2017 Travel Challenge MET!

It has been a long time coming, but I have finally finished logging all of our expenses from our trip to Spain last January! It is quite an undertaking to track every single dollar you spend for 55 days!! You know, we don’t make a lot of money. And you know I am a travel addict! I think it is fair to say that I have pulled Mitch into my addiction. He’s not complaining either! We find ourselves wanting to travel for longer and longer periods of time. Two weeks a year just won’t cut it anymore. So with our limited funds, we have had to become rather creative to feed our addiction!

For several years, we have been avid followers of Nomadic Matt. Matt Kepnes is a prolific traveler and blogger! He has been on the road since 2006 and visited over 80 countries. In 2013, he wrote “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day”. Not only has this book become a NY Times best seller, it was also my inspiration! I was already aware of many of the travel hacks he shares, but I did pick up plenty of useful information. My competitive nature drove me to go one step farther – do it for less than $40 a day! Matt figures $50-60/day in Western Europe and about $35/day in Eastern Europe.

Our combined expenses for our trip were $3737.11. Do the math and you will see that we managed to explore Spain, Italy, Croatia and Montenegro for an average of $33.97/person per day each for 55 days!!

I know it still sounds like a ton of money. But, consider this! According to Value Penguin, the average cost of a 4 night domestic trip in the US in 2013 was $581 or $144/day. The average cost for a 12 night international trip (also in 2013) was $3251 or $271/day. Adjust these prices slightly to account for inflation.

A low-end 4 night Disney vacation in 2017 averages $3564 for a family of four (2 adults and 2 children under the age of 10)! This price includes airfare and accommodation at an off-site hotel. The average price for the same trip with on-site accommodation is $6,360! Staggering! One day admission to Disney is $124!

It costs how much Mickey?

Hell, if I take into account my mortgage payment, transportation costs, etc. for staying home, I am not sure it would be less than $34/day……hmmm….more numbers to crunch. My brain is getting tired!

These figures include three roundtrip airline tickets – transatlantic flights from NYC to Malaga, Spain; then roundtrip from Malaga to Milan, Italy; and finally roundtrip from Milan to Podgorica, Montenegro.

Also included are ground transportation costs – buses, trains, rental cars in two countries, gas and tolls. We had a rental car in Spain for 39 days! We had a rental car for our one week journey through Montenegro, Croatia and a wee bit of Bosnia-Herzegovina. We did have some help on the car rental prices as we did some ride-sharing with friends and family who came to visit!

How did we manage so cheaply? Well, house sitting saved us a bundle! We flew Norwegian Air from NYC to Malaga. If you don’t know of it, Norwegian is a budget airline. Our ticket price did not include seat selection, checked bags or meals. But we still ended up sitting together. We never check bags anyway. And we packed a few snacks! Our original ticket price was under $400….then we used credit card points to lower the cost – Mitch’s ticket cost $111 and mine was $60!! Earlier in the year, we each took out a travel reward credit card from Bank of America. We were given a bonus of 20,000 points if we charged $1000 in the first three months! So we started putting all kinds of purchases on there that we would normally use our debit card or cash to pay for — gas, groceries, some bills. Then we put the cash aside to make the credit card bill! 20,000 points = $200 each! We also earned 1.5 points for each dollar charged. So that initial $1,000 netted us an additional 1,500 points. Travel hacking!!  Gotta love it!

Cave AirBnB in Granada, Spain

When house sitting is not an option, we almost exclusively use AirBnb to rent entire apartments! We try to never spend more than $40/night and we have had some amazing places! Having an apartment means we can cook in which saves money on food costs. We do eat out a few times a month; but even at home, we prefer to cook. With so many amazing markets at our disposable when traveling, it is a real pleasure to cook! Those times when we don’t have a kitchen to use, I always wander through the markets wishing I could buy up some of the gorgeous vegetables and go at it! Eating out in Spain is cheaper than in the US! A really good glass of wine costs 2€. A small draft beer is 1-1,50€. Often you will get a free tapa (small snack) with each drink order!

Market in Malaga

 

So many types of olives!

Later in 2017, we spent a week in Guanajuato, Mexico! Eventually I will compile those figures as well! We are now back in Spain for two months and then off to Morocco! Again, I am tracking the pennies!

So, for now, keep on traveling and we will all keep on dreaming about traveling! It can be done on a budget!!! More tips to follow in upcoming posts! XOXOXO!

 

Day in the Life of a Housesitter

We are just two days away from finishing a fantastic housesit in St Croix, USVI!  This has been a six week stint and we have relished every day of it!  The weather has been perfect – warm breezes and temps in the upper 80s.  As with Florida weather, there is often a brief period of rain each day but before you know it, the sun is shining and there may be a beautiful rainbow to enjoy!

