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Fatwallet Friends,

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this over the last few weeks - and I have even done quite a bit of research on this.  I know there is no right answer to the questions I will pose, but perhaps hearing different people's philosophies toward it can be helpful. 

There was a thread similar to this on a Disney Board with good datapoints, but I find these people are different than Fatwalleters:

http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2661952&page=1 

The question is in essence - how much will you allow yourself to spend on luxury items like vacations?  What rules would you apply in different scenarios?

I grew up extremely poor - our household income growing up was probably 15,000 as a family, so the idea of spending $15,000 dollars for ONE vacation is a bit nauseating to me.  I have been collecting miles - and have over nearly a million miles - but if dates don't line up and things to that end - you gotta pay for airfare and things to that end.  But, one thing I've learned from reading many threads is that the one thing that people will spend money on are experiences.  I try to budget miles like cash, so I don't want to spend miles if I'm only going to get a penny a point value - I try to save the miles for the saver flights.

My personal situation - we are debt free other than the mortgage.  As my primary job is a college professor, I have 4 months a year to basically travel.  (3 months in summer, 1 month in December/January - and Spring Break).  As a family (wife, me, 2 kids), we value traveling and enjoy it.  I don't have any other hobbies, and really don't spend much on anything else. 

We love traveling but have been doing it super cheap.  We have used timeshare deals, last minute traveling and driving instead of flying to score some killer deals on travel.  This past summer, we spent 7 straight weeks on "vacation" - at Marriott's, Disney resorts using RCI points, Starwood hotels while driving - and probably only spent about $7000 dollars (entertainment, hotel cost, gas cost, car rental) for 7 weeks - I ignore food in that budget because at most timeshares, we shopped and ate at the condo and we were going to eat anyway.  To me, I can wrap my head around that because there's value - just about everything was a good deal (had a friend get us in Disney on a military pass, scored great deal on the minivan, used 5% cards for gas, used points when we stayed in hotels, etc..).  I'm thinking a 7 week trip to Europe next summer could run as high as 20-25k.

We are now to the point where we have been to 49 of the 50 states.  We've done Disney.  We've done oceans and beaches.  It's time for international travel.  It's time for Hawaii.  It's time for that world.  Even though we have the money, I can't wrap myself around $4,000 dollar flights for 4 people (just in Coach!) - or multi-thousand dollar cruises.   I know many of you would then say "Use miles!" - but generally speaking, as a teacher, most of my travel availability is when everyone else is traveling, so good luck finding a trip to hawaii one can use on miles from December 13th to 21st, for instance.

It would be helpful to know some of the rules that middle class to upper middle class people use - and maybe you don't value travel - but might have a hobby that is expensive similarly that you do value.  We make around 150-175k a year - and generally after retirement and bills/utilities have anywhere between 2k and 4k left over in a month.  We recently (in the last couple of months) just became debt free.  We could easily have a $25,000 dollar a year travel budget putting aside $2000 a month - but is this ridiculous?  Should one wait until literally every bill (including the mortgage) is paid off before starting to do that level of travel/luxury spending?  Would you require a certain level in 401k's before doing this?  What rules have you applied to the financing of things you value?  If you're a deal hunter like me - will you forego a trip because there's no deal available?  Or do it because it's what you want to do?

Like I said, I know there are no "right" answers to this, but hearing how others handle this could be helpful in developing my own philosophy - since this wasn't something I necessarily had growing up or even have friends who role model this type of behavior.  I know many of you are very financially fortunate and well off and may have had a chance to develop philosophies on this.

I don't want to be the one at 60 who says "I wish I would have seen the Great Wall of China.." - but I don't want to be stupid and extravagant, either..

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I would have to disagree... though by the time I'm up to an 11 hour+, I'm really looking at a 14 hour or an 18 hour, in ... (more)

arch8ngel (Sep. 12, 2013 @ 4:55p) |

the flight from Chicago to HNL was not that bad in Coach, I prepped by bringing my own various snacks and sleeping mask... (more)

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Value-seeker. Goal is to spend very little out of pocket but travel first-class on miles/points. Still, it costs money to be somewhere even if the explicit costs of air/hotel are free. Maybe 1-5k out of pocket on cash spend annually for me and my husband. I have assets but my income is a tiny fraction of yours. We are the typical Flyertalk type that flies somewhere in international F and then takes the bus everywhere after that. Some people spend more on one vacation than our entire annual budget. I am of course, excluding the value of the miles.

With miles from cards and various other methods being virtually unlimited, I find our traveling is more constrained by commitments at home rather than by $$$. Travel is my hobby so I do value it over having a nice car or other expensive hobbies. I'll stay home when I'm old.

