Saving for a Big Trip

by James & Miel on November 12, 2009 · 0 comments

Recently a friend and I decided that 2010 was the year that we are going to make our long talked about trip to Ireland. We have been talking about this trip since we graduated from college and had always found an excuse to put it off. We didn’t have any money when we first graduated, then I had other, pricier financial obligations (buying an engagement ring, financing a wedding and a honeymoon, getting my savings straightened out so my new wife and I would be properly prepared for the future, paying for school, etc… etc… etc…). The excuses kept piling up until a couple of weeks ago when, during a phone call, my friend basically made the point that there will always be reasons why we should put the trip off to a future date, so we just have to do it. Emboldened by that and the fact that this is definitely something we want to do, we decided to plan to take this trip in the late spring of next year, so that means planning has to pretty much start now.

Most of my planning consists of the financial variety. I have my passport ready because of my honeymoon, and I will be able to save enough vacation time from my job that taking time off won’t be a problem (and I’ve already received the OK to move forward whenever, provided I provide my boss with enough lead time). So that just leaves making arraignments (a task aided by a friend of a friend who has made multiple trips to Ireland) and paying for it all. Assuming we want to leave around June 1st, 2010 and have everything paid for – outside of the normal vacation expenses such as food and activities incurred during the trip – by May 1st, that leaves me with about seven months to save up enough money, which should be plenty of time to get everything together.

The challenge for me will be in finding ways during the planning process to save money on the big ticket items – plane tickets, places to stay, pre-planned activities – that I can have some extra money left to allow myself to enjoy the things that make Ireland great. I’ll certainly keep you up to date during the planning process in case I come across some tips and tricks that could benefits you in the future.

From a personal finance point of view, big trips can run right up against many main tenants of managing your money. A vacation is supposed to be fun, and fun often costs a reasonable amount of money. I’ve worked hard to get myself to the point where I’m conscious of where my money goes and diligent in ensuring that I’m wasting as little money as possible. How am I going to reconcile that with the fact that this trip will be a huge expense? The honeymoon was easy: we saved up and bought an all expenses paid vacation. Everything (including enough activities to keep us busy) except drinks other than water at meals and souvenirs was included – I essentially dropped my wallet (and my cell phone) in the safe in the room and enjoyed myself. This trip to Ireland certainly won’t be like that. I don’t have that figured out yet, but I have realized a few things:

* The more planning the better: Pre-paid activities will be our friend. By paying up front, we’ve already taken care of the expense and we can just enjoy what we’re going to do. That and the fact that we both enjoy quiet downtime should help things. Going on the fly could get expensive, and could introduce large expenses for activities that we didn’t plan for.

* Budget tracking doesn’t stop at the border: Just because I’m on vacation doesn’t mean that I can forget where my money is going. I’m going to do my best to estimate my expenses beforehand and when I’m gone I’ll keep a record of my spending, in an effort to keep things under control.

* But most importantly, I’m going to just have fun. I’m going to accept the fact that I will be spending money and that it’s ok as long as I’ve planned for it. Vacations are the reward for hard work at home so it’s important that I enjoy myself.

When I was in college a friend of mine went on a trip overseas (interestingly enough, also to Ireland) and he ignored his finances and unfortunately ran out of money – literally. I suppose that’s a good lesson to keep in mind. I’m excited about the trip and eager to get with the planning! Readers, if any of you have any tips or interesting travel experiences, I’d be happy to hear them.


Twitter: @michael_dink

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