The real cost of travel

We are off to Maui today! Whoo! I am so looking forward to this vacation. Can you guys believe we have absolutely nothing planned. Not a single thing. Other than spending hours researching a condo rental I haven’t even spent much time doing research for the trip. I’m so excited to just spend 6 days doing whatever we feel like – whether that’s driving around the island exploring or just laying on the beach!

I thought now would be a good time to share this post i’ve been working on about the real cost of travel (for us). I heard a segment on the radio the other day about a woman who was trying to start a #realselfie movement where she doesn’t just post about the awesome thing she’s doing and buying but also the cost of them. In our social media driven world we spend a lot of time seeing all the things people have and the exciting lives people lead – or what small glimpses they choose to share with us that is. However, we also know we are living in a world where a lot of people have a lot of debt. What we don’t see behind the glimpses of these amazing lives is the mountains of debt some people have or accumulate trying to “have it all”.

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I have no problem sharing that the only debt we have is our truck loan and mortgage. That said, we could have afforded a down payment on a bigger house (something we talk about a lot) or we could have no truck loan or we could have paid down A LOT more of our mortgage with all the money we spent on travel. But that’s the trade off. You can’t have it all. Well, maybe some people do but they are super savers and scrimpers and we’re just not like that – we like our Friday night takeout, our gym memberships and I like the occasional mani/pedi 🙂

Anyways, onto the post…

It’s no secret that Eric and I love to travel. Together we’ve visited 10 countries over the 10 years we’ve been together and we are regularly talking about other places we both want to visit all over the world. Our travel bucket list is long. We will get to it all one day!

At the same time, it’s also no secret that traveling can be $$$. Actually, regardless of how savvy you are or how much you budget I think traveling is considered an extravagant expense.

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At the same time, as we both move into our late twenties and start talking about things like starting a family and our hopes to buy a house (we currently own our townhouse but we would like a place where we aren’t attached to our neighbours one day) we can’t help but think about our cost of travel over the years.

So I thought in the hopes of being completely honest and transparent on the blog, I would share the real cost of our travel over the last five years. We have taken one trip per year and I’m including the approximate costs of each of those trips below.

Also I’m only including the trips Eric and I have taken together. I’ve been lucky enough to take a few extra trips with the girls on top of these like my trip to Minneapolis to visit Lisa and my trips to Chicago and San Francisco for girls running weekends! I don’t actually have the budget breakdown from those trips but I would say ~ $1,000 – 1,500 each is a good estimate.

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Breakdown of trips (these are approximate numbers! I am pretty good at keeping track of trip costs but not down to the exact penny).

  • 2010 – backpacking around Europe (Amsterdam, Paris, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, Rome, Sorrento, Athens) ~ $10,000
  • 2011 – Florida! Whirlwind 5-day trip to Orlando, Florida to visit Harry Potter World! ~ $3,000
  • 2012 – Honeymoon in Tofino! This was a way more extravagant trip than any other one because hello, it’s our honeymoon! Plus this was mostly paid for by our generous wedding guests so I don’t really count it in our overall trip spending because we didn’t have to save for it, but in the interest of transparency: ~ $5,000
  • 2013 – Cancun, Mexico – one week in an all inclusive with a couple of excursions tagged on. ~ $3,000
  • 2014 – Amazing bucket list trip all around Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland for two weeks! ~ $8,000
  • 2015 – heading to the Island of Maui in Hawaii very soon for a 6-day visit. ~$4,000

Total (- the honeymoon) = $28,000 (please keep in mind this is in Canadian (CAD) dollars!) 

Oh hey, house down payment. If you throw in the honeymoon and my girl’s trips you’re looking at around $36,000+

Eiffel Tower Edit

Well for that first Europe trip we saved for three years leading up to it. Same thing with Ireland and Scotland – for the really big trips we started saving well over a year before the actual trip. Since we’ve technically been saving for all the travel since about 2008 that’s 84 months of saving time. Divide that by the total cost of all our trips and that’s only $333 a month. And that’s for two people! Even if you add in the girls trips and the honeymoons that’s only $452 a month. So really $225 per person a month. I think most people could find that money if they really wanted to…

Also we don’t really eat out or do a ton of local entertainment. Our ‘entertainment’ budget is $200 per month for both of us – that includes all eating out, alcohol purchased etc. And when we get close to a trip we scale that back to $100 a month and put the extra $100 towards a trip. I’m sure most people would be pretty shocked if they added up how much things like eating out cost every month.

