We met online and it was my first date in almost a year. Just after her margarita and my iced tea arrived, I asked my qualifier question, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?”
Her answer, “Las Vegas.”
She didn’t even think about it.
I have nothing against Las Vegas, but I was hoping for something a little more exotic or at least outside of the U.S.
The following day I had another date with a woman named Emily.
Again, “If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?”
Her answer, “Belize, because I want to learn how to SCUBA dive and hear the diving is good there.”
We took our first trip to St. Croix six months later and become certified divers. A year later we got married on Kauai and enjoyed traveling (on average) every six months for a couple of years. So far we’ve been to St. Croix, HI, Playa Del Carmen, Cancun, Cozumel, Curacao, Belize (twice), and Roatan, Honduras.
We have bills and obligations like most people, we just made travel a priority early on in our relationship. Some would suggest we save more money for retirement, but there’s no guarantee we’ll even be physically able to travel when that day comes. So we decided to do while we still can.
We do not have children living at home so maybe that makes a difference. But like anything else in life, if it’s not a priority, you’re going to find all sorts of excuses. Try replacing the statement, “I don’t have the money” with “it’s not a priority.”
Here are a few tips that helped us get away a couple times a year to refuel:
- Savings and Budget – We put $100 aside every week into a savings fund. We have it automatically transferred into a savings account so it’s just part of our budget. That’s $2,400 every six months and is our general budget for our trip.
We’ve gotten a system down where (in most cases) our trip is paid off before we set foot on a plane. On returning we usually have some left on a credit card such as our diving and incidentals.
- Finding Deals – Our first trip, the one to St. Croix where we became certified SCUBA divers, was the one that really set the pace and expectation. We got an amazing deal on that trip by selecting the “Last Minute Deals” option on Funjet.
We stayed at an amazing resort and the trip was $1,428 total for two people including airfare and lodging for seven days. That was an amazing trip, we haven’t found too many deals that good since. But they are out there if you’re willing to take your time, shop around, and in some cases be open last minute travel.
We’ve found that in some cases, you can save by purchasing flights and lodging separately, but in most cases the package deals offered by most travel sites (Expedia, Travelocity, Funjet, etc.) will usually be the best way to find deals.But it pays to compare. On our trip to Kauai, we booked our flights directly through the airline and found an amazing condo on Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO.com). The condo was amazing and was a little less expensive than a resort, more privite, and we were able to cook amazing dinners on the lanai overlooking the ocean.
Another trick is trolling travel forums. Specifically For us, SCUBA diving forums. I’ve found quite a few coupon codes on there for travel sites like Expedia that’s saved us a few hundred bucks on travel.
This may be old news, but before you book a hotel or resort, check out actual traveler photos and reviews on TripAdvisor. Find the place you want to stay, then copy and paste the resort or hotel name into Google and find the TripAdvisor link (it will usually be in the top 5). Check out the actual photos people have posted of the resort and read through all the reviews with an open mind.
- Packing – Traveling with SCUBA gear has made Emily and I pretty efficient packers. We’ve learned how to get the most versatile wardrobe in the least amount of space. The key is planning your outfits that can be worn with various pants/shirt combos.
For example, say I have 2 pairs of plaid shorts and one solid colored shorts and have no problem rotating and wearing the same 3 pairs of shorts the entire trip. But I’ll choose several solid colored t-shirts that can go with each pair of shorts.The solid colored shorts, let’s say they’re beige, are usually something nicer for dinner (e.g. linen). Which I can then wear with either a white or brown linen top.
Since we’re always someplace near the ocean, I have at least two or three pairs of boardshorts that can go with a few of the t-shirts as well.
As for shoes, of course there’s flip-flops and a nice pair of Oxfords. I’m a big fan of Ecco shoes as they’re lightweight, comfortable, and I have a few pairs that can go with jeans and even a suit if I have to when traveling for business.
- Saving on Food – This is where we’re still learning and tweaking our strategy a bit. A lot of this depends on our destination of course.
One thing we always do is hit Sam’s Club or Costco for some snack options. Things like packages nuts, trail mix, snack crackers, and travel size cookie packs. We like to put a few of these in our checked-in luggage to have some snacks while in our hotel rooms. Plus having some in our carry on’s for snacking while on the road.Even though we’ve stayed in some nice condos or villas with kitchens, we prefer to budget for meals out. It’s easy to say you’re going to save money by cooking meals, but in reality, you’re on vacation and part of the joy is trying local food. I could see where having a large family this may be different; I recall eating a lot of peanut butter as a kid on our yearly trips to Florida.
What travel tips do you have?