Friday, August 12, 2011

Post-PACNW Financial Wrap-up

Like our Out West financial wrap-up, I wanted to share the costs of this trip. For the past five years or so, the most-asked question from friends is, How do you do it? Sometimes they are referring to vacation time and sometimes they are referring to economics.

As a full-time staff RN, I am required to work three 12-hr shifts per week. If I arrange my schedule so that I work the first three days (U/M/T) of the first week and the last three days (R/F/S) of the last week, then I have 8-days off. And if I arrange travel departure on the night of that Tuesday, then I have even more time in the city/place I am visiting. I know I am very blessed with my flexibility, but keep in mind that the odd hours I work (between night shift and day shift) makes for less time spent with my husbamd, family, friends, and it is difficult to 100% commit myself to something due to the variability of my schedule. What I am trying to say is, there are pros to cons to my type of schedule and your M-F 8-5 type of schedule. I used to be very jealous of that latter type and it took me almost 12 full months to really accept my work position, the time and energy it expects of me, and how to work that into my life. On top of my scheduling benefits, I have really great PTO (paid time off) benefits through my employer. Last year I didn't use but one 12-hr shift of PTO, which means this year I started all of our vacations with 144-hours of PTO. I don't know exactly how much time off I get per shift worked, but I am happy with what is given and think it is plenty to work with.

When it comes to economics, of course, that will depend on each person's financial situation. I will say that the biggest thing in traveling/vacationing is to budget for it. JP and I have an ING account that we budget money into every month for different things, like travel or emergency savings. I firmly believe that any working person with an income can budget for these things, no matter how tight money is. Everyone feels the pressure of money, but most people feel it because they aren't budgeting within their means. As a full-time student and full-time employee, with rent, car payments, and credit card debt, I still traveled. At that time, paying my debt off was less important than having fun. I didn't plan for travel as much as I do now, scrutinizing every little penny, but I also went on less-extravagant vacations. I have low-budget travel policies that I still use even now when our budget is a lot bigger; responsibility is huge.

The first principle of money management is to know and understand that the money in this life only comes from God (even if you don't believe this, you can insert your own higher being source, whether you think it's your boss or the government or your parents...) and it is our responsibility to manage it properly. So, if you are trying to travel on a budget, I would recommend you look at your finances. Where are they being poured? Do you have a within-means home or are you really just spending too much (this is said with a Western perspective, because honestly, we could all survive in shacks...we just don't think we can)? I recommend paying debt off first. We budget a huge amount of our income toward that, and it feels really really good knowing that we are being responsible for what we owe others. You can pay off debt and travel, but I would only put about 10% of what you are paying toward debt into your travel fund. If you simply do not have the money to go to France, then you will not go. Look into local adventures - they are out there, and if you are in the States reading this, you have to know how blessed we are to live in a country that has so many visually stimulating places. My point is this: any one can travel, you just have to set priorities, and budget accordingly.

And now, after that tirade (which I would love to discuss more if anyone wishes), here is our breakdown:

Pre-estimated Costs (for one person)
- Airfare: $247.30
- Car Rental: $0 (our other friend, J2., will be letting us borrow hers!)
- Lodging: $42.33 ($127.00 is the total for camping reservations, to be split between three or four people; I went with three people.)
- Fuel: $75.00 (based on approx. 1400 miles of travel @ 25mpg -- J2.'s car likely gets more -- for $4.00/gal. divided by three people)
- Food: $150 (budgeting $20/day)
- Activites: $172 (this includes a 4hr white water rafting trip down class III/IV rapids, a 3hr whale watching tour, a few museum admissions, and two ferry rides)
--TOTAL: $689.63

Post-vacation Real Costs (for one person)
- Airfare: $283.30 (+$36.00) *Totally never had to check a bag and I didn't even have to worry about lugging my 40-lb carry-on on the plane! Thank you, completely full air carriers. The difference in cost is accounting for the CLT airport parking fee.
- Car Rental: $57.50 (+$57.50) *Our friend, J2., started to feel uneasy about us borrowing her car after a few mechanical problems prior to the trip. We were more than happy to dish out the extra bucks for a reliable rental car. We even had Hawaii license plates! The total cost of the rental for 7 days was $230, by the way.
- Lodging: $31.75 (-$10.58)*We were able to split the original $127 cost between four people the entire time.
- Fuel: $58.93 (-$16.07) *We definitely traveled more than 1400 miles, but we did get better gas mileage than predicted and we also were able to split the fuel costs between four people the entire time.
- Food: $218.96 (+68.96) *Like our last trip, this is just an area that I am terrible at either predicting or budgeting! Grocery costs, which included breakfast + lunch (most days), beer, firewood and ice totaled around $30/person, so I definitely went over budget with eating out. Chilis @ ORD really upset me when they charged $10 for a Blue Moon on draft (absolutely ridiculous). At any rate, on my next trip should probably budget about $25-30 for food per day, so hopefully I will be under instead of over.
- Activities: $178.05 (+$6.05) *The unaccounted money from the pre-trip cost was probably tax from our whale watching tour, which was well worth the $80.85 we spent per person!
--TOTAL: $828.49 (+$138.86)

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