Our generous families also know how much we love to travel so they give us money for graduations, Christmases, birthdays etc. It’s so so appreciated because all that extra money immediately gets plopped directly into our travel savings account.

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Oh and finally it’s no coincidence we always travel in the spring – hello tax returns! We also live in a very reasonably priced home (our mortgage and utilities is only about 16% of our income) and we only recently (last July) got a second vehicle and took on a vehicle payment.

So there you have it. The real cost of travel. I hear a lot of people tell us how jealous they are of our travels but I think it’s important to talk about the sacrifices we’ve made to be able to afford it – we don’t really shop (I started trying to add up all our clothing related purchases in a year but it was getting too tedious to go through all our bank statements. I would say we spend around $1,000 a year on clothes between the two of us), we don’t go out to eat, we never go out for drinks (that’s way too expensive! We’d rather drink at home.), we don’t really take many mini weekend trips other than camping in the summer etc.

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And of course that big price tag I just put on it all really puts it into perspective. Sometimes I look at other people our age and see the beautiful homes they live in or are buying but then I remember that we could be there too if we hadn’t prioritized travel. Also, for all that money we could have not traveled every single year and just saved for five years and then taken an epic round-the-world-trip.

But don’t get me wrong, I have zero regrets about the way we’ve done things. Those experiences are so worth it. I can’t even describe the feeling of seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time, or standing overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the Cliffs of Moher or even the joy and love I felt for my husband (then fiance!) while we sat side-by-side in a booth at Bahama Breeze in Orlando getting tipsy and laughing together after a day spend exploring Harry Potter World.

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And on that note, we’re off to Maui! I won’t be blogging while we’re away so stay up-to-date with us by following me on Instagram.

Happy Easter!

How important is travel to you when it comes to budgeting? 

23 Responses

  1. NZ Muse says:

    Super super important. I think this will be our last international trip for quite some time as we want to focus on a bigger goal though. I am envious that your living costs are so low! I simply cannot fathom how anyone in Auckland could spend only 16% on housing (let alone utilities) unless they were earning like a million bucks and living in a hovel.

    Funnily enough I’ve been dreaming a lot about going on a trip and then panicking upon getting there because I haven’t researched or planned anything! But Hawaii is generally the kind of place you go to chill, no? Enjoy – you deserve it!

    • Amber says:

      Up until recently they were about 30% of our income because we only had one income! They’ve only been cut down to 16% recently since eric started working full time and we now have two full time, steady incomes. Oh and I’m only counting mortgage + strata + hydro, not cable or internet. But yes we’re very lucky to have such an affordable living situation. When we upgrade to a house in a couple years they will jump back up to about 30% again.

  2. Becky says:

    Such a great post! Have a safe trip and a fabulous time!!!

  3. Great post, Amber! I am impressed that you’ve done such a great job of tracking the cost of your vacations! That is something that I am not great at, although I did track the cost of the two trips Phil and I took. Jamaica was about $2,400 total for both of us and Santa Barbara was close to $2,000 for the two of us. But we got a really good deal in Jamaica and had a free flight and a free hotel room for one night for our SB trip so that made them less expensive. If I had to guess how much my Paris trips cost, I’d say about $4,000? Now you are motivating me to keep better track of it!

    I appreciate honest posts like this, though, as I think as a society we tend to shy away from talking about $$. Travel is expensive but it’s more than worth it in my opinion. I also feel like I make sacrifices in other areas of my life to be able to afford traveling, like I don’t have a car payment, I don’t eat out much, I try to limit my haircuts to 2-4/year, and I don’t never go out for drinks/HH. Those small things all add up to being able to afford to travel. We all value different things and prioritize our spending differently but for me, I’ll always have a budget for traveling! I really hate it when people say “I’M SO JEALOUS ABOUT X” because we all make choices… Granted, I know I am fortunate to have a good paying job (but that job also involves a lot of stres/high pressure so there are trade-offs to having a good income that allows me to travel).

