Vacation with the traveling wallet

Fun on the Fly: How not to Vacation

The fancy pants trip to Wisconsin.

We recently returned form a very short adult only vacation. We traveled to Wisconsin from California to attend one of my friend’s wedding. It was great to see people and catch up again. Since we were on vacation we threw caution to the wind and spent freely. I knew it was going to be painful to see the numbers added up later.

It was lovely!
It was lovely!

Vacations can be very expensive when you get caught with your pant down. In other word when you’re not prepared. I am not adept with purchasing flights with points but I still think we got a good deal with the flights. However,  after that everything else was poorly planned.

Trip Costs

The Flights

This is almost always the most expensive part of our trips. From frequent travel I knew that purchasing tickets early was key. That is exactly what we did. I purchase plane tickets 3 months early and got what I thought a good deal.

2 round trip tickets from LAX to MKE. Sadly with a connection in DFW but that was a trade off for the price.

Total travel cost for 2: $646.40

Just to put in perspective why I felt this was a good price. We have purchased last minute tickets from Michigan to California or vice versa for 1 person for $700 or a bit more.  (Thankfully we are much smarter then that now a days!)

The Hotel

I’ll be honest we normally do travel that allows us to stay with family so this year was a rude awakening when it came to factoring in accommodations. In our earlier trip to Colorado, I was like, we are spending what for hotels? This trip was no different.

Darn it! just realized we could have totally couch surfed with some strangers since we had no kids with us. (seriously thought about it just now, as I type this post)

Cost for 2 nights : $204.9

The Food

This is where we made a big mistake! Well at least that’s how I feel. We could have easily spent less if we had planned the details better. Eating at the airport is not wise, the food is not very good and its expensive. How many meals did we eat at the airport you ask? 4, because of the connection we spent long days in travel and needed to cover breakfast and lunch for 2 days.  ( I know its embarrassing).

Just on airport food we spent $38.58

However we made 11 food related purchases during this vacation.

Total cost of food: $113.88

I feel we could have easily save at least $52 with better planning. Which would have included cooking oatmeal the night before our flight out for our breakfast and made some Pb & J sandwiches for our lunch on our way to Wisconsin.  We could have also packed extra oatmeal to have for breakfast on the day of our flight back.

How We Saved


Now I know everyone doesn’t do this, but it has come to my attention that lots of people do like to find any excuse to buy themselves some new clothes. So I will say we saved here.

Actually I finally got around to taking in a dress my sister gave me, and the Mr. Roamer wore some of what he already owned.

My new to me dress! Finally fixed and ready to wear.
My new to me dress! Finally fixed and ready to wear.
Showing of the alterations. What do you think could I be a hand model?
Showing of the alterations. What do you think could I be a hand model?

To be completely honest I didn’t look up weather in Wisconsin. So I spent most of the night in a sweater since it was a stark difference from our California sun.  The sweater turned out to be good as I did not hem it tight enough around the bust.  Live and learn.

Total clothing costs: $0


We saved big here! We got dropped of by my mother at the airport and since it was a work day we would have used the car anyway.

I did do some research when it came to getting around. Luckily my friend had planned the festivities within a tight perimeter so walking from church to reception was completely feasible.


When we arrived at Milwaukee airport we used public transportation to get to the downtown where all the action would be happening.

Through out the trip we spent most of the time walking and only had to pay for bus fares to and from the airport. $2.25 per person. On the day of the wedding we walked to the fancier hotel where other guest were staying and found that there was a shuttle to the festivities. Score!

Total transportation cost: $9

Babysitting/ Child Care

Since the party was adult only we also had to arrange child care. My mother watches the children while we work. However for non essential situations we pay her on top of what our current arrangement is. Since this was a non essential situation it did have some dollar bills attached.

Roamer babysitting costs
Have to make sure the little ones are taken care of.

Total cost of child care: $150

The Present

We re-gifted.  That’s right I said it. Now that I’ve been learning about how important the earth is and all that I had no shame in re-gifting. It was some thing we had received for our wedding and we never even took it out of the package. I honestly feel bad for stuff that just sits around unloved.( Poor Woody and Buzz)The bride is a big Disney fan so I though it was perfect!

Exactly how they looked. Still in original packaging.

The only thing we bought was a card to go with it.

Total Cost for gift: $4.51

When you break it all down it doesn’t look so bad. So I’ll add it up for you. So you’ll understand why I think it was a Fancypants type of vacation.

Total trip cost: $1128.69

Or we spent  $19.46 per hour for the duration of the vacation.

Going on a vacation?

Some free attractions to consider

Go see a church. People are always traveling to other countries to visit churches. There is lots of stain glass and architecture to be absorbed everywhere and anywhere.

Visit the markets. The hustle and bustle of the local markets is lots of fun. Usually you find some local tasty treats. Bonus!

Just walk around. We saw a fire dancer at a park. No joke.

Check out  this article from the Frugalwoods their vacation was well thought out and they saved big buck because of it.

Are you going on vacation soon? How do you plan to keep the costs down? And what tasty treats will you enjoy?

7 thoughts on “Fun on the Fly: How not to Vacation”

  1. I think the most important part is to do the post-trip analysis…I don’t know about you, but I like to pour myself a giant glass of wine and just force myself to calculate the numbers 🙂

    1. I agree. I like to be in the know.
      I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty but I did congratulate myself on surviving without a car.

  2. Thank you so much for the shout out! I appreciate it :). That dress of yours is lovely–way to go on repurposing old clothes for this wedding. And, you’re smart to do an analysis after the fact–always better to know what you’ve spent than to wonder.

    1. Your welcome. You know your travel stuff.
      I’ve been digging in your archives and I see now you have some other great advice like thanksgiving travel!

  3. Short trips tend to be ridiculously expensive on a per-day basis. It’s so painful to look at what you’re spending (not just money, but travel time) to get somewhere for a weekend trip, and then feel rushed to maximize your short time in a new place.

    My wife wants to fly to Vegas (from North Carolina) for a long weekend, but when I look at the numbers, it’s crazy how much a short trip would cost versus a much longer trip that included getting a rental car for a bit and driving around parts of California and the Grand Canyon (which is the other direction from Cali!).

    We’ve also found that renting a place for a week on VRBO or airbnb drives the per night lodging costs way down compared to a hotel for a couple of nights. And with a kitchen, we can cook a few meals at “home” to save even more money.

    1. You are so right! the shorter the trip to more ridiculous the cost. Specially with airline tickets involved. If you stay longer at least that cost starts to get spread out over several more days.

      I would totally say do it! for the longer trip. I’m in Cali and it really is about a “short” drive from SoCal to Vegas. And the Grand Canyon is nice but like you said it is completely out of the way! which is a bummer.

      For me the biggest surprise was how expensive the housing cost is. I’ve been shelters because most of our trips involve family and free logging that I was blindsided by that cost. But like you said long rentals are cheaper. We look at extended stays for lower rates and the kitchens.

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