In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Budgeting for Our California Road Trip


            Well it’s finally here……the last post to this blog series about our California road trip.  The purpose of this final post is to briefly discuss the planning of our trip on a budget.  We started planning this trip in 2010, in order to come up with a general budget for such a trip.  We needed to know how much we needed to save, and we soon learned that airfare alone was going to be around $1,000.  Car rental was estimated to be $300-400.  We originally set the hotel budget at $100 a night for eight nights.  Then there is gas for the car, parking fees, meals and general spending money.  The bottom line is that our goal for this trip was to set a budget around $3,000 for everything.  If California wasn’t so far away, the cost of this trip would have easily been cut in half, because we wouldn’t have had to pay for flights or a rental car.  So when you think about it that way, $1,500 is not a bad price at all to experience a nine day, eight night road trip up the California coast.


            We went to the Pacific coast for the diverse scenery and culture it had to offer.  We knew we didn't need to spend a lot on STUFF to do on this trip.   For that reason, our budget breakdown was as follows:  $950 on airfare, $100 baggage fees, $350 on a rental car, $200 on gas, $1,200 on lodging (nights 1,2 and 6 were $100; nights 3-5 were $200; nights 7-8 were $150), $150 for parking and activity fees,  $250 for food and spending.   That put our actual budget around $3,200.


            Let me briefly talk about the spending that we do on our trips, because this may shock the average American.  We do not feel the need to spend money on theme parks, shopping or anything else we can do at home when we go on trips.  In fact, we don’t even by souvenirs like most people do.  Neither one of like clutter, so we certainly don’t come home with miscellaneous souvenirs to place around the house with no practical purpose or interior design purpose.  And we certainly don’t come back with a ridiculous amount of t-shirts that we’ll never wear again….except when we went to NYC, because who doesn’t go to New York and come home with at least one I HEART NYC t-shirt…..but that’s beside the point.  The bottom line is that the only thing we ever get when we travel to a new place is a magnet for our fridge (organized nice and neatly on the side of the fridge that no one can see of course, because it would drive me nuts having the front of the fridge covered in magnets.)  It’s sort of become our thing, and when I’m 80 I hope to have the side of our fridge full of magnets reminding me of our travels. And the best part is that magnets are small, clutter free and cheap!


            Now that you understand that we don’t just spend to spend, let’s move on the real part of our budget.  To some $3,000 may seem like a high number for a vacation, and to some that may seem impossibly low.  I think it just depends on the way people vacation.  We like to experience our vacations, and for us, that doesn’t have to cost a lot.  It didn’t cost us anything to walk the seal covered cliffs of La Jolla, watch the morning surfers of LA, stand in awe of the giant sequoias and hike to breathtaking views of Yosemite, leisurely walk the quaint town of Napa, drive down the Pacific Coast Highway making time to stop and take in the beauty of its rocky shores and beaches, walk among the giant red woods of Muir Woods, and than sightsee all the things the vibrant city of SF has to offer.  To us, that is EXPERIENCING our vacation!


            We also like to experience our vacation by where we stay when we are on vacation.  We do not like to stay in crapshoot hotels, so we spent a little more than we needed to on lodging.  However, I did my research first to make sure that I got the most bang for my buck when it came to this part of the budget.  I am proud to say that for $1000 we were able to spend four of our eight nights in four star hotels in each of the large cities we visited, one night in a romantic B&B in Napa,   two nights in a comfortable cabin in the woods of Yosemite and one night glamping in a canvassed tent under the stars of the Pacific coast.  To us that was EXPERIENCING our vacation!


            Lastly, we like to experience our vacation through food!  What can I say, we really like to enjoy food…REAL food…GOOD food… that we can’t get back home.  Even though we were on a road trip the only fast food we had our entire vacation was In-N-Out, and that was only because we couldn’t get it back home.  If you do your research, some of the best food is in the hole in the wall places that don’t cost a lot of money.  With the exception of three or four $50 meals for two, most of our meals cost between $10-20 for two, and groceries for two days in Yosemite only cost us $30.  When I look back at our receipts, I think that we did end up going a little over budget in this area of food, but if there was one area where we were ok going a little over budget, experiencing excellent California cuisine was a good enough excuse for us to do so.  Can you really go wrong with enjoying fresh sea food on a veranda that overlooks the cliffs La Jolla, relishing in the taste of insanely AWESOME fish tacos at Newport Beach, eating a romantic dinner at sunset on a secluded cove in Malibu, tasting the best prepared food California has to offer in Napa, stopping for fresh California pistachios at a fruit stand off the side of the road, being blown away by the down home food of a small town diner/airport, experiencing the best sushi in all of SF, dining in an authentic dim sum restaurant, indulging in the chocolaty goodness of Ghiradelli…twice in one day, being comforted by the warmth of a sourdough bread bowl filled with fresh clam chowder, biting into juicy fruit from the market on the pier and tearing into buttery crab caught fresh from the Pacific the same day.  That my friend is EXPERIENCING vacation!


            The bottom line is that when planning a vacation, set a realistic budget and research, plan and prepare yourself to STAY within that budget! It is possible friends!  It can be done!  Not all of our trips cost this much....thank goodness.  Most of our vacations are less than $1000, and romantic mini vacations can be as little as $300-500.   Even when we took our moms on a five day Carribbean cruise, all four of those our tickets only cost us $1000.  Do your research and stay within whatever your own BUDGET allows!  Always set a little bit of cushion within the budget, because unexpected things do happen.  For the most part, I’m happy to say that we stayed within our budget for this trip.  The only thing that we did outside of the budget was our hot air balloon ride in Napa, and the majority of that was paid for by a friend as a gift to us before we left. 


            You can read about our entire trip at the following links.  All of the places that we visited should be linked back in each of the post.  California was a blast, and I will cherish the memories that we made.  I’m so glad that we were able to pull this trip off early in our marriage before we have kids.  Definitely recommend this trip to anyone seeking a busy vacation filled with fun, food and adventure!  And on that note, this blog series is officially over! 
Day 3 Part 1 (LA)


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