How I avoid the holiday hangover.
There are no two ways about it.
Overseas travel ain’t cheap.
But it sure ain’t cheap.
We said to ourselves that 2019 would be a ‘stay at home’ year because we have bills coming up, there is not enough in our travel fund and we can’t afford a trip this year. Buuuttttttt, as winter starts to bite in the Deep South I start to watch my friends and neighbours packing their bags and heading away somewhere warm for a couple of weeks and I’m so very envious of them. So once again, despite telling ourselves NO, we get itchy to travel, to get out our passports and get on a plane and go somewhere warm for a change of scene. But how have we managed to do it, despite saying we couldn’t afford it this year?
When is the right time to travel?
Where I live in Central Otago, you stay put for summer because this is one of the regions in New Zealand that everyone heads to for their annual holiday because our summers are lovely and hot and there is so much to do here. Everyone comes to stay with us and it’s a wonderful chance to catch up with family and friends - and to cook and clean for them while they enjoy their annual holiday! When we moved here from Christchurch we brought our caravan with us, which we used to take away camping from time to time. Once we got here we realised that THIS is where we would have gone camping! For 18 months I kept looking at our caravan out my kitchen window and it never moved, we never took it anywhere anymore. So we sold it and used the money for a fabulous winter trip to Thailand.
Winter, not summer, is the season when people from Central Otago go on holiday and it surprised me just how many people do leave town and they are not heading to stay with family in Christchurch for a week, instead they are getting out of New Zealand completely and heading all over the world for either a week or longer.
Travel is a luxury I know.
I’m well aware that being able to get on a plane and head somewhere is a luxury, but for my family, it’s a luxury I plan and save for. Jonny and I travelled a lot before we had our daughter and then when she came along we were excited to take her to other parts of the world with us. We took her on her first overseas trip when she was just ten months old and since then as a family of three we have been to the following places, many of them multiple times: Australia - Thailand - Vietnam - Singapore - Rarotonga - Canada - America
We live in a very small provincial town but we want to show her the huge world that is out there and with each trip, she learns something that she adds to her own education. It’s pretty cool. I remember when we were looking for the subway in Singapore, we found it and were waiting for our train, at which point she asked: “when do I get my Subway Mum?” And THAT is how she learned to distinguish an underground network of trains from a sandwich! Plus, I think it’s great for her (and us) to meet a melting pot of people from all over the world just going about their daily lives, it teaches both perspective and respect.
Therefore, I’m happy to “go without” in many areas of my life so that we can set money aside to travel to places that we want to go. There are things we don’t do, to enable us to afford the things we want to do.
Where does the money come from?
Any holiday we take is always paid for before we leave home. I have always ensured that the money is set aside to cover all holiday costs as this prevents the “holiday hangover” of having an extension to the mortgage/credit card/personal loan/Afterpay to pay off for the next two years. That’s called ‘consumer debt’ and it’s a terrible idea.
At the start of 2018, I formalised our strategy for saving for a holiday and I set up a “Holiday Fun” bank account (I was trying to call it Holiday Fund but there was not enough space for the whole word, so Holiday Fun it is) and I started putting a set amount of money in it each week. This account was hammered for our trip to Vietnam in 2018, but I’ve always kept making automatic $50 weekly payments into it each week.
By June 2019 we had $2,650 saved up. This equated to 53 weeks of saving $50. Our travel money comes from slow and steady saving. Boring (yet effective)! A frequently asked question in our house comes from Jonny and it’s “Ruth, have we saved enough to book a holiday yet”? He is always looking to book something, somewhere.
Narrowing down our options. Lowering our expectations.
As we saw the balance grow, we started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, we could go on a trip in 2019 after all, even though we said we would not, even though the balance of the account was small…
High on the list was another visit to Disneyland to see the new Star Wars part of the park. This was quickly ruled out because $2,650 would barely cover flights.
How about a cruise instead? Despite getting horrendously seasick I really want to experience one and I imagine myself going for a 5km run around the deck of a massive ship and then going to the all you can eat dessert buffet. So we did some research and this was a $5,000 - $7,000 trip. At which point comes the inevitable next question from Jonny “could we find some more money”? I was sorely tempted and spent a fair bit of time looking at my budgets seeing how we could make this work. But the answer is a firm NO. There is a Jonnyism for this and each time we are looking to make a bad money decision he says “well, we probably shouldn’t do that because it will put us backwards in our future”!
