The months are flying by and I am keenly aware of the fact that summer will be upon us. Summer is usually filled with lots of travel and high sticker prices to match. We enjoy travel ourselves but this year our trips were schedule outside the summer window. We took a trip to Colorado and we plan to take a trip to Michigan in winter this year as well.
Traveling efficiently is something I am becoming more keen on. It wasn’t something I use to worry much about. I could sleep in the car, travel in a bus or drive all night when I was younger but as I am now in the trenches of parenthood and marriage my trips require I take other certain things into consideration. Still I maintain not needing to stay at the poshest suites or eat at the hottest restaurants.
After the trips I enjoy calculating how much we spent. Usually because I don’t really budget for a trip, frugal muscles are developing and questioning purchases at the source have made me not worry too much about the end result. But it still seems foolish to not check at all, so I gather my data and get to it.
Now let me clear something up. When I say we don’t budget for a trip I mean that I don’t say we have $200 for entertainment,$500 for food and the such. I do budget early on in the planning stages, specially when it comes to buying the plane tickets.
In the Roamer household I “budget” $150 a month for travel, which amounts to $1800 a year which normally is about right. Last year we spent almost $4000, but we had some out of state weddings we attended which we didn’t optimize so they ballooned our normal travel expenses. Anyway like I was saying the budgeting I do for the trip is usually insuring we pay the lowest amount we can for airfare. Which in turn has a drastic impact on our final numbers.
The Costs of Roamer clan’s Colorado trip
This year we took an 8 days/7 nights trip during our son’s spring break to visit family. Even though we traveled during this high travel time frame we were able to snag some good airfare. The table breaks out the rest of our costs.
So what did we do on our trip?
We were able to score some great prices on airfare. How can you? Well I would recommend following these tip or tricks.
- Buy your tickets on the weekdays. Maybe its an urban legend but Tuesday prices seem to consistently be much better when I check flights, then when I check flight on Saturday or Sunday.
- Plan ahead. I like to buy tickets at least 3 months in advance and again I usually see much better prices.
- Fly on the weekdays. Tuesday – Thursday are the most affordable times to fly in and out of your destination. If you can be somewhat flexible then you can get a better rate on most flights.
So we did just that, we flew in to Colorado on a Wednesday and out on a Wednesday. The strangest/ newest thing about this trip is that we did day flights. I strongly stand by red eyes or evening flight when flying with kids. But we survived and only had a bout of about 30 mins of crying on our flight back.
We were able to save on accommodations by qualifying for a family employee discount. Before the trip we booked multiple hotels during the time we wanted to stay and continued looking and booking as we saw better deals. Then a few days before the trip we looked at all our choices and decided on the best deal given our personal preferences. In this instance we traded distance for more amenities. We could have stayed right in downtown which would have put us a walk away from family, but the hotel was very fancy, (read it expected you to go out for every single meal and had no microwave or even small fridge in the unit). On the other hand the other location was an extended stay type of hotel with a kitchen and it included breakfast everyday and dinner 3 nights. Oh and it was cheaper too. So we stayed on the outskirts.
We enjoyed low cost and high cost activities. From the low cost spectrum like playing in the hotel parking lot and basketball court, to parks, hikes and swimming. To the high end stuff like a Zoo visit, and fancy restaurant meals.
On our first day stay we were greeted by a light snow cover. YES! free entertainment. We went out multiple times that day to play in the snow. The hotel also featured a basketball court and swimming pool. So we also did that while we hung out at the hotel between our more expensive excursions.
For the not free activities we went to the Denver Zoo. But we were actually able to save from the standard cost. This is how that played out. Son got in for free because it was his birthday the next day ( what nice and friendly employees and what confident proactive grandmother who made the ask), also brother in law used their free guest passes to get me in . Minnie Roamer was under 2 so free, so we paid for only 1 adult entrance. That’s some good activities hacking and it wasn’t even pre-planned. Then Mr. Roamer and I enjoyed a grown up night out to the movies with my brother in law and his significant other. This on the other hand was very poorly thought out. We knew we had some movie credits but we didn’t plan ahead with regard to snacks and we went to watch something that just released so it did end up costing us more then we had expected.
On our trip we had a mix of home cooked, restaurant, and comped meals. As we already discussed the hotel already included breakfast every morning and dinner 3 nights during our stay. We took full advantage of the buffet breakfast and ate to our hearts content. We did need to purchase some food for Minnie Roamer as I am more particular about what she puts in her mouth and we also had to encourage Jr. Roamer to have some of the healthy options, yogurt, oatmeal, along with his syrup covered morning waffle. But we all let loose, and as to be expected there is a cost for such a diet and after a few days I was breaking out thanks to all the morning breakfast sausage. C’est la vie.
We also visited the grocery store and bought and prepared our own meals a few times. The biggest thing was buying fruits and vegetables, as those were what was hard to come by during all the other meals. If you are traveling I would highly recommend you buy at least all your snack foods at the grocery store instead of on location at excursions. You can save by packing your own fruits, carrots, nuts and even your own junk food; chips and soda.
On this trip we did indulge in some fancy higher end meals, we ate at 2 very nice restaurants. This is where we planned to spend a nice chunk of change and we came prepared. But if you look closely they are followed by zeros on the table. All I can say is we have some nice family. My favorite dish was trying the eggs Benedict, Tomayo style.(pictured). I am happy we got to have these nice experiences.
The only other major thing we spent money on was gas, and we also had some random expenses( all shown in the table above). Total our 8 day/ 7 night trip cost the Roamer clan, a family of 4, $1072.40. not to bad a compared to the national average.
Head to Head 2014 Vs. 2015
Finally I wanted to compare it to last years Denver trip. Did we spend more? Did we spend less?
So I set it all up in a table
Comparing the numbers straight its clear we spent less. $1072.40 compared to last years $1915.37. But then I thought wait a minute this trip was 2 days shorter. So did we spend less or is it only because we were out less time. So I calculate the per diem spent.
9 day trip was $1915.37/ 9 = $ 212.81
7 day trip was $1072.40/7 = $153.20
Truthfully though this all seemed rather funny to me since I felt we were much looser with our money in this trip.
Why were we in a much more spendy mindset? Because we came armed with several $100 gift card that needed spending. (The initial idea was to use these card to buy our monthly groceries but I disliked how they complicated the bookkeeping so we decided to set them aside as funds for the vacation.)
As we prepare for our future travel there are a few things that are or have changed which will cause our costs to potentially increase.
- Minnie roamer is turning 2 which means no more free flying. If you are a parent of young children. Use their age to your advantage and travel while they are free.
- We now have a desire to visit family in Colorado and Michigan. Before we planned for only 1 trip a year, we might need to account for 2.
Of course with any travel the best part is being able to take time off work and spend more time together. Since we have family spread out across the U.S. it is a goal to visit them regularly. So with each trip we also get to check off some yearly travel goals.