I do agree that it's a different decision for everyone. I'm semi-retired and have a lot of leisure time, plus I'm a party of 2 rather than 4. And he can pay his own way by churning cards as well.

Now to speak to your specific post. How much to spend is up to you, but this is FW, so if you're paying $4000 for flights alone you're doing it wrong. Flexibility is key. Maybe you should constrain your award flying to the summer months, and be flexible. That might even mean flying separately. Any decent award is not going to be available for 4.

This can also be asset rather than income based. What are your savings goals and how far along are you? The traditional FW logic is not to waste money on anything so that you can retire early, but maybe you're already on track, have a stable job that you like, and can spare the cash for travel?

Personally, I grew up rich, although I did not know it. We lived in the ghetto, a couple of Independence Days had a bullet come through my bedroom window. My dads car was very old and my moms bought used from Hertz. The only sign that we had wealth was that we owned our home and several other as income properties. My brother and I went to parochial schools ( note parochial schools are MUCH cheaper than private). I think they made very good investments in international travel at a young age.

In high school and college my biology teachers spoke about natural environments I had first-hand knowledge of, sociology professors discussed tribes which even themselves had only learned of from books, I learned from interactions; these are experiences which I think are invaluable.

International airfare is expensive but, you can make the most out of it. Fly from the USA to Europe, then take the train or domestic flights ( domestic flights within europe are dirt cheap) and spend 14-21 days exploring. 3 star hotels are safe but, lack the amenities that won't be using anyway. Eat the hotel buffet breakfast, fast-food lunch (salad or sandwich), and have a nice dinner. Your kids won't remember what they ate or where they slept but what they saw.

We don't have a ton of assets but we are well positioned with two rental properties that have equity and good value and about 100k in retirement + quite a bit of insurance.

Part of the philosophical thing is "spare the cash for travel?" - theoretically, yes - but some people might say "you have a mortgage - you're not debt free." - others might say "Your retirement is horrible, I would never travel with only 100k and 2 rental properties as my back-up" - being recently debt free and putting most, if not all our discretionary money into that and now having it - I'm just not sure when to give myself permission to "splurge" on these things.

There are books written on this subject matter, besides web sites such as FW and Flyertalk, etc. I would start off by reading those and doing what you are currently seeking -- asking others how they do it. I learned in economics studies many years ago that there are at least two markets for the same product, those who don't care about the price and those that put the price near the top of their priorities. In other words, name brands versus generics with a significant difference in price. Same product but different packaging. Shop for deals in everything that has the potential of consuming your money while traveling, i.e. hotels, air travel, and rental cars. Personally I use travel web sites like Trivago and Priceline for hotels and rental cars and typically will save 25% or more off direct purchases. Stay away from hotel chains if possible, regardless of how many points or other perks they provide. You can get nearly the same quality from non-chain hotels at a significant discount. Safe travels!

"I know many of you would then say "Use miles!" - but generally speaking, as a teacher, most of my travel availability is when everyone else is traveling, so good luck finding a trip to hawaii one can use on miles from December 13th to 21st, for instance."

Wait, what? Don't you have three whole months off in the summer? I would kill for that kind of flexibility in booking award tickets. I can only take off one week at a time, so I'm stuck doing one week plus week of xmas/newyears where the company is closed.

FWIW, with less than six months notice, I was able to book four premium tickets for July to China, on exactly the dates I wanted. 

How much you spend per trip is up to you. Just do it the fatwallet way:
1 - Airfare for free/points, or at lowest discount prices (i.e. ~$400 from west coast to hawaii, ~$550-600 from east coast to western europe, domestic with Southwest get in on their quarterly sales, etc)
2 - Hotels for free/points, if not available consider VRBO depending on the destination
3 - Car rentals at cheapest price possible, $15-30/day target

This plan isn't about being as cheap as possible, it's about not getting taken to cleaners by buying peak-time tickets for full price, so that when you actually land at your destination you can spend the money on important stuff like activities and experiences. By that token, don't go to Hawaii in Dec, because that's when EVERYBODY else is going to get away from the snow, go in April instead. Carribian? End of hurricane season right before tourist season ramps up (late Nov) is your best bet. Europe? Not in the summer. It's hot, lacking A/C, and full of Spaniards then.


 

I didn't start traveling internationally until I was in my late 20s, but then made up for my lack of travel. Initially, stay was in hostels, travel was by bus or night train (or hitchhiking), meals were bread & cheese. As I started to make more money, I still looked for bargains, but would strategically increase the budget for a nice hotel on the last night, or a flight instead of a 10 hour bus ride or ferry. Now, my travel isn't constrained by money at all, but I still prefer to stay in guest houses over chain hotels and to find hidden gem restaurants and out-of-the-way sights.