 

Several friends and family members wonder what we do all day…..aren’t you bored?!  The answer is a resounding no!  You may even think that we would be getting on each other’s nerves by now.  Not really.  We do enjoy each other’s company and since we have different sleep patterns, we each have a portion of the day for “me” time.  My time is in the morning as I can’t seem to ever sleep past 8 am. Mitch, on the other hand, is a night owl after so many years of musician hours!  So, he will be up and prowling around for several hours after I konk out.
But anyway, back to the daily life here…..There are the usual household chores to do – cooking,
cleaning, laundry, shopping for food. Then there are plenty of plants to tend to and the pool to clean.  Now that the Christmas winds have kicked up, cleaning the pool has become a bit more time-consuming.

Food shopping in St Croix can encompass the better part of the day.  Everything here is imported.  And other than booze and cigarettes, it is quite expensive.  I think the mainland prices are catching up, but we shop at Aldi’s when we are home, so these prices leave us in sticker shock!  It is time-consuming to review all the store ads and drive from place to place to get the deals!

What else do we do?  Being away from the work world (for the most part) has afforded me the time to pay more attention to my health.  I have been walking 4-5 miles almost daily.  Mitch joins me more and more often.  We have to keep our health together so we can continue traveling. It is quite hilly here. And there’s nothing like hill workouts to get a good sweat going!

Home Sweet Home

The driveway alone is killer. We both had shin splints for several days from the walk down the driveway.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you it must be a 65 degree angle at the least.  Following the walk, a dip in the pool is an absolute must to recover!  We had hoped to do more swimming on this trip, but the pool isn’t that long and the water is a bit to cool for me.  The walking has been working out fine. One of our walks is rather flat.

Cheney Bay

This is the 5 mile one. Only problem is that the turnaround point is a beach bar, so Mitch has been successful (on more than one occasion) into talking me into a cold beer break before the return!  Seems a little counterproductive, but who can resist this view?

Cheney Bay Beach Bar

Then it’s time for blogging.  This has turned into a longer learning curve that I realized it would be.  Picking the right name was a long process.  And we needed two names.  One for this blog and one for our housesitting site. Next step, web hosting.  Reading other blogs for inspiration, watching youtube tutorials, pitching ideas to each other…..editing, photo runs, more editing, #*#@*%!.. We have to discipline ourselves to block out the Caribbean, the pool and the beverages so we can be somewhat productive on this goal every day.

We have both been able to work on this trip.  Not nearly as many hours as we put in at home, but more than enough to keep us going.  It’s nice not having to dip into our savings to cover food and entertainment.  And the bills back home don’t disappear, so we have that to think about as well.  Mitch has made some new contacts for gigs down here. He is gigging at least three times a week.

Cafe Fresco

Meanwhile, I have been covering some shifts at Cafe Fresco. Fresco is owned by our friends Damon and Yonka Maynard – transplants from nearby Maryland. Delicious food made with the freshest of ingredients and generous portions! Check them out if you get to St Croix! http://www.cafefrescousvi.com

One last thing about how I spend my days – planning the next voyage or two.  I have spent many hours searching the cheapest airfare for our trip to Ecuador which will be in April.  There was also time spent figuring out the cheapest way for us to get from home to JFK at the end of January when we leave for our next housesit in Spain.  Yes, it would be easier to leave from Baltimore or DC, but the airfare out of  JFK was $300 less/person.  That extra $300 each will allow us more money when we are actually in Spain. The most cost-effective way from home to JFK would be to use Megabus from Harrisburg, but the schedules didn’t coincide. Looks like we will be taking Amtrak from Harrisburg to NYC.  Then the Long Island Railroad from midtown Manhattan to the airport in Queens.  The flip side of that (when we return in March) is we take the LIRR back to Manhattan and then the Megabus from NYC to Philly where we will catch another one to get us back to Harrisburg.  Many logistical hoops to jump through?  Yes, but this cuts our travel expenses to roughly $60 each and we avoid paying airport parking fees, tolls and gas.  Parking alone would be over $450.  Oh, I failed to mention that I scored us a free hotel room right by the airport on the night of our return.  Thank you AAAdvantage Award points!!

Hey Diella, would you bring me another Presidente, please?

 

Fairly mundane, right? Since we have been here so often, we haven’t been doing much of the touristy stuff. Sunday is almost alway beach day with our friends Damon and Yonka and their kids. A great way to recharge before the start of another work week for all of us!

We had a great time doing those touristy things when our friend Chris came to visit from Pennsylvania!  It’s always fun to show someone new the amazing things that St Croix has to offer!

Sailing to Buck Island