This post was originally published on Wendy’s website Girl FI Day. We think its pretty awesome any time either of us are able to find BIG savings. So, to save AND have an amazing vacation, we just had to share it with our House of FI family. To be inspired on your FI journey, keep reading.
In October, my husband and I took our very first international trip to Greece. It was the trip of a lifetime – and that is really an understatement – but as you can imagine, it was also expensive. I am happy to report, though expensive, it did not break our bank account. In fact, we saved a ton. How did we do that? 1. We saved for it and paid it all in cash. Unlike many Americans, we did not return from our trip with debt. 2. We used our super-saving-ninja skills to get our expenses down as much as possible. That’s what we are going to talk about today.
The bulk of our savings came from a handful of choices we made. First, we flew out of Tijuana, rather than the San Diego Airport. We did not pay for the bulk of our meals. Lastly, just about everything else we did was free.
The purpose of the trip was to attend a Chautauqua. If you were like me one year ago, you had no clue what that means. Is it like a Chewbacca? No, not even close – though that would have been a cool gathering too, I am sure. I’ve explained our Chautauqua experience in an upcoming post, if you are interested to know what the heck one is. (Urban Dictionary, a bit salty sarcastic, is of no assistance on this one.)
The first area we saved was on our plane tickets. Having never travelled internationally before I had NO IDEA how expensive plane tickets were. When I first started watching them, I could not believe my eyes. They ranged anywhere between $2000.00 and $5000.00 a piece and that was for economy. At that point, I had already bought our tickets for the Chautauqua so I was already past the point of no return. The only flexibility we had was our departure city.
I knew of a friend that flew out of Tijuana all the time, with her children, so I had to assume she felt it was safe. So, out of curiosity, I looked….I was SHOCKED at the difference. The difference was big enough that it really was not an option. We were already embarking on an international adventure, so why not add one more adventure to the mix. By flying out of Tijuana, we saved about $2000.00 on our tickets. Not a bad way to start an adventure. I will be writing on that experience as well in case you’re wondering what that was like.
It’s also important to note, flight prices vary based on a number of factors besides destination. For instance, if I you were to look up the prices to fly to Thessaloniki in March of next year they would be less than $1000 and it would have been cheaper to fly out of San Diego as opposed to Tijuana.
TIP #1 – Research your flights before deciding your destination as well as date of travel. You can save hundreds, thousands, by having a bit of flexibility and adventuresome spirit.
SUPER SAVER TIP #2 – If you don’t want to pay anything for your flights, then there are several resources available on how to do that with travel rewards via credit card hacking. The guys over at Travel Miles 101 have that covered.
Meals while traveling can be a budget buster. In the past, one of the ways we have minimized our meal expense was to book at a hotel with at least a refrigerator, but preferable a kitchen. When we travel with the kids, this is almost non-negotiable.
This trip we packed non-perishable snacks; lots of nuts, cheese crisps, granola bars, and dried fruit. It kept us satisfied in between our flights and other periods we were in between meals.
Finally, as part of our package, meals were included. This was huge. We received 3 delicious meals at our five-star resort every day. These varied between buffet style and plated meals. We were able to both indulge in traditional Greek food, as well as dishes prepared by a master chef. They were divine.
Look for experience packages that include meals in your travels. This one thing will save you additional hundreds of dollars, maybe more, depending on how many people you are traveling with.
TIP #3 – Get a package that includes meals (though be careful and analyze whether that makes sense. Sometimes it doesn’t)
TIP #4 – Pack your own food and snacks.
TIP #5 – Get a room that has a kitchen and/or a refrigerator.
EXCURSIONS and MISCELLANEOUS SPENDING $1000.00
Another benefit of purchasing an experience package is that a couple of our excursions as well as transportation were paid for. We were able to enjoy a walking tour of Thessaloniki as well as a tour of the museums at the foot of Mount Olympus and a bus tour up the mountain. This also allowed us precious time to spend with our fellow travelers and get to know them better while seeing thousands of years of history.
Others in our trip hiked and went in to town to explore. Also free.
Curtis and I opted to simply enjoy the resort on the days there were no excursions. We were on vacation to relax and enjoy ourselves. Reading a book, overlooking an infinity pool that expands over the Aegean Sea is how I would describe paradise. It was enough for me. And Free.
Don’t forget to look for coupons or other discounts for excursions. There are so many ways to save, if you are intentional about it.
TIP #6 – Prepay for Excursions.
TIP #7 – USE COUPONS!
Curtis and I left for Greece with a spending budget. Because of the intentionality of our spending, we came home with two-thirds of that budget unspent. A much better position to be in than coming home with debt. Pre-FIRE movement, we would have come home from a trip having to rearrange our budget to account for our over-spending as well as work for months to pay off our credit cards. To not have the stress of coming home to that? It’s priceless.
How have you been able to save on your travel expenses? We’d love to hear it.