One thing I have consistently done that has saved me tons of money is to look for a combination of reasonable (or reward) flights & good dollar exchange rate and let that guide where I go to. Have gotten some amazing bargains when the Brazilian Real was about 4 to the dollar, when the Argentine Peso crashed, etc.

Horseymen said:   
1) The question is in essence - how much will you allow yourself to spend on luxury items like vacations? 
2) What rules would you apply in different scenarios?
3) We could easily have a $25,000 dollar a year travel budget putting aside $2000 a month - but is this ridiculous? 
4) Should one wait until literally every bill (including the mortgage) is paid off before starting to do that level of travel/luxury spending? 
5) Would you require a certain level in 401k's before doing this? 
6) What rules have you applied to the financing of things you value? 
7) If you're a deal hunter like me - will you forego a trip because there's no deal available? 
8) Or do it because it's what you want to do?
 

  
To preface my answers to all of your questions. I will start off saying - I have a budget. A line item in my budget is "vacations". I allocate $XXX/month to go towards vacations. I spend around 1/2 that amount of $$s on various points in a profitable manner. I will also say I diversify my points so I can use them for whatever vacation I want.
1) I will allow myself to spend $XXX a month on vacations.
2) Lots, I will first try to book my trip with my points.
3) We could easily have a $25,000 dollar a year travel budget putting aside $2000 a month - but is this ridiculous?  $25k a year is like.... 18% of your income. Does that suit your budget given your goals? If so, then it's not ridiculous. Personally, if I had your income, I would budget more like $10k/year for vacations.
4)  No
5)  No
6) I started with a budget based on how I value things, so the ruleset is already in existence. I have a separate $YYY/month for "experiences". That $$ basically sits in an account, and I make subjective decision if I want to spend my "experiences" $$ on an experience.
7) There's always a deal (even accumulating CC points for less than a penny, then redeeming them for a penny +)
8) Somtimes.
 

That being said. In what airline programs do you have miles? What CC programs do you have points? I'd be willing to bet there's away to your use miles/points to get to HI. It may take some thought/work, and the flexibility of putting you+kid one on one plane, and your spouse on a different plane.

I'm doing Hawaii for 2 around thanksgiving (another time with limited availability because people travel). Using around 200k points for two (airfare, hotel, car rental). The "value" of the trip is around $10k. The "value" of the trip if I were paying out of pocket is around $3200. I paid around $150 for the miles and points.

Hawaii is a pretty easy place to get to with Chase UR points.

Horseymen said:   We don't have a ton of assets but we are well positioned with two rental properties that have equity and good value and about 100k in retirement + quite a bit of insurance.

Part of the philosophical thing is "spare the cash for travel?" - theoretically, yes - but some people might say "you have a mortgage - you're not debt free." - others might say "Your retirement is horrible, I would never travel with only 100k and 2 rental properties as my back-up" - being recently debt free and putting most, if not all our discretionary money into that and now having it - I'm just not sure when to give myself permission to "splurge" on these things.

  
How old are you OP?  Of course there is a balance between spending and saving throughout life, but $100k in retirement and no other significant savings @ $175k / year income is not that impressive, unless you're quite young.  How much total net equity in real estate?


Horseymen said:   , as a teacher,

  
Wow. As a practicing MD, I don't have nearly that much disposable income to spend on traveling. I started a 'crazy travel account' and have been putting aside $200/month... After funding retirement/savings/etc, I don't have that much left over for traveling... Call me cheap, but we're in a whole other ballgame.

Not saying you're cheap, but I'm assuming your income is as high, or higher than his. It all depends on how much you're savings on spending on other things. If you don't value traveling much, but you enjoy XXXX more, or enjoying saving like crazy in order to retire early, etc. then you won't have as much left!

If you travel to Vegas... there's FREE MONEY there!!!

If you want to travel to hawaii, Allegiant Air from the west coast is the cheapest way to get there without using points.