If we want to go somewhere this year, then we can only use the money we have saved up between now and going away. It’s currently $2,650. And it increases by $50 a week. So, if he can find us a place to visit outside of NZ for that amount, then go for it.
It became obvious that we needed to lower our expectations.
Making the booking.
I think both Jonny and I are on every email list for airlines and travel agencies and we get daily emails telling us about tempting places to visit. But it was actually while I was downtown in Alexandra that I got the ball rolling on our holiday. I was walking past a travel agent, I saw a travel deal in their window, snapped a picture and sent it to Jonny.
It was actually advertising a cruise holiday that I knew we could not afford. Dreams are free though right?
But what I didn’t realise was that there was a heap of other deals on offer, which within 5 minutes of receiving my PXT Jonny had googled. One of which was seven nights on the Gold Coast in Australia with flights, accommodation and travel insurance included. On a whim he emailed for a price and what do you know, after a few tweaks to their offer the total cost was $2,670!
So we booked it!
We leave in November. It’s not quite the middle of winter getaway we were thinking of BUT when our temperature gauge drops below zero (which is does every single night) it’s nice to have something warm to look forward to. We’ve been to a lot of fun places together but we have never actually had a Gold Coast theme park holiday. So it should be fun!
And now for the wait...
Now we have a three and a half month wait, but while we wait we continue to save. Not quite the spontaneous “see it, book it, leave” scenarios you see on Instagram, but we all know that a lot of IG is not real life. To be completely honest I would LOVE to be headed to somewhere more exotic like Japan or India because both are on my to do list and I would love to do the slow travel I read about on other blogs: www.minimalistjourneys.com
Plus I listen to enough podcasts on FIRE to hear people scoff at the whole “work all year to take two weeks off scenario” but quitting life here in New Zealand and travelling full time is just not our reality right now. It’s just not something I aspire to do (at the moment) and when we are at home we have such a great balance between life and work anyway.
We are taking our daughter out of school for a week, we will both take a break from our jobs and we don’t need a long break away. We are not desperately tired and sick of work, far from it, we just like going somewhere that’s not New Zealand for a bit. And Australia is right on our doorstep after all, and little known fact, I am actually Australian by birth too, so I do quite enjoy going back there occasionally.
We still have a bit to sort out. I need to find a house sitter (any takers?) or I need to book the dog and cat in at the doggery and cattery, we need to book a rental car, confirm with friends over there that we are headed their way, I need to find a swimsuit, I need to start dreaming about a giant plate of delicious garlic prawns…
Start saving, plan it, book it, do it.
For me, the ONLY way to have a holiday is to have the money component sorted before we leave, there is nothing worse than overstretching yourself and knowing that as you pay for that $300 dollar jet boat ride, your automatic mortgage or rent payment is in jeopardy next week.
That’s no way to live.
Basically, your travel destination depends on the amount of money you have. The more money you have the further and longer you can go. If you don’t have enough, you stay home. Simple. We only had enough to get us to Australia this time. Simple.
Starting a travel fund where you drip feed money into it has a snowball effect. For a long time, it feels minuscule and pointless, with barely enough in there for a tank of fuel to get you to your nearest town, but if you forget about it and are patient, then your travel options start to open up. Now that we know where we are going, I’ve doubled my weekly savings to ensure we can easily cover the trip. Any money not spent will just stay in there and start building up for the next holiday. It’s going to take awhile before we can get back to LA to see Star Wars at Disneyland but I did say I’d not go back to the States again until that idiot is out of the Oval Office anyway. And that should also hopefully be long enough for the enormous queues at Star Wars to subside a bit.
Without a doubt, our net worth would be far greater had we not travelled here and there for the last 20 years, but it was money well spent and we will happily go without in other areas of life so we can set money aside to see some amazing places, meet interesting people, do things we could never do at home and eat delicious food.
All the while, I’ll just keep saving and keep clicking on travel links that come into my inbox and dreaming of the day that both Jonny and our daughter say “Yes, we would LOVE to go to India for a couple of weeks, let’s book it!”