you get fancier as you get older. I signed up for the Marriott credit card, because I saw a bonus opportunity: they were offering 100k bonus points that was going to go away on July 12th. Marriott has a decent footprint in Asia in case we do the nicer hotels and need points to cover those costs. And you can transfer points to the Starwood program (my favorite) or airlines. So if I don’t use them for hotels, I can find a way to use them for airfare. Now I’ve got to make sure we spend that $5,000 in three months to get the 100k bonus. That’s juuust about what we normally spend outside of rent and utilities, so I need to stay on top of it.
I’ve also been swooning at the Park Hyatt Tokyo (cliche, I know, but they have Aesop toiletries) and Park Hyatt Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City, so I’m thinking of having my husband sign up for a World of Hyatt Credit Card for 60k points (offer no longer available), which could cover about two nights at the hotel in Tokyo (retail: $516 per night!) plus one at the Saigon one. The only problem is making that $3,000 minimum spend to get the 60k points could be a challenge, especially as I’m working on the $5,000 Marriott spend at the same time. But the wheels are churning in my head.
All of this means I’m probably not going to go to FinCon anymore, which is THE financial blogger conference. It would have cost about $1,000 out of pocket for me. I bought two tickets at the lowest price ($189 each), so if anyone wants to buy them from me, hit me up! I think there’s a change fee, but even with that added on, it would be half the price as buying tickets now ($499 each), so don’t sit on this deal, folks. I’m obviously bummed and will probably regret this decision, but this is what adults do: they give up one thing in favor of another, instead of thinking they can have all the things at once.
How much do you typically spend on travel per year? Do you have any upcoming trips? How are you planning to save money on them? Or do you accept that trips cost what they do?
Feature Image: Unsplash