I make about the same as you and your husband and I'm an avid traveller, single and no debt either (except for mortgage) and the idea of spending $15-$20k on a vacation is obscene to me. I usually use miles unless the flight (international) is under $1000, otherwise I pay cash. I usually stay in apartments when I travel. For example, last year my partner and I flew to Argentina for almost 3 weeks. International airfare was "free" due to miles and we paid about $1200 total for domestic flights within Argentina. I rented an apartment in Recoletta, one of the nicest neighborhoods in the city, penthouse, rooftop pool and paid $700 for the week. I found a way to send money to myself and got almost double the official exchange rate ( Argentina is keeping their exchange rate artificially low so there was lots of opportunities to exchange for a better rate). We flew to the jungle and saw waterfalls, we flew to the Patagonia and walked on glaciers and stayed in nice, above average accomodations in the rest of the country and before food and beverage we spent about $3000. The most I've ever spent was the year before when we did a 5 star three week trip to Peru and it was $5k a person which I balked out because I felt it was a little high but that included airfare and 5 star resports in Peru.

Please, consider, that traveling with two people is going to be cheaper than traveling with four people. Additionally, if the OP is looking to travel for ~3 months a year, compared to 2-3 weeks a year, the numbers will be significantly different as well.

Porqin said:   
Horseymen said:   We don't have a ton of assets but we are well positioned with two rental properties that have equity and good value and about 100k in retirement + quite a bit of insurance.

Part of the philosophical thing is "spare the cash for travel?" - theoretically, yes - but some people might say "you have a mortgage - you're not debt free." - others might say "Your retirement is horrible, I would never travel with only 100k and 2 rental properties as my back-up" - being recently debt free and putting most, if not all our discretionary money into that and now having it - I'm just not sure when to give myself permission to "splurge" on these things.

  
How old are you OP?  Of course there is a balance between spending and saving throughout life, but $100k in retirement and no other significant savings @ $175k / year income is not that impressive, unless you're quite young.  How much total net equity in real estate?
 

  
Like I said, this level of income is fairly new to me.  This is my 4th year over 50k in my life - and I had an IBJanky story like set of debt going into being 30.  Just turned 35.  Equity in houses is about 175k with an overall value of 325k (today, anyway) - but that doesn't mean too much.  It's not easily accessible and Texas laws aren't friendly in pulling out NOO LOC's.  I'm sure some one would do it up to 50%, but it might not be even as good as having Navy Federal 0% money for the last 3 years.  The house things weren't even really me being an investment guy - just old houses that instead of selling, made them rentals and have tried to aggressively pay down the debt.  It might be good for a passive stream of income in 10 years when both are paid off, but it's nothing I really think about when I consider retirement.  I don't take a profit on either right now, just use the "profit" to pay down the notes and to pay someone else to manage it for me.  I suspect I could do a lot better in the savings department compared to equivalent people with my age/income. 

Incredibledealmaker said:   There are books written on this subject matter, besides web sites such as FW and Flyertalk, etc. I would start off by reading those and doing what you are currently seeking -- asking others how they do it. I learned in economics studies many years ago that there are at least two markets for the same product, those who don't care about the price and those that put the price near the top of their priorities. In other words, name brands versus generics with a significant difference in price. Same product but different packaging. Shop for deals in everything that has the potential of consuming your money while traveling, i.e. hotels, air travel, and rental cars. Personally I use travel web sites like Trivago and Priceline for hotels and rental cars and typically will save 25% or more off direct purchases. Stay away from hotel chains if possible, regardless of how many points or other perks they provide. You can get nearly the same quality from non-chain hotels at a significant discount. Safe travels!
  
Do you have any recommendations about books on budgeting for travel?  I read "Your money or your life" based on a FW Recommendation, and it was an extremely profound book for me and allowed me to declutter a lot of crap out of my life and spend more time in FW Finance and less time in FW Hot Deals..  I have spent a lot of time on FT boards lately - but a lot of them get a lot of business travel top-offs, and I don't have any of that..

wp746911 said:   

Horseymen said:   , as a teacher,

  
Wow. As a practicing MD, I don't have nearly that much disposable income to spend on traveling. I started a 'crazy travel account' and have been putting aside $200/month... After funding retirement/savings/etc, I don't have that much left over for traveling... Call me cheap, but we're in a whole other ballgame.

  
I wish you well in your savings.  I will probably have a thread in a couple of years similar to this: "Insane workaholic, when is enough enough?" - as I have several part time (at home) gigs - and I do most of my teaching for my full time job online (75%) and 100% in the summer.  That and heavy hitter techniques have worked well.  I'm probably only on campus on an average week about 15 hours a week at most.  Of course, that could change at anytime if they limit how much we can teach online (or it can go the other way - and maybe get 100% online one day...)

imbatman said:   That being said. In what airline programs do you have miles? What CC programs do you have points? I'd be willing to bet there's away to your use miles/points to get to HI. It may take some thought/work, and the flexibility of putting you+kid one on one plane, and your spouse on a different plane.

