Balancing Travel and Savings

Like most peo­ple, I love going on vaca­tions. Some­one else cooks for a week in an exot­ic locale? Sign me up!

But, trav­el­ing can get pricey fast. First class seats for the flights. 5 star hotels. Miche­lin starred restau­rants. Guid­ed tours. A per­son­al masseuse. Cham­pagne when­ev­er you want.

Ok now I’m just detail­ing the life of an aver­age bil­lion­aire. But you get the point.

Trav­el­ing around the world doesn’t have to be super expen­sive. I thought detail­ing my expens­es for the last two major trips I’ve tak­en would be help­ful and inspir­ing.

Ele­phant Rocks, Aus­tralia


Total cost: $4480.40


Flights: $2462.46At over half the total cost, the flights were eas­i­ly the most expen­sive part of my vaca­tion. I trav­eled around the hol­i­day sea­son and tick­ets always cost more then. Even though I made an effort to take red eye flights on a Tues­day night, I still paid through the nose. Thank­ful­ly my room­mate gave me rides to the air­port so I didn’t have to wor­ry about leav­ing my car at the air­port for 3 weeks.
Reim­burse­ment: $1543.80I vis­it­ed my sis­ter who lived in Perth at the time. She was leav­ing Aus­tralia short­ly after my vis­it, so she was try­ing to spend down her Aus­tralian cash. It was a win for both of us- I didn’t get any for­eign trans­ac­tion fees and she didn’t have to wor­ry about con­vert­ing her mon­ey before she left.
Cathay: $190.68Since my sis­ter was leav­ing the coun­try, I agreed to be a pack mule and cov­ered the cost of her extra lug­gage that I hauled back with me. 200 lbs of lug­gage for a lit­tle per­son like me was quite the sight.
Misc: $103.46All the extra lit­tle things I bought. Things like snacks for the flights (much cheap­er at the super­mar­ket than the air­port bode­ga), sou­venirs of my trip and gifts for friends back home.

If I were to plan the same trip to Aus­tralia, it’d prob­a­bly cost me about twice as much now that I don’t have the lux­u­ry of crash­ing on my sister’s couch- or the floor after she sold the couch on Craigslist. Hous­ing is crazy expen­sive Down Under and even more so in Perth. Not to men­tion I’d prob­a­bly want to rent a car and learn how to dri­ve on the wrong side of the road. All I real­ly paid for were some gro­ceries, petrol, and split­ting the camp­ing fees for some of the sites we stayed at. While I was incred­i­bly for­tu­nate to have access to my sis­ter and her net­work of friends, we still made an effort to keep costs down. Only one fan­cy din­ner (my treat because I want­ed to spoil my sis­ter and her room­mate for New Years) and cheap enter­tain­ment options, like rid­ing bikes around Rot­tnest Island or hang­ing out at the beach all day. Hence, an amaz­ing 3 week vaca­tion over Christ­mas in Aus­tralia for the low, low cost of slight­ly less than $5,000!



Total cost: $3239.72


Flights: $778.81Turns out, not hav­ing to fly halfway round the world dur­ing Decem­ber is way cheap­er. My actu­al flight costs were clos­er to $225 after I used my trav­el rewards. Thanks to Brad at Rich­mond Savers for all the per­son­al­ized help!
Trip cost: $2600All inclu­sive trip! This includ­ed trans­porta­tion, one night in Quito, a week at the Hos­te­ria, more food than I could eat, and oth­er fun activ­i­ties like ziplin­ing and a choco­late fac­to­ry tour.
Inci­den­tals: $415.83All the lit­tle things I bought dur­ing the trip, and trav­el insur­ance. It was most­ly food and alco­hol 🙂 Oh, and one post­card at the Equa­tor Muse­um.

This trip was obvi­ous­ly much cheap­er over­all than the trip to Aus­tralia, but that comes with the caveat that this was a one week trip and Aus­tralia was for 3 weeks. I could’ve made the trip even cheap­er if I hadn’t bought so much choco­late or chick­en strips at the air­port, but then the trip would be slight­ly less spe­cial. And I would’ve been even hun­gri­er than I was. The extra mar­gin­al costs were total­ly worth it.

Ok, Gwen, that’s total­ly cool that you post­ed all of your expens­es and every­thing. Kudos on trav­el­ing fair­ly cheap­ly. But we want to know HOW you came up with the mon­ey to spend on these trips in the first place.”

To which I respond, that’s a very valid question/response.

My snarky answer is I have a job.

My actu­al answer with sub­stance is I saved up for them. I have all of my sav­ings com­ing out of my pay­checks first auto­mat­i­cal­ly (401k, Roth IRA, etc). Then, what­ev­er is left­over after tax­es and bills is my “fun mon­ey”. That’s mon­ey I usu­al­ly spend on extra food and nights out at the bar, but I do save up some of it in a dif­fer­ent account. Then, when some­thing comes along that I want to do (like spend a week in Ecuador or go see the new Har­ry Pot­ter play in Lon­don), I have the mon­ey wait­ing. Then at the end of the month I trans­fer the vaca­tion funds over and pay off my cred­it card with the extra cash. Rinse, and repeat.

I also find it help­ful to pay for things in advance in small chunks. That way, the impact to my nom­al month­ly bud­get is fair­ly min­i­mal.

Gwen!! One more ques­tion- Do you set aside X% of your salary for vaca­tion every year?”

Excel­lent ques­tion, but no, I don’t. How much I save for vaca­tion inverse­ly depends on how many bur­ri­tos and mar­gar­i­tas I buy. The more mon­ey I don’t spend at home is more mon­ey for me to spend away from home. Doing some back of the nap­kin math, I spend about 5% per year on aver­age on vaca­tion. I would spend a lot more on trav­el, but I only get 10 days of vaca­tion a year (booooooo!) from my job, so my spend­ing is arti­fi­cial­ly lim­it­ed by time scarci­ty. That’s the only lim­it I real­ly have on my vaca­tion spend­ing.

TL;DR: I took a cou­ple of real­ly awe­some trips that didn’t cost a whole lot due to a vari­ety of fac­tors. All of my vaca­tion spend­ing mon­ey comes from my “fun mon­ey” fund that I con­tribute to every month.

How do you approach vaca­tion spend­ing? Where are some awe­some cheap places you’ve vis­it­ed?

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3 thoughts on “Balancing Travel and Savings

  1. I love this. You’re the only oth­er blog­ger I’ve seen total their trip costs. I’ve done a cou­ple (Switzer­land and Peru) and right now I’m work­ing on a trip to Japan we took last month. I include food expens­es too so I can com­pare all the coun­tries on every expense cat­e­go­ry, I even fig­ure trans­porta­tion costs per mile trav­eled in each place.

    We keep our trav­el expens­es low by churn­ing cred­it cards for miles and points. So my wife and I kept Peru and Switzer­land under $2,000 each for 8 or 9 day trips, includ­ing food, and I think Japan will be around the same.

  2. Wow your vaca­tions seem crazy expen­sive to me. Have you look at sites like They often have these escort­ed 1 week Ecuador vaca­tions for less than 1k.

    • It was slight­ly more expen­sive than it could have been, yes. Keep in mind this trip was all-inclu­sive, so every­thing was cov­ered. I could prob­a­bly find a cheap­er all-inclu­sive trip to Ecuador, but this one was spe­cial as it had an FI focus. I con­sid­er every pen­ny worth it since I got some real­ly great knowl­edge from Mr. Mon­ey Mus­tache, Jim Collins, and Paula Pant. I also met 20 some odd oth­er FI-mind­ed peo­ple from around the coun­try who I con­sid­er friends and can vis­it now!

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