  4. We have a travel fund too. I will say our travel wishes just tend to be beaches and beer tirps ha. Unfortunately, my husband and I have different body temps so we can usually only manage these to tropical locations in winter. ;P I need an expert traveler to help me find cheaper plane tickets too. I look at all the sites but daaaaaaaaaayum. When you add that third ticket in, it’s cheaper for us to road trip! (and see more things!) I hear ya on the nicer houses. We bought our house at ages 23 and 24 and I hate it. But, it’s almost paid off, we have 2.5 acres and it’s a decent location in a very cheap cost of living area. Our only debt is the mortgage, my car payment and our student loans. I think after we saw what we paid in student loan interest this year this may be the last year of dealing with my student loan haha. It’s on the pay off chopping block! When we travel we try to pay everything in cash too so that helps us budget. But when we are on vacation, we let go and have fun. Hope you enjoy your trip!

  5. Like you said, I do think travel is worth the money and I would rather have a better balance of the things I want in life (smaller house and less eating out) than not traveling. I however, don’t do as good of a job as saving ahead of time for trips. Right now on one income, we really don’t have enough to save for any travel, so I’m focusing on the fact that it will get better in the future and hopefully, for now, we can still take small weekend trips (to Bend, Portland, Seattle) that will fill the travel itch without putting us into serious debt.

    Our Europe honeymoon cost about $5000-7000, but we were gone for a long time and our plane tickets were really expensive. I don’t usually keep track of the cost of girls weekends, but appreciate that I can buy my plane ticket one month, pay for a hotel/reimburse someone for our housing and then the meals and day to day expenses of those types of trips at different times so the money is really spread out.

    Right now, our debt includes a roof we had to get this fall on the house, the mortgage and a bit left from our Europe trip (unfortunately).

  6. Leigh says:

    We have a travel fund as well…we each put a certain amount in each month and we use that if we want to go somewhere. It also covers my flights home to Ontario to see my family which is nice. When we went to Europe, we saved for three years as well and didn’t have any debt coming back from the trip. Sure, we spent a lot of money while we were there, but it was so worth it! It was an amazing trip and worth the memories. I used my tax refund to go to Ireland and really thought about going or not and I’m so glad I did. Sure I could have put the money back into my RRSP’s, but it was a great trip and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do that again!

    We are also lucky enough to have our mortgage be the only debt that we have. We paid off both of our vehicles which is a nice feeling. And we just renewed our mortgage and the rate went down by a percent!

    Hope you have a wonderful time in Hawaii!

  7. Alli says:

    Travel is a huge priority for me and Chris so I love this post and can totally relate. Have a wonderful trip!

  8. Erin says:

    Great transparency!! Thank you!

    I wish our housing costs were so low, but alas we live in one of the costlier areas of the country (just outside of DC). You would think our work would be able to do a cost of living increase, but it’s so pitful that i haven’t noticed a jump in my income in several years. Plus my husband has student loans which puts a dent in our budget.

    however, we’ve saved for greece for a couple years (i took a lot of the money from one of my freelance jobs and kept it in savings)! so that is HAPPENING this year! so excited.

    On the other end of things — i do think a lot of the population is in debt and they just go about whatever they want. which in turn hurts the economy. People don’t understand that they need to live within their means.

  9. I may be the most jealous about having mortgage and electricity only take up 16% of your income! My income is pretty high by most standards, and ours is still closer to 40% if you include the utilities too.

    Have a great trip and be safe! I’ve always wanted to see Hawaii, i’ll get there for a marathon eventually. I’m looking forward to some decent travel in the near future too, including going to MN to visit Lisa!

  10. Stephany says:

    Travel is a priority for me, but I can really only take one big trip (usually a cruise) and maybe 1 or 2 smaller vacations (usually weekend trips) throughout the year. But I do try to make those trips happen on a yearly basis because I know some people can’t even afford the little traveling I do (and actually that was my situation growing up, so I am immensely grateful!) Usually, I tend to take a cruise in May and use my tax return to pay for that, and then the smaller trips usually are >$500 so it’s not hard to save for those.

    We all have priorities in life, but I think illuminating posts like these help us to better see how people afford their lifestyles – what they prioritize and the things they don’t do to have/do the things they want. I might do something similar after my cruise! And have a WONDERFUL time in Hawaii!

  11. Kelly says:

    As you know, I basically have the same philosophy as you about travel and the importance of it in my life 🙂 Every time I think we should get a new ___ for the house, I’m like nah, that’s a trip! I’m sure my neighbors love this philosophy of mine, ha. We are obviously settling down on the big trips a bit these days but I do want Max to see at least other parts of the country because I think it’s important.