I'm doing Hawaii for 2 around thanksgiving (another time with limited availability because people travel). Using around 200k points for two (airfare, hotel, car rental). The "value" of the trip is around $10k. The "value" of the trip if I were paying out of pocket is around $3200. I paid around $150 for the miles and points.

Hawaii is a pretty easy place to get to with Chase UR points.

  
We have very young twin girls (not school aged yet) so I don't know if I would want to split them up.  We're just getting them potty trained - I don't know if I want to deal with two flights - but that might be something in a few years to do.  Luckily, they love traveling and talk about it all the time when we are going on the airplane next.  (as opposed to the screamers which send Business Travelers on Flyertalk rants)

We have 140k starwood, 300k AA, 100k Avios, 50k Spirit (a hidden gem if you don't mind me saying), 100k Southwest, 90k United, and about 200k Chase UR's.  I spend a lot of time on blogs reading about how to do free one ways with AA (living in DFW is helpful for that), maximizing United, etc..  We currently manufactured spend around 50k points monthly (30k Chase UR, 10k Starwood, 6k Spirit, 7k AA) between my wife's credit and mine.  Got Avios from a MR bonus sign-up with the 35% bonus.  Transferred to Southwest since I don't like having as many UR's as I do right now sitting there, and will likely send those to different homes as soon as I can.  Hope to do the Southwest Companion Pass double dip in January.   I just started MS this year, so I consider myself a rookie to slight novice compared to most on here. 

Horseymen said:   We are now to the point where we have been to 49 of the 50 states.
Boy have you made 49 poor choices . I've been to 5 continents (of 7), and three of the Hawaiian islands (many trips). HI is one of my favorite destinations. Use your AA miles.

The problem with saving so many miles is you are carrying the risk of devaluation. I've used miles for as low as 1.2 cent/mi (price in $ was 20% higher than in miles using 1c/mi valuation) before (had a bad feeling about the AA merger -- not that it would fail, but that it would succeed and AA miles would be devalued).

I also think there's some risk with UR too -- pretty sure you'll lose it all if your accounts get shut down. And when they close accounts, they close all of them, and they don't have to explain anything to you.

Ok. I don't really see the problem. I just did a quick search on AA and United.
You can use your miles to fly on those dates. It's not saver award level (not great value), so they would be 80k tickets in Coach. That's still better than 1.25 cpp for $1,000 tickets. But it counters your statement in the OP ("so good luck finding a trip to hawaii one can use on miles from December 13th to 21st, for instance") as you can use miles.
If you want a better return than that, get the Barclay Arrival card to get 2.2 cpp. You put all your spend on the card, and in 3 months you have points to pay for all the flights with points.

rufflesinc said:   ... so good luck finding a trip to hawaii one can use on miles from December 13th to 21st, for instance."


 

True, true, but I had surprisingly good luck using miles in the summer.
Family of four, used miles to fly to Kona -- 3rd week of July, left on Tuesday, returned Sunday (on Delta, booked about 90 days in advance)

 

>> I don't want to be the one at 60 who says "I wish I would have seen the Great Wall of China.."

I imagine there's people at 60 who aspire to just have enough money to try their local Great Wall of China Buffet - it's all about perspective.

Personally, I think your vacations are beginning to look like a personal checklist; Oh..I went there, and there, and there almost as you were working through grading a test, trying to get to the end.

From my perspective, I would find something that would awe you and your family, despite the distance, geographic area or its rating on the exotic scale. Some of my best memories of vacations would seem mundane: Hiking at 11k feet and finding someone's stubbornly un-melted snowman in Colorado; Trying to wrap my arms around a Redwood tree in Northern Ca and feeling so tiny in my existence; Seeing the last nighttime space shuttle launch with my 4yr old and his look when the sky lit up and roar filled the air.

 If its China, that's fine, and there may be ways to travel even cheaper - teach English via the internet seems like it both get you familiar with the culture, and earn a few extra dollars.

At the end of the day, there's going to be people with many opinions on your vacation. Do what suits you best, and leave the list at home.

A few thoughts.

If your only luxury is travel then $25k a year isn't crazy. But how much do you save for retirement each year out of the $150k-$175k? I'd feel differently if the answer is $17,500 vs say $30,000. "save for retirement" means different things to different people. To be honest, we make considerably more than you and have never spent more than $6000 on a vacation although we tend to take several vacations a year. But we save half our income. Like you said, no one should die with a pocket full of money and a heart devoid of memories, but maybe you're a little too early on your journey to take that idea to an extreme.

