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2017 Travel Budget

April 25, 2017

We finally settled on our vacation plans for the year!  I was debating between doing an international vacation this summer or a road trip north through Oregon / N. California national parks and such.  We decided to pull the trigger on the Germany/France trip this summer, and I am so excited!  I’m having lots of fun planning the logistics, and will share more after we return.

Germany / France – $2,300:  

We decided to pull the trigger on the Germany/France trip this summer, and I am so excited!

We’re leaving on a Sunday (for a Monday arrival) and returning the following Tuesday.  We’ll be renting a car for most of the trip, and heading to the Alsace region of France from Germany.  Out-of-pocket costs are expected to be $2,300, which includes a (hopefully overly) generous budget for daily food/misc. spending.

  • Total:  $2,300
  • Flights: $115 (fees associated with booking)
  • Train/Taxi/Etc.:  $186
  • Car Rental, Fuel, and Parking:  $456
  • Lodging: $344
  • Food/Entertainment/Misc.:  $1270

Flights – We are buying the tickets on airline miles for me, and a flight combined with a work trip for T.  We are using some banked hotel points for a subset of the lodging.  Other than that we are using a mix of AirBNB and hotels.com.

Lodging – I’ve used AirBNB many times, but have mixed feelings about it. As a consumer, it often fits my needs and provides a better value than the traditional mid-priced hotel I’d otherwise choose. However, I don’t like the light touch AirBNB takes on cracking down on illegal use of the site, and I worry about how it impacts major tourist cities.  To balance this, I chose rentals of private rooms rather than entire apartments for this trip. To me, it seems like a more appropriate use and also allows us to meet a local host – and we don’t plan to cook or spend lots of time at the lodging.  On the other hand, I enjoy the privacy of a hotel, so the AirBNB nights are limited. The hotels booked with points are in really nice hotels, which is a fun treat that I wouldn’t splurge on if I had to pay with cash money.

Ground Transit – This will be our first car rental abroad, but it will give  us a lot of freedom and flexibility.  Since we are spending most of our time outside of the major cities, relying on public transit would be a hassle.  We are still taking advantage of trains for parts of the trip.  T was (rightfully) uncomfortable arriving jet lagged and immediately hopping into a car in a large foreign city, so we’ll take the train to our first stop, sleep the night, spend part of the day there, then rent the car. This is less efficient and adds some expense and time – but it beats the alternative. We’ll drop the car at our last stop (where T will stay for work for several days longer than me), and separately take the train to the departure airport.  This budget also includes transit to/from the airport in the US, which can add up.

Midwest Trip – $150:  

T’s parents rented a cabin at a lake for a week. I’ll visit for a weekend, and T will stay for the week (mostly because we don’t want to plan \ another long duration dog care).  We still had a bunch of Southwest miles from our long-distance marriage days (how did we ever manage that?!), so flights were booked with those. We may need a car for the weekend, but this should be a pretty inexpensive trip.

Camping / Hiking – $200:

We have a 2 night stay at a dog-friendly drivable cabin booked for late summer.  There has been murmurs of backpacking trips, but I don’t realistically think we can fit it in this summer. At least, I’m not going to plan it! If someone else does, I will try to sneak it in.

Midwest for Christmas – ???:

We’ll book tickets for this pretty soon.  Paying with cash, these tickets run $600+ each, so I’m hoping to use miles for at least one of the tickets.  I will replenish my miles balance a bit on my upcoming international work trip, then we’ll make the call on the best way to book these.  As long as the mileage “cost” doesn’t go up, we will be able to cover both.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2017 12:59 pm

    We originally wrote ours out assuming a trip for a friend’s 40th birthday ($1000), a trip for parentals’ 60ths ($2000), a weekend getaway ($1000) and Christmas ($1000). Based on wedding reception timing, I think we’ve in-nayed the parentals party and the weekend getaway budget has mostly morphed into a honeymoon, plus extra budget… We count the value of travel points in the spending for travel, but then that’s bonus cash flow. For example, we bought our honeymoon flights (Italy! Three weeks!) with points, which is cash flow how they were paid for, but the cost was really $3000 since we see them as having a real value. We used a mix of hotels.com and Airbnb for places to stay and will save the rest of our UR points for later. We should book Christmas flights soon but we’ve been so consumed with wedding planning that hasn’t happened.

    • April 25, 2017 1:21 pm

      That’s an interesting way of budgeting with points / cash flow. Most of my hotel and miles can’t otherwise be converted to cash, so there isn’t much value in tracking in that way for me. The availability of points to cover my flight significantly impacts my decision of whether I want to go on a vacation this year. I most likely would not have went ahead with the trip if we had to pay $1600 each for a RT flight.

      If we end up purchasing our xmas tickets in cash, the equation changes slightly because we effectively “spent” the money because of the vacation. I have UR points that I could convert into miles for this, but I’d rather save those and use the “unconvertible” miles that I’m earning shortly. So, in short, out of pocket cost matters the most to me, as long as I properly consider the impact to travel I’m already obligated for.

      Italy sounds great! What are you doing there?

      • April 25, 2017 1:43 pm

        That’s fair that most hotel points can’t otherwise be converted to cash. We used some SPG points for the trip earlier this year and we probably would have paid cash for those rooms, so I counted those points with a valuation as to how much it would have cost in cash.

        I think point usage all depends on how far in advance you can plan vacations and how flexible you are with where you’re going. We generally go to places that are hard to use points for flights and haven’t been able to book vacations far enough in advance or flexible enough to get great deals on points, which we do recognize has made things more expensive at times and we’ve accepted that.

        My husband has never been to Europe and the only place in Italy I’ve been to was Rome, over a decade ago. So we are relaxingly touristing around a bunch of Italy which we are super looking forward to 😀

        • April 25, 2017 1:55 pm

          Now I’m thinking I should count using my UR points as spending if I do end up using them for anything!

          I haven’t spent much time in italy – we went to Venice and did some hiking on the France/Italy border. If you are into hiking, you can do little hut-to-hut hikes. One of my favorite vacations ever!

          • April 25, 2017 2:20 pm

            Venice is first on our itinerary! It looks lovely 🙂 I definitely would count the UR points usage as spending offset with the same amount of income – they have a real cash value in the worst case of one cent each.

  2. April 26, 2017 1:28 pm

    I’m so excited for you!! This all sounds wonderful.

    I do count the value of redeemed points and miles because that’s cash I can divert to savings or use to cover our eating expenses. Where’s the pup going to stay while you’re traveling? I think you mentioned having a friend who could trade dogsitting with?

    Can I request that you take and share lots of pictures of your food while you’re there? I’ve been craving German food for weeks! 🙂

    • April 26, 2017 8:58 pm

      Yes, trading dog sitting! To be honest, it is not 100% lined up yet, but I booked tickets anyway. We have 2 families and both said “yes, that would probably work”, so we just have to finalize the details. I’d also be happy to pay them, but they refused our money. We may try again since this is a longer stay. Also, I owe you an e-mail response 🙂

      Yes, photos will be numerous!

  3. May 1, 2017 8:05 am

    Europe with virtually free airfares – fantastic! I admire T’s sense and self-discipline about not driving while jetlagged. Smart!

    • May 1, 2017 12:42 pm

      I think it is mostly because he’s never driven outside the US and it is a little scary to him. I agree, I wouldn’t be so disciplined and would probably just try to drive. 🙂

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