    I love that you did this post… I should look back and see what we have spent all together, but yikes I’m a little scared haha. One thing I love about travel is that you generally have to pay the flight ahead of time and then that spreads that large expense from the rest of the trip expenses. Just a mental thing for me I guess!

  12. Holly says:

    Travel has never been a huge priority for Nathan and I, apart from being able to go back east and visit my family every other year or so. I enjoy travelling and seeing new places but at this point we’re really focussed on that house down payment, and of course once we have a house, we’ll be spending more money/month on our mortgage, upkeep of the property, etc., etc. We’re going to Winnipeg for a week this summer, that’s our only “big” travel plan, ha ha!

    I hope you guys have a fantastic time in Hawaii!!!!

  13. Bronwyn says:

    This is great! I too prioritize travel over some other things. And I think it really is about perspective and what you want in life, and choosing where to spend your money. 🙂

  14. Ris says:

    Woohoo for transparency! I really appreciate that. And I’m always willing to tell people exactly how much we save and budget when they express jealousy at all the travel D and I do. We are committed to going on one big international trip each year, and we work like crazy to make that happen. I take on extra freelance jobs, we save and scrimp anywhere we can, and we know that for us, it’s totally worth it. My number one thing (behind my health) is travel. I know it’s not for everyone but it is my passion, and I’m willing to give up so much to achieve it 🙂 I hope you guys have a great time on your trip!!

  15. Sherry Sim says:

    Exactly what I was talking to our son about recently, prioritzing what is important to ones own self…..enjoy beautiful Maui!

  16. Janine says:

    Hello my friend! Great article and I totally agree with everything you say!!

  17. Travel Spot says:

    Man, now you are speaking my language. I am a saver, and I definitely have a travel savings category!! I could have put a down payment on a house for sure. However, I have not really spent as much as you would think for some of the trips I have taken. I always write down every penny I spend when I am traveling and I generally tend to spend less on things like hotels or daily meals, so that I can spend it later on a big experience or a great dinner out. In real life, I rarely to never eat out, don’t go out drinking and try to meet up with friends for walks (free) instead of costly meals or shopping trips.

    I have taken several longer trips and these usually average out to cost me about $1,000 a month, depending on where I am traveling (hello Africa / India / S America / SE Asia — cheap, cheap!), however I did a 2 week trip to Europe last summer and with the airfare spent about 2,500 dollars. It is definitely a priority for me! It’s nice if you can stay a bit longer, as it kind of evens out the cost of the airfare, which is sometimes the most expensive thing.

    Your mortgage seems quite small! My rent/utilities is about 30% of my overall expenses per year, and it is not really that much compared to the rest of the Bay Area. That is my highest spending category actually. My second highest…is travel!!

  18. Abby says:

    So funny you posted about this, as Ryan and I were JUST talking about this! Traveling is one of our passions too, and we also live far away from family so have to split up our “travel” between visiting family and destination travel. The other day someone said to us, “Wow you guys travel around a lot. That has to get expensive!” …..and it kind of annoyed me.

    We, too, have a $200/month “entertainment budget” – and scale that back certain months if we are saving up for something good! Also, many of our trips are backpacking/hiking trips. I don’t get my nails or hair done, and rarely go out to eat!

    It’s all about where you prioritize your spending!

    I’m so excited to read your Maui recap. Your instragram photos made me SO excited for our Kauai/Oahu trip in August!!!

  19. Travel is definitely a priority for us … we spend most of our money on travel and good food 🙂 We have a humble home and don’t care about fancy cars or toys, so we spend money on experiences instead. Also, not having children helps!

  20. […] blog friend Amber recently wrote about the real cost of travel and I could very much relate to her […]

  21. […] I also no longer carry my credit card in my wallet unless I’m traveling. I just ran into an issue where I was putting way too many small purchases on my credit card and they quickly added up to a lot of money. My credit card is now completely paid off and stays at home so I’m not tempted to use it! Luckily I’m not much of a shopper anyways so I think that helps me a lot. The thing I would most like to spend money on is travel and experiences, which we absolutely have over the past few years. […]

  22. […] been documented on this blog on this blog many many times before we love to travel and it is the main way we spend our disposable income. We have done all kinds of trips from backpacking around Europe to staying at an all inclusive […]

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