We also love to travel. Before the kids we did a ton, top status on Delta and proud Flyertalker for more than a decade. For a little while with our daughter, we kept going: Israel, Italy, Japan, Spain all in her first two years. With a second child things got harder, and more expensive. We couldn't fly as often to earn as many miles, and we had to buy more tickets everywhere we went, and it was near impossible to find 2, 3, 4 award tickets on the same flights, and the whole thing collapsed. Now we mostly take flights to see family (Texas, Michigan, Hawaii) so we still do a lot of flying, but unfortunately all at peak times as my oldest is in grade school. The cost of travel as a result has gone up exponentially. We pine for the days of $400 all in flights to London, now that we sometimes pay $700 per ticket just to fly over Thanksgiving. Ugh.

As a result we do a lot more car travel, which we always enjoyed as well. My kids are finally old enough to do road trips. We just got back from a 9 day camping trip. We did a lot of camping this year, which I also enjoy very much. I guess the point is, continue to be flexible in your plans, be broad-minded and experiences will find you.

Hitting 49/50 states is nice, but most states have many weeks' worth of things to see, especially if traveling slowly by car. I wouldn't sell short the States just yet. You could reduce your annual travel budget to $15,000, spending $5000 one summer with road trips, etc, and the next summer at $25,000 with the Big One to Europe, then two years later China, etc.

My 2 cents - I care about learning and growing. Disney is relaxing, but you don't learn much. I love exploring nature, and the US is best for that.
How old are your kids? Going to Europe once would be nice. And going to Asia is good too.
I'd do a vacation to Asia this year and next; then maybe Africa or South America; and only do Europe when your kids are in College.

I would say travel sooner, than later. Of course it can be expensive, but if you look carefully enough on sites like Expedia, you can travel for a week to most places in the world for less than $2,000 (hotel and air/one person) and you don't need to stay at a dump. I've done 12 overseas trips in the last five years and have another next month.

Just do it, and don't get all wound up with minor costs while traveling (like going out of your way to get a minimally better exchange rate or better credit card). Stuff can be expensive while traveling and the few bucks you may save isn't going to make a difference in your life.

Three years ago I came close to being killed by a drunk driver. Just a small difference where my car was hit would have been curtains for me. After not needing crutches a month later, I booked a trip to Sydney and did the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. That's not Mount Everest, but was enough to prove to myself I'm over what a drunk did to me.

You get a perspective of what things are like in other parts of the world by traveling, that you can't get by watching TV. You'll see things that are better, or not better, than here.

I find wherever I travel the first day is the most difficult, but by the time I leave I know I'll miss the place.

Book those trips!

I know it's a lot different when you have a family and kids, but as a single traveler that has been to 100+ countries, I rarely even spend more than $2,000 on any trip (whether it's North Korea or Greece). I think you'll find that LUXURY hotels are rarely worth the money or points (as you can usually find a decent room almost anywhere in the world for $50-$150), so blowing 60,000pts a night isn't great (of course there are ways around this- long stay, staring rooms, bonuses etc). How often do you spend in the hotel anyway, and when you start getting hit with deluxe breakfasts, $25 internet, etc, nice hotels end up being more.

My parents took me on my first trip in 6th grade (Europe) and it changed my life.  Anything before that is probably better being Disney, etc.  My parents would also take us abroad on occasion during school year (week trip to Russia, or week trip to Mexico).  I don't know how practical it is these days, but then a $700 trip to Russia was not to be missed.  Obviously trying to travel to Eurupe in summer is X2 expensive.  But deals can be had during Xmas, Thanksgiving (not an international holiday) or random spring breaks. 

I would keep building your budget, and keep your eyes open for cheap flights (flights to Europe can get as low as $200 on rare occasion, Peru can be $450, and Asia can get down to $600). Find a great deal, get your flights and then build your trip around that. I've spent less going to Mongolia and Australia (hotels, not hostels) than my friends spend on a week at Cape Cod.

Travel can be cheap if you don't care exactly where you go and when. It's when you try to control either of those two variables that things get crazy.

OP - if you are packing away retirement savings at maximum levels for your situation, and have an emergency fund of say 20k, then feel free to blow the rest of your money.
Travel is great, but remember kids under age 10 will barely remember any of it when they are 20, I know as friends of mine went to Europe at a young age, and they remember the puking on the ship etc much more than all the sites. Maybe you want to get a family member to baby-sit so you and spouse can travel sometimes.

