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Wanderlust (on a budget)

February 28, 2008
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I noticed that the “Budgeting” category of this blog was becoming one of my most frequent topics, while “Travel” has scarcely been mentioned. That makes me sad, because travel is my passion and budgeting… well, it is just a tool to help me follow my passions. In case budgeting doesn’t pan out, I optimistically entered this sweepstakes–you can too, if you are 26 or under! My four countries? Cambodia, Italy, South Africa and New Zealand. (It doesn’t matter what you pick, the real prize is a $12,000 travel certificate).

I spent a lot on travel last year–at least it seems like a lot to me. According to Yodlee, I spent roughly $2,500 between march and December. This was spent on a trip to North Carolina, to New York City, and two pre-move trips to Los Angeles, plus a nice New Years Eve vacation (also to LA). I think I also included money spent on trips back home (500 mile drive) and a short weekend excursion we took to Madison, WI. Considering all the fun I had and places I went, that isn’t that bad of a price. I always stayed with friends, so that saved a bunch on hotel costs. Plane tickets were the largest portion, running about $320 for most trips and up to $460 (yikes) for the holiday trip. In 2006 I spent even more, finishing my last semester in Hong Kong and visiting Thailand, Malaysia, mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore and Bali. I’m glad I don’t have the numbers for 2006 readily accessible, but I can say my plan ticket to/from Hong Kong was about $1300 alone. (I did get a $5000 scholarship though.)

Doing the math for last year, I spent an average of $200/mo on travel. I only budgeted $100 each month for this year. I was in a long distance relationship for part of the year, so two of those trips were due to that. Thankfully, the distance has been reduced to about 7 miles, so no plane tickets necessary (just gas and patience with traffic). I now live in a new part of the country, so I don’t feel the need to buy plane tickets to explore because there are a lot of great things to see within driving distance.

Despite the fun to be had around here, we are planning a short trip next month. San Fransisco, here I come! Plane tickets should be pretty cheap, about $120 round trip or less, but we might take the train one way just for (11 hours of) fun/scenery. It is the same price, roughly. Again, we won’t pay for lodging–my parents are currently living/working a ways outside of the city, so a free place to stay and quite likely a lot of free meals and stuff too. The expenses probably will just be some wine tastings and any other activities that cost money.

My tips for cheap travel? Visit friends/family! If you have a place to stay, your costs will be a lot lower. That really is my only tip, anything else I add would be even more obvious.

Travel is the one area in which spending money never pains me the way it does with other expenses. Though I’m scaling back my travel spending this year, I am always going to make it a priority to go new places and see new things. This is what money is for, at least in my case.

Now, though this isn’t strictly personal finance related, I leave you with a favorite poem:

where we are

i envy those
who live in two places:
new york, say, and london;
wales and spain;
l.a. and paris;
hawaii and switzerland.

there is always the anticipation
of the change, the chance that what is wrong
is the result of where you are. i have
always loved both the freshness of
arriving and the relief of leaving. with
two homes every move would be a homecoming.
i am not even considering the weather, hot
or cold, dry or wet: i am talking about hope.

-gerald locklin

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. pennysavings permalink
    February 28, 2008 11:05 am

    The author of Cheap Healthy Good wrote an article about how to save money while traveling. Here is the link:

    http://cheaphealthygood.blogspot.com/2007/08/cheap-healthy-vacation-food-61-tips-for.html

  2. February 28, 2008 3:00 pm

    Travel is one thing I don’t mind spending money on, either! I can’t think of a single trip I’ve taken that wasn’t worth the money. I think my big vacation this year is going to be to L.A. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. February 28, 2008 10:47 pm

    Maybe you can up your travel budget a little? Latin America is cheap(er) to travel to and it’s gorgeous. I’d love to take a big trip this year… but that probably won’t happen. BUT – I am going on a Vegas getaway soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. February 29, 2008 12:46 pm

    I’m slooooowly filtering money into my big travel fund, which is going to cover a big trip (riding the Trans-Mongolian railway from Moscow to Beijing with a stop in Ulaan Baatar) before I start grad school…

    …but this makes me realize I haven’t thought much about the trips I plan to take this year (a week in Italy for my mom’s 60th birthday in August, financed by my parents; a week in Portland to see friends & whatnot, financed by me)! I’ll have to work that into my budget somehow.

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