Author Topic: Traveling budgets and hacks  (Read 3195 times)

nkt0

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Traveling budgets and hacks
« on: May 30, 2018, 09:28:55 AM »
We spend about $6k/year on travel for me and my SO. I generally budget for our trips by lumping them into "$500 trips" (short weekenders) and "$1k trips" (week-long or more). We almost always camp or stay with friends/family to keep costs down.

I'm curious to hear other people's travel budgets and hacksÖ?
« Last Edit: May 30, 2018, 01:14:03 PM by nkt0 »

Cassie

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2018, 12:01:26 PM »
When we were working and our parents were alive most vacations were flying to see them. Now they are gone and we are retired. The past 4 years we have spent between 10-14k/year. We usually take 2 big trips of 2 weeks each and small local ones with our RV. We take cruises and search for big sales.   We also stay in inside cabins which are cheap because we are never in our cabin.  We also like to go to Europe. We have found Italy to not be cheap but lovely but Poland is cheap and our $ goes much farther there. Both are beautiful countries.

nkt0

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2018, 01:16:49 PM »
We also like to go to Europe. We have found Italy to not be cheap but lovely but Poland is cheap and our $ goes much farther there. Both are beautiful countries.

Thanks for sharing, Cassie! I have never been to Europe. I had a goal to see all lower 48 states before going international, and i've always felt the desire to do at least 3 months in Europe. Never been able to afford the time off. Maybe early retirement will be the answer!

renata ricotta

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2018, 01:27:31 PM »
What do you usually spend money on when you do travel?  $500 for a weekend seems a bit high to me if it doesn't include hotel costs due to camping or staying with family.  Knowing where your money is going can be helpful to finding ways to trim it. 

Obviously, the quickest way to trim the travel budget down is to get into credit card bonuses.  My husband and I have opened fewer than 8 credit cards in the last three years, but the bonuses have been enough so that we haven't really paid for a personal flight since then (and we fly pretty frequently).  Some cards also cover things like rental cars or hotel stays.  There are a billion blogs, subreddits, forums, and threads here about credit card hacking. 

boarder42

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2018, 01:34:48 PM »
check out my signature for some awesome tips on how to super travel hack.  we go all over the world for next to nothing.  Currently planning a trip to hawaii - roundtrip flights for four 2 in first class 7 nights in a condo and 5 nights in a resort -  flights are 44 dollars total - condo is 800 for the week for a 3 bedroom ocean view - hotel is 150 for 5 nights for ocean front.  i'll hack down the rental cars as well.

we went to europe on a 14 day trip including a 12 day cruise with 2 for 1500 all in including flights excursions balcony cabin booze on board the ship.   

went to maui 2 years ago for 1000 bucks for 2 for 10 days. most of this cost was the scuba diving at 400 for both of us.

nkt0

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2018, 01:36:30 PM »
What do you usually spend money on when you do travel?  $500 for a weekend seems a bit high to me if it doesn't include hotel costs due to camping or staying with family.  Knowing where your money is going can be helpful to finding ways to trim it. 

Two plane tickets or a rental car+tolls+gas+insurance can cost a large fraction of $500 for a weekend even when staying with friends. (I don't own a car for daily use.)

I should note that the $500/$1k buckets is just for budgeting purposes. I like to over-budget for long-term expenses knowing that i can redirect the excess to savings rather than under-budget and have to cut from other categories or tap into savings.

renata ricotta

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2018, 01:54:43 PM »
What do you usually spend money on when you do travel?  $500 for a weekend seems a bit high to me if it doesn't include hotel costs due to camping or staying with family.  Knowing where your money is going can be helpful to finding ways to trim it. 

Two plane tickets or a rental car+tolls+gas+insurance can cost a large fraction of $500 for a weekend even when staying with friends. (I don't own a car for daily use.)

I should note that the $500/$1k buckets is just for budgeting purposes. I like to over-budget for long-term expenses knowing that i can redirect the excess to savings rather than under-budget and have to cut from other categories or tap into savings.

Definitely an understandable budget in that context.  In that case, if your primary costs are flights and rental cars, credit card bonuses are 100% the way to go.  You'll want to spend a couple of weeks researching how it works, because it only goes well if you are a careful and conscientious person who reads the fine print (and so I'm cautious of pointing people to specific cards, because some are better than others for different types of travel).  But, once you get the basic system down, it's much easier and faster than people think. 