As for Hawaii, We went in Sept. Used Miles, and the resort paid us $150, overall it was wonderful being 1 block from Wakki. In retrospect, I should have planned on visiting 2/3 islands, in succession, spending say a week on each, with accomadation planned out. Its the cost of flying from mainland to the island that is expense, so hopping islands once there is much lower cost.
So use your miles, to book Hawaii or pay a lot per ticket.

of course, but kids in school dictate when you can go. That's why it gets exponentially more expensive to travel once kids are involved.

We used to be the ones who jumped on the last minute fares, the random sales from SEA-London with unlimited stopovers in Detroit, LAX, etc. All of that goes out the window with kids.

Summer tickets to Europe are about 50% more if not 100% more than during the school year.

jcb193 said:   I know it's a lot different when you have a family and kids, but as a single traveler that has been to 100+ countries, I rarely even spend more than $2,000 on any trip (whether it's North Korea or Greece). I think you'll find that LUXURY hotels are rarely worth the money or points (as you can usually find a decent room almost anywhere in the world for $50-$150), so blowing 60,000pts a night isn't great (of course there are ways around this- long stay, staring rooms, bonuses etc). How often do you spend in the hotel anyway, and when you start getting hit with deluxe breakfasts, $25 internet, etc, nice hotels end up being more.

My parents took me on my first trip in 6th grade (Europe) and it changed my life.  Anything before that is probably better being Disney, etc.  My parents would also take us abroad on occasion during school year (week trip to Russia, or week trip to Mexico).  I don't know how practical it is these days, but then a $700 trip to Russia was not to be missed.  Obviously trying to travel to Eurupe in summer is X2 expensive.  But deals can be had during Xmas, Thanksgiving (not an international holiday) or random spring breaks. 

I would keep building your budget, and keep your eyes open for cheap flights (flights to Europe can get as low as $200 on rare occasion, Peru can be $450, and Asia can get down to $600). Find a great deal, get your flights and then build your trip around that. I've spent less going to Mongolia and Australia (hotels, not hostels) than my friends spend on a week at Cape Cod.

Travel can be cheap if you don't care exactly where you go and when. It's when you try to control either of those two variables that things get crazy.

  
I completely agree that Luxury hotels are usually NOT worth it. Especially since these hotels tend to nickle and dime guests to death. Wifi? that will be $20 a night. Parking, oh well, that's $45 a night extra. Resort fee? $29 a night. Your $500 a night hotel now costs $700 a night after all the add ons. Look into Airbnb.com, I've found apartments in Paris that cost under $200 a night that would have cost me $1200 in a hotel. In Croatia, $50 a night for a lovely apartment overlooking the mediteranian. I'm going to mexico city in a couple months, $75 a night for an apartment off a lovely park free wifi, concierge in a historic building (on the same street as The Four Seasons). If you know where to look there are amazing lodging deals out there, you just have to think outside the box. I use all the money we save to have at least one fabulous meal in an awesome restaurant or go shopping or do other things other than the place you just sleep. 

Also, if you use a travel consolidator like Travelocity, or Orbitz. Find the deal on that site and then go to the airline or hotel's website and book it there. You will get better service thank booking it through a consolidator. 

In abstract, this is really just a "Can I spend XXXX on YYY?" thread, if you strip out the frugal travel advice. I kind of enjoy the fact that we're generally in favor of the OP taking vacations now. If he had asked if he could spend 20k/year leasing luxury cars, y'all would have burned him at the stake.

DutchessPDX said:   
Also, if you use a travel consolidator like Travelocity, or Orbitz. Find the deal on that site and then go to the airline or hotel's website and book it there. You will get better service thank booking it through a consolidator. 

  
not always a good idea. Wanted to book a short flight (MUC-TXL) last week and found that Air Berlin had the best price. Went to book the flight to Air Berlin's web site and they wanted 9 or 10 euros if I wanted to pay with a credit card. Went to Priceline, found the same flight for the same amount of money and booked it without any CC fees. Also got 1% CashBack from FW

The word consolidator in the travel biz has a specific meaning, and Travelocity/Orbitz aren't it. Consolidators are agencies that buy seats that are likely to go unsold in bulk from the airlines and resell them. Sorry to nitpick.

TravelerMSY said:   In abstract, this is really just a "Can I spend XXXX on YYY?" thread, if you strip out the frugal travel advice. I kind of enjoy the fact that we're generally in favor of the OP taking vacations now. If he had asked if he could spend 20k/year leasing luxury cars, y'all would have burned him at the stake.
  
This is true, but the good news is - I don't have a predefined answer where I'm looking for validation.  I'm truly still up in the air as to what a valid travel budget would be.  The frugal traveling tips are definitely a bonus.  I threw out the 25k budget as an example - but we've never spent more than about 8,000 a year on vacations thus far. 

