by Maurie Backman | March 5, 2021
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Here's how our savings efforts helped us take the trip of our dreams.
My husband and I traveled a fair amount early on in our marriage, and we'd always talked about taking one really big trip before we had children. Once we decided we were ready for that exciting but scary step, we decided to ramp up our savings game for one final hurrah. Six months later, we packed our bags for a month-long trip to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. Here's how we pulled it off.
We knew we'd chosen an expensive corner of the world to travel to. So we did our homework.
My husband and I weren't strangers to showing up at a destination, finding a place to stay, and winging it. But since we knew it would cost a lot of money just to fly there, we wanted to make the most of every minute. And we didn't want to waste time on day-long bus trips getting from place to place. As such, we extensively researched different flights within Australia in particular so we could explore the region efficiently. When we saw airfare come down, we pounced.
We also opted to stay at smaller, independent hotels instead of big-name chains. Doing so meant we couldn't cash in some of the hotel points we'd racked up on one of our credit cards. But it still made our trip more affordable.
The upside of being a self-employed writer is getting to take time off when I want it, provided I meet all deadlines beforehand and earn enough income to go without a paycheck for a while. My husband, however, was a salaried employee who only had a limited number of vacation days at his disposal. Once we decided to take that trip, which spanned from early December through the beginning of January, my husband buckled down.
He banked two weeks of vacation from the calendar year our trip started in and used up a week from the following calendar year for a total of three weeks. He also took advantage of the fact his company was closed between Christmas and New Year, since those days didn't count against his time off. All told, that allowed us to be away for a little over a month.
Traveling for a month costs money, even if you're willing to be frugal while you're away. And to be clear, we weren't looking to be particularly frugal this trip. On previous trips, we'd stayed at hostels where we bunked with strangers in dingy dorm-style setups. This time around, we wanted to spend a little more on activities and easy logistics. And we also wanted to stay at actual hotels where we could have a private room to ourselves.
To make that happen, we cut back on many expenses in our budget for the six-month period leading up to our trip. We didn't eat out at restaurants, didn't take weekend trips that cost a lot of money -- though we did go camping a bunch, the cost of which was negligible. We banned all non-essential purchases, which meant no new gadgets, clothing, or anything that wasn't a necessity. We also canceled our lawn service and mowed our own grass to cut back on home maintenance costs.
All told, we were able to add a good $1,000 to our savings account on a monthly basis. By the time we took off, we had an additional $6,000 at our disposal. And since we'd already paid for our flights and some of our lodging, that gave us a lot of flexibility to do the things we wanted. We shelled out money to snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef, go whitewater rafting several times, and do a host of other expensive outdoor activities. My husband even climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge while I watched and waved from the ground.
Taking a month off of work and traveling to an expensive part of the world isn't an easy thing to do. But once we set that goal, we really committed to it. If you have a goal to meet, whether it's travel-related or otherwise, pulling it off could boil down to proper planning and discipline. It wasn't easy to cut back on spending for half a year. But we knew we were doing it for a good reason. And with the right motivation, you, too, may also be successful.
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