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Posts tagged with: cheap Christmas trip

The Costs of a Trip to Texas

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The comments section on this post were all over the place! I’d talked about making a trip back to Texas and about half of you were supportive of the decision….

Yes, a trip back home would be a good thing!

You can’t place a value on time spent with family.

There are no guarantees in life – spend time with your loved ones while you can!

….and the other half of commenters were not. In particular, many people voiced that they thought this was an impulsive and not well thought out decision. And guess what guys…..you’re right!!!

You are absolutely right that this was a knee-jerk reaction to having just seen my family and being dissatisfied with our visit (not the visit itself, mind you, but the lack of time I actually got to spend with my family). I was sad and mopey and my husband caved and agreed we could go back to our hometown (Austin) for a visit.

But after reading your comments (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: thank you for all of your comments – particularly the dissenting opinions! You give me a different perspective and force me to examine my thought process and behavior), I’ve decided an analysis of costs is in order.

But before I dive into the analysis, let me give you a little info on the timing of this visit so you have a fuller scope of information. First, we’ve decided not to go back for Thanksgiving. It’s simply too soon and we need a good solid month of work (for the hubs in particular) to try to build up some cash reserves. So Christmas time, it is. Several people suggested waiting until the Spring so we could visit at a non-peak travel time. Unfortunately, Spring doesn’t work as well with husband’s business. No one (very few people) wants to get his or her floors done during the holidays. It’s messy and dirty and costly and people just don’t want to deal with it. But as soon as the holidays end, the Spring season gets busy! So it makes sense for us to go during the holiday time because it’s already a time that’s slow anyway so there’s less of a missed opportunity cost in terms of missed income. In contrast, there’s a HUGE missed opportunity cost in the Spring because being gone for 7-10 days could translate to a missed job that would have netted us a thousand dollars or more! It’s not a chance we want to take.

So here’s my trip cost analysis:

Gasoline would be the biggest expense in this trip. In the past, my Mom has generously helped us to offset some of the gas costs, but I want to do my analysis without this added help because it is not a guaranteed thing.

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I did all the math and, as you can see, we’re looking at about $400 in gasoline costs for the trip. Just FYI, at each step of the equation I was making conservative estimates (i.e., conservative estimate for price of gasoline, number of fill ups, miles per gallon, etc.).

The only other costs would be for food and if we decide to stop in the middle and get a hotel for a night.

In terms of the hotel, we should be able to find someplace for $100/night. One overnight on the way to Austin and one overnight on the way back to Tucson = a total hotel cost of $200

I think we could bring snacks and pack a breakfast and plan to only stop for lunch and dinner on the first day; breakfast and lunch on the second day. I would estimate these costs at about $60 (x 2 for the round trip = a total food cost of $120.

Here’s a summary for everything included:

Gasoline = $400

Hotel = $200

Food = $120

Total Expense = $720

All of these estimates are on the conservative side and there are so many ways that we could try to bring these expenses down (e.g., pack lunches so we only have to eat out for dinner; do something similar to our Utah trip and only stay in a hotel one-way, while opting to drive straight through the other way). If we work hard, and particularly if we end up being gifted with some gasoline money, I would think we can make the full round-trip for $500 or less.

A few people said not to travel at Christmas because we would then have to purchase gifts that we might not otherwise. This isn’t true in our case. Our families tend to shower the kiddos with gifts, but not as much with the adults (which is as I prefer it) so there’s not an expectation of gifts. Plus, we have an (albeit meager) Christmas fund, so we have some money saved up for any expenses that arise. This aside, anything we do while in Austin would come out of our regular budget. If we’re there for a week, for instance, we would use our grocery budget that week on food and/or entertainment while in Austin. In this way, we’re not saving money (which would, of course, be nice) but at least we’re not spending over and above our regular budget.

So there you have it.

I know many will still say that this is not a wise idea and should wait a few months. It’s fair for us to have differing opinions. But what I want to take from this is that I have really thought through all of the expenses and know in advance what type of investment we’ll be looking at. I’m a little embarrassed to say that we have NEVER EVER done this in the past! Even with our Utah trip this summer – we just kind of go and “wing it.” This is the first time I’ve sat down ahead of time to do some research and really figured out the costs of things up front. It seems so obvious and, yet, it’s just not something I’ve ever bothered with.

So this has been another learning lesson for me. Even for those who remain steadfast that this trip should not be happening, I hope you take some solace in the fact that you still rubbed off on me at least a little. Maybe I didn’t take your advice 100%, but now I’m not entering into this trip blindly. Instead of it simply being an impulsive knee-jerk reaction to being homesick, I’ve taken the time to really think things through on a financial level and to weigh the pros and cons ahead of time.

For that, I thank you!

How do you budget for travel when you go out of town?