Also, rental car insurance is kind of a scam; most people actually already have the same amount of coverage between their primary car insurance and credit card additional insurance.  The Chase Sapphire Reserve, which is my favorite travel hacking card (which I also keep year after year despite the high annual fee, because I travel for work a lot and it pays for itself many times over) covers all accidents in rental cars if you book the rental car with the card.  The ONLY additional benefit for paying for the rental company's insurance is that you don't have to submit the claim paperwork yourself.  I figure the likelihood of me getting into an accident is low enough that it might never happen, and if it does, it's not a big deal to just file a claim myself.  I just booked a rental car for a 10-day trip I'm taking next month; the car itself only cost $17/day, but the extra insurance was $30/day.  Would have more than tripled the price for something most people already have. 

nkt0

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2018, 02:06:50 PM »
Also, rental car insurance is kind of a scam; most people actually already have the same amount of coverage between their primary car insurance and credit card additional insurance.

Since i don't have a car, i don't carry primary car insurance. Therefore i don't have basic liability insurance, so i need to get that whenever i rent. I use American Express for collision and damage protection on the rental car, but if i hit someone else, i'm in big trouble without liability insurance!

Basic liability insurance is usually about $15/day with most rental car companies. It sucks, but i don't really rent frequently enough to justify carrying primary car insurance all year.

gaja

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2018, 03:37:43 PM »
Our biggest money saver is driving electric and sleeping in the van. Food and entertainment are usually the money pits.

Iceland wasnít too bad for our budget, since the camping places were cheap and easily available, swimming pools (the kidsís choice of entertainment) were extremely cheap, and electricity was almost free.

kpd905

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2018, 05:50:06 PM »
You need to look into churning credit cards.  We did two weeks in Europe backpacking around Mont Blanc (including 5 nights in hotels) for about $1400.  That could have been a lot cheaper, but I didn't have a card that would let me get any of those hotels for free.

We just did a week in Zion for about $300 using Southwest miles and Hilton points, total would have been about $2,000 otherwise since it is their busy season.

boarder42

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2018, 06:45:26 PM »
You need to look into churning credit cards.  We did two weeks in Europe backpacking around Mont Blanc (including 5 nights in hotels) for about $1400.  That could have been a lot cheaper, but I didn't have a card that would let me get any of those hotels for free.

We just did a week in Zion for about $300 using Southwest miles and Hilton points, total would have been about $2,000 otherwise since it is their busy season.

I mentioned this up thread there appeared to be little interest

kpd905

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2018, 07:24:40 PM »
I mentioned this up thread there appeared to be little interest

Oh well, repetition might get the message through.

OP, if you want a good resource, check out https://www.reddit.com/r/churning/ and read through some of the links on their sidebar.

Another great place to check for good credit card offers is the list at Doctor of Credit, updated monthly: https://www.doctorofcredit.com/best-current-credit-card-sign-bonuses/

nkt0

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2018, 08:43:06 PM »
Iíve been researching credit card churning. Seems like a lot of work and complication. I might need to retire first. :D

I do have 40k AMEX points burning a hole in my pocket, though.

Cassie

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2018, 10:05:33 PM »
Not everyone is interested in all the various schemes that are posted.

renata ricotta

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #14 on: May 31, 2018, 10:11:45 PM »
I spent a full two years rolling my eyes at a coworker who was into credit card churning, and insisting it was too much work.  Then I spent a year in which my husband and I lived long distance and flew to visit each other every other weekend, and was surprised at how much easier it is than I had originally thought.  Feel free to not be interested, but that's the #1 way I have reduced my travel spending, and reduced it by at least 90%.  I'll bow out now and leave it to others to talk about how to pack extra sandwiches from home, or what not.  :) 

Cassie

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #15 on: May 31, 2018, 11:19:22 PM »
Pack sandwiches for what?  We are retired.  Soon to leave on a 6 week trip.

Hirondelle

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #16 on: May 31, 2018, 11:59:00 PM »
Our biggest money saver is driving electric and sleeping in the van. Food and entertainment are usually the money pits.

Iceland wasnít too bad for our budget, since the camping places were cheap and easily available, swimming pools (the kidsís choice of entertainment) were extremely cheap, and electricity was almost free.

You're right that it can totally be done on the cheap ofcourse. I spent a lot due to trying to squeeze lots of sightseeing in 4 days and wanted to "check the boxes" (one of the few times I actually did this, now I would've made different choices). Still, even buying bread and salad from the supermarket for lunches was insanely expensive and I remember not paying attention to the exchange rate and paying $8 for a coffee. Autsj.

Re credit card churning. Is anyone here familiar with options for non-USA residents? My spending is super low so I'd really need to take advantage of sign up bonusses but the only card I know of here has a poor sign up bonus and requires huge amounts of miles for trips (+ additional payments) :(

Catbert

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #17 on: June 01, 2018, 10:29:39 AM »
Iíve been researching credit card churning. Seems like a lot of work and complication. I might need to retire first. :D

I do have 40k AMEX points burning a hole in my pocket, though.