It does seem like buying memories is a more moderate Fatwallet acceptable point than buying stuff, but I do remember an anecdote in a previous thread where someone bought a super expensive car and can harken back to those memories at will - so I guess that can be the same thing if that's the way your brain is wired.

In my mind, the budget is unlimited as long as it's not interfering with any other goals.

Just some random answers to questions I've seen:

A) We have 2 three year old girls - we are debating home schooling so as PsychToBe mentioned, it could be a whole different ballgame in two years if we send them to public/private school.

B) Currently, 15% of my main college income goes to retirement - 7.5% in, 7.5% match ($11,250), I have a part time college I teach at that does 6% with a 6% match ($1,400) - probably not as good as it should be, but it's certainly not neglected. Our emergency fund is 10k liquid cash. I've been reading the thread about transferring emergency funds into different areas and at what point should an emergency fund be even necessary. We have fairly low fixed expenses - only a 2k mortgage. I'd turn into an extreme couponer if I was ever unemployed, but my main job is only half of my income source, so that's a nice 'emergency' fund as well. If something happened to me though, that's a different story.

C) I have had the philosophy thus far of traveling where the deals are (in the States, anyway) - I have a ton of research to do on international traveling as I'm sure there are deals to be had - but one can only see the Branson strip so much before pictures of Sydney and Bora Bora seem to call your name.

D) IMBatman noted there are non-saver deals to Hawaii the week I mentioned and I've seen them. I guess that is definitely something to consider before paying full price. Having just gotten started on points, I haven't adopted a philosophy, but if I don't get at least 2 cents per point, I generally tend to avoid it with the thought that stockpiling miles will eventually hit in a big trip for all four of us to Europe in business class, as an example, so I feel like it would almost be a waste to use them at a penny a point or 1.25 per point when hopefully either this year or next year, I could get a perceived value of 4-6 cents a point from those. I've heard about the Boston-Dublin Avios "sweet spot" - and that is wide open in June, for instance.

E) Traveling is a bit of a check list for me - at some hypothetical win the lottery income level, I'd go places just to say I saw it as opposed to having a true genuine interest of seeing it - but sometimes that's where the hidden gems are. I was dreading driving to Alaska just to say I did it - and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life in retrospect. The drive from Seattle to Fairbanks was incredible. Being a Texas boy, I didn't enjoy the Northeast as much as I thought I would - guess you just get used to wide open spaces instead of mega-city after mega-city - but seeing Ground Zero, Liberty Bell and all the other touristy spots were definitely memorable.

F) To the extent the wife will let me and the girls are enjoying it (which so far, we've been very fortunate - I have yet to hear "Daddy, I want to go home." during our travels, although I'm sure it will come when activities/sports/friends are a bigger part of their lives, I would travel non-stop in the summer or do mega-month trips - so budgeting/planning for it (prepaid, of course so no debt is taken on) is Crucial, but I figure if you're going to be in Europe - why not stay for 2 months and see as much of it as you can? Of course, I'm sure just like in the US, 2 months in Europe would barely scratch the surface. Part of the desire to do it "now" as much as possible is because you're never guaranteed tomorrow - and if they get a huge interest in sports or music or anything like that, that might even more compress the amount of traveling we can do and when we can do it.

The one thing I have gathered that I have heeded the collective advice on is that a true Fatwalleter won't compromise on budget, so I'll look for Hawaii more in advance and more at an off-peak time to gather the best value for that trip. Just because I can throw down 4k on Coach tickets doesn't mean I should. That's a case where the travel itch has been stronger than the Fatwallet itch ointment - but it's been applied in such a thick dose, I will quit itching at least to that end for our pre-christmas trip - and maybe start searching for some off-peak deals to a cool locale.

Skipping 51 Messages...
BlueSeaLake said:   
kvs25 said:   Any tips on Hawaii? Wife and I are planning to to go HNL for 2 days, and then stay in Maui for 4 days. We're planning to fly EWR->HNL nonstop and not looking forward to that flight
  
the flight from Chicago to HNL was not that bad in Coach, I prepped by bringing my own various snacks and sleeping mask & earplugs.
take a shuttle bus from the airport, traffic is worst in USA (really) a cab will end up costing a lot from airport.
See Wakaki beach of course.
Skip the bus tour around the island they are definitely NOT worth it. (Dole plantation is really only a giant souvenier store), instead rent a car for a day and drive around the driving is short as cannot really go around the island anyhow.

  The flight to HNL is not so bad b/c it's day time flight. I did HNL-ORD in old first (recliners) and slept very badly. 



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