I often talk about the benefits and even necessity of travel, but what about the cost? I have said it’s possible, but I haven’t explained how I did it. My lover Jessica wrote a post about this yesterday. But was it enough? You know that I paid for this trip through hard work. You know that I’m debt-free. You know that I don’t have a mortgage. But do you really understand exactly how I did it? I’m going to give you an all-access pass to the inner workings of a debt-free weekend to London. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the insane amount of detail.
Barriers to Travel
Many people come up with reasons they can’t travel. I often give you reasons you need to travel. Let’s go over the travel myths, if you will. Rather than going into detail about why each of these reasons is invalid, I’m just going to list them. Once you have them fresh in your mind, I will show you exactly how I got past each of these barriers. Here they are:
- I don’t have enough money.
- I don’t have enough time.
- I can’t plan something like that.
- I can’t leave my routine/job/home life.
Do these sound familiar? Have you heard someone use these excuses before? Have you used any of those excuses before? Let me go and dispel each of those myths, explaining how I paid for a weekend in London with cash – and I’m still alive to tell the tale.
I Don’t Have Enough Money
Yeah, I figured you’d want to hear about this one first. I should have saved it for last, but let’s get down to the nitty gritty details. As Jessica stated in her fantastic post, most people hear my profession and say, “Oh okay, that’s how he paid for it.” I’m an Electrical Engineer, just out of college. I net approximately $3,200 per month. I make just above the national average salary for households in America. Let me repeat, I am not making hundreds of thousands of dollars here. I’m not even making eighty-thousand dollars per year (because that sounds like a lot). I have a (close to) average salary, and I made it work. How?
I’m debt-free. My college education cost approximately $40,000. My grandfather left me a trust fund of about $10,000. I applied for many scholarships, and received about $10,000 in scholarship funds. I paid for $10,000 of tuition while working during college. I graduated with about $10,000 left over in student loans. I was working in an engineering internship right when I graduated. I paid off about $2,000 in the last two months of that internship. Once I got my current job, I paid off the remaining $8,000 in two and a half months. I didn’t buy any fun toys, I rarely went out to eat, and I didn’t impulse-buy. I got gazelle-intense and paid off my student loans.
I ‘bought’ my 2000 Volvo S70 in August of 2004. I was working at a financial services company at the time – during college. The Volvo was $10,763 ‘out the door’. I was making a pretty good hourly rate at the time (~$23/hour), so I decided that rather than buying fun toys, I wanted to pay off my car. It was paid off by December 2006. I still have the same Volvo, and it has 208,000 miles on it. I perform all the service/maintenance on it, to save money.
I live in an apartment with a monthly rent of $680. My monthly expenses (including rent) come out to about $1700. Sure, I could cut those back, but that’s a good estimate. So with my monthly income of around $3,200 per month, I have about $1,500 to spare each month. Now let’s see how much the London getaway cost.
What does it take to get to London? Airfare, train travel, public transit, food, hotel, and blow money. How about a nice list to show the expenses (all amounts in USD):
- Airfare (Delta) = $868.60 x 2 = $1737.20
- Heathrow Express, two tickets (accidentally bought round-trip – only needed one-way) = $85.05
- Gatwick Express, two tickets (one way – phew!) = $44.76
- London Tube transportation (two passengers, 2.5 days of travel) = ~$30
- Hotel (5-star Renaissance Marriott, 2 nights) = $530.14
- Fancy Dinner (The Providores, London) = ~$170
- Remainder of food expenses (including airports) = ~$150
- Blow money (Harrods) = $58.09
- Blow money (street vendors, etc) = ~$60
And there you have it. The entire trip cost approximately $2950.24. As you can see, airfare and hotel constitute 77% of the cost of the trip. Did we have to stay in a five-star hotel? No! But I wanted to splurge on my lover, so I did. Same goes for the fancy-ass dinner. The view was fantastic, and the experience was awesome. Keep in mind, however, that traveling for a weekend is MUCH more expensive than long-term travel. I also wasn’t looking to get ridiculous deals on this trip – it was more about just doing it. So let’s break this down now.
How many months of saving should it take me to afford this trip? I have approximately $1,500 extra each month, and the trip totalled out to $2,950.24. That’s only two months of saving, and I’ve got enough money for a weekend in London.
This is where I give you my short rant about how you should want to live. Be debt-free. Don’t work your whole life to pay off loans for things you only bought to impress other people. You don’t need a brand new BMW to celebrate getting a new job. You don’t need to buy a house when you’re 23 years old. When you delay gratification and pay for things with cash, they are more enjoyable. I have no debt, no car payment, no mortgage, no student loans – and I worked my ass off to make that happen. You can still pay for a weekend trip to London with cash when you’re in debt, but I guarantee you won’t be able to do it as quickly as I can.
I Don’t Have Enough Time / I Can’t Leave My Routine/Job/Home Life
Ask your boss for two extra days off. Finish your week’s work on Thursday. Everybody slacks at work on Monday. They won’t miss you. Hire a sitter for the kids. Have family watch the kids. Take the dog to a kennel. This isn’t rocket science, folks, and it’s only four days. You can do this.
I Can’t Plan Something Like That
Okay, I’m going to be honest here. I freaking dominated the planning of this event. I loved every minute of planning where we were going to go, eat, sleep, and explore. I shopped for the hotel for at least three days. I literally printed out the google maps navigation to every single stop I planned for the trip. There was no question that if we wanted to do something or go somewhere, I made each activity more accessible than Lindsay Lohan’s drug stash. Maybe your OCD isn’t as crazy as mine, or maybe you just don’t want to plan that much. Hire a travel agent to do it for you. Hell, hire me to do it for you. I’ll make sure you have a blast.
All in all, with calling the restaurant for reservations four weeks in advance, choosing the hotel, and plotting out each destination on a colorful map, the planning probably took about 2-4 hours a day for a week. It took me longer because I was doing it as a surprise. If you team up with your significant other/travel partner, you can get it done in half the time.
Don’t tell me you can’t plan something like this. If you say that, you’re being lazy. You can plan a weekend trip to London. Or Paris. Or Stockholm. You just have to do it.
Hopefully this has not only opened your mind up to the possibility of travel, but also given you a deeper insight to my lifestyle, mindset, and transparency. You now know more about me than some of my family members do. Crazy, huh? If you like reading the exact numbers more than figurative and hypothetical posts, let me know, and I’ll share more examples with you.
Jessica and I will be traveling again in October. If you want a financial breakdown of the cost of that trip, let me know! And until then, get off your ass and travel!