Not to beat a dead horse but...you can do a slow roll of credit cards rather than full on churning.  Get a new card for you and use it.  6 months later get a new card for your spouse and use it.  Rinse and repeat yearly.  Yes, a bit of work to select a new card but with only 2 new cards a year the tracking and recordkeeping is minimal.

nkt0

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #18 on: June 01, 2018, 11:50:00 AM »
Not to beat a dead horse but...you can do a slow roll of credit cards rather than full on churning.  Get a new card for you and use it.  6 months later get a new card for your spouse and use it.  Rinse and repeat yearly.  Yes, a bit of work to select a new card but with only 2 new cards a year the tracking and recordkeeping is minimal.

I doubt the SO would go for that, but it's an interesting idea. Thanks.

Flights seems to always cost 10s of thousands of points, even for domestics. I don't think i've ever seen a flight for less than 15,000 points. With 4-6 trips a year x 2 people, that's 120,000-300,000 points. To get all those, i'd have to get a new card every month. Possibly two! And that's just for the flights. I just don't think that lifestyle is for me.

charis

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #19 on: June 01, 2018, 12:10:38 PM »
Not to beat a dead horse but...you can do a slow roll of credit cards rather than full on churning.  Get a new card for you and use it.  6 months later get a new card for your spouse and use it.  Rinse and repeat yearly.  Yes, a bit of work to select a new card but with only 2 new cards a year the tracking and recordkeeping is minimal.

I doubt the SO would go for that, but it's an interesting idea. Thanks.

Flights seems to always cost 10s of thousands of points, even for domestics. I don't think i've ever seen a flight for less than 15,000 points. With 4-6 trips a year x 2 people, that's 120,000-300,000 points. To get all those, i'd have to get a new card every month. Possibly two! And that's just for the flights. I just don't think that lifestyle is for me.

You don't have to churn cards to get credit card bonuses.   We flew three times in two years (not a lot) for a family of four with two Southwest cards after earning the companion card (free ticket).  Your wife doesn't use a credit card?  Filling out an application takes less than five minutes.  Also, saying that you can't use points to off set some of your trips because you travel too often doesn't make sense.  I am confused about the "work" that you think is involved.  I am employed FT with two kids.

nkt0

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #20 on: June 01, 2018, 12:47:41 PM »
You don't have to churn cards to get credit card bonuses.   We flew three times in two years (not a lot) for a family of four with two Southwest cards after earning the companion card (free ticket).  Your wife doesn't use a credit card?  Filling out an application takes less than five minutes.  Also, saying that you can't use points to off set some of your trips because you travel too often doesn't make sense.  I am confused about the "work" that you think is involved.  I am employed FT with two kids.

I was responding to the people who seemed to claim that all of their trips are on points. If i get one of six trips a year on points, that's a nice savings, but i don't see how it is even possible to get more than one a year without churning cards like crazy. Maybe other people spend 10s of thousands on credit cards a year, but i only spend about $12k/year on credit.

charis

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #21 on: June 01, 2018, 01:30:30 PM »
You don't have to churn cards to get credit card bonuses.   We flew three times in two years (not a lot) for a family of four with two Southwest cards after earning the companion card (free ticket).  Your wife doesn't use a credit card?  Filling out an application takes less than five minutes.  Also, saying that you can't use points to off set some of your trips because you travel too often doesn't make sense.  I am confused about the "work" that you think is involved.  I am employed FT with two kids.

I was responding to the people who seemed to claim that all of their trips are on points. If i get one of six trips a year on points, that's a nice savings, but i don't see how it is even possible to get more than one a year without churning cards like crazy. Maybe other people spend 10s of thousands on credit cards a year, but i only spend about $12k/year on credit.

Well we do usually do all of our trips on points - but it's typically one bigger trip and a couple of weekend or long weekend trips.  You are over thinking it.  Start by getting one card with a good signing bonus about a month before a large bill or expense and see how it goes.

nkt0

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #22 on: June 01, 2018, 01:55:14 PM »
Start by getting one card with a good signing bonus about a month before a large bill or expense and see how it goes.

Done.

SimpleCycle

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Re: Traveling budgets and hacks
« Reply #23 on: June 01, 2018, 03:26:54 PM »
We do some travel hacking, it's still worth it even if you don't go all in.  In the past year we've flown to Cuba, Austin, Seattle, Minneapolis, DC, and Hartford all on points earned with credit card bonuses.  A lot of our destination lodging and activities aren't able to be paid with points/miles, because we tend to use AirBnB or VRBO type accommodations, but it's nice to have the flights paid for.

Meals out while traveling are a big expense for us, so we try to limit them when we have control over it.  So on a road trip day, I'll pack food rather than buying it along the way.  Healthier too!

One of they keys to traveling a bit less expensively is to plan in advance and hunt around for good deals.  We're going to Madison in September, and I just started scoping out our lodging options because that gives me time to implement any points strategy I need and/or shop around for a good deal.

Edited to add: we budget $400/month for travel for the four of us, or $4800/year.  We're under that this past year, even with the Cuba trip.