I like to always have a big, interesting trip booked about a year in advance, but we have nothing yet planned for 2016. I’ve written about our love of travel before, my goal to get to all fifty states (two left!) and trips we’ve taken overseas. The challenge we face (for the first time ever) is too many opportunities to decide between next year. With early retirement arriving next April Fool’s Day, we’ll have the whole rest of the year to go wherever we wish.
We’ve traveled a lot as a family over the last 20 years. We usually take 2-3 trips a year: either a warm weather beach trip for spring break, an overseas European ‘culture’ trip (every 2-3 years), or a long weekend away in the Midwest (road trip). At the same time, I’ve traveled a lot for business – probably 10-12 trips a year. The business trips are mostly domestic, with an interesting overseas trip every 6-9 months (depending on Megacorp ‘travel freezes’). On average, we’ve vacationed about 20-22 nights a year over the last 5 years.
Now our schedule will be completely open to journey with relative leisure. Leisure, that is, within the constraints of our pocketbook. Throughout our travels, we’ve also grown accustom to a certain travel style. I’m all for getting a deal or being frugal where it doesn’t count, but one of the benefits of Megacorp travel is flying to very good cities, with very good hotels, and restaurants. While sometimes that travel is more than we would spend ourselves, it has also set a certain standard for the future.
That’s why I’ve been spending some time developing a travel planning “framework” for early retirement. How often will we travel? What kinds of trips might we take? How much will they cost? How does it compare to how much we travel now? I really don’t want to retire until we have enough banked that I can fully fund our travel dreams, so I wanted to make sure I had a good sense of what that would cost.
Here is the framework:
OVERVIEW / GOALS
- Travel 4x a year; One time each season
- Travel some as a couple, some as a family (our son will be in college)
- Enjoy different types of trips – long/short; USA/overseas; beach/city
- Budget enough that you don’t feel like you are on a shoestring
TYPES OF TRIPS
- WINTER (late January/early February) – This trip needs to be a pure escape from the cold weather where we live. A sun trip, beach trip, wear shorts & a t-shirt trip and get outside. This time of year, most families with kids are at home and in school, so going in late January, but before President’s Day is definitely low season. I’ve planned for 9 days – a week bookended by both weekends. Sunny climates — Cancun, Virgin Islands, Orlando/Tampa, Florida Keys, or Jamaica. (This vacation could be substituted by an extended rental in Florida for about the same amount of money)
- SPRING (May or June) – This will be the big overseas trip of the year. I’ve budgeted it for all 3 of us to go, although are son will be in college in May. We took a big June vacation this past summer (to Scandinavia & Russia) and it’s a great way to kick off the summer. I scheduled this as a big 15 night trip. Honestly, anything longer than that and we’ve been anxious to get home. Dream destinations include — Scotland/Ireland, Paris/Loire, Brazil/Rio, Japan, Germany/Austria, Venice/Tuscany, Beijing/Hong Kong, and Australia.
- SUMMER (July or August) – The summers are beautiful where we live, so we’re usually happy to stay in the Midwestern USA and just take a long weekend somewhere close. I’ve figured this one as 5 nights, although 3-4 nights is usually just fine. This is a good family driving trip – See the USA in your Chevrolet Possible locations – Mackinac Island, Chicago, St. Louis, Door County, Michigan’s Gold Coast.
- AUTUMN (October – early November) – This is maybe the vacation I’m most excited for. A domestic trip in low season for my wife & I, when my son is in college. The weather is still nice in most of the USA and a chance to see some fall colors or visit someplace that is too hot in the summer. This trip would have an easy pace and be another full week (with both weekends). Something relaxing – Austin/San Antonio, New York, San Francisco/Napa Valley, Santa Fe, etc.
- Air Travel: $650/person domestic; $1,300/person international;
Air travel seems to have gotten very expensive over the past 5 years. I used to budget $400 per ticket for a domestic flight, but it seems to have crept up pretty dramatically.
- Hotels: $325/night
I know that $325 seems like an incredible amount of money, but many of the best cities (NYC, London, San Francisco, Paris) are incredibly expensive. We were recently in London and found a budget motel for $200/night, but this is my place to put a ‘fudge factor” in our budget.
- Transportation: $350/week for rental cars; $200/week for road trips;
This is a tricky category as it really varies by trip. I based the budget on renting a car from SFO for a week. That said, many times we don’t rent a car at all (public transportation, taxis, Uber, trains, airport transfers), which can be more or less expensive. Parking can also exaggerate costs in a big city.
- Food/Fun/Day Costs: $150/day; $175/day international;
This is also a budget category that can vary widely. My Dad always says to plan on $150/day and it does seem to average out to that for us. A good dinner out can easily run $75 for two people, in addition to museum admissions, renting bikes/equipment, or going out to a movie. Many travel expenses blow a $150/day budget out of the water – a cruise ship excursion, a Broadway show or concert. Hopefully, those days get offset by a low cost day – simple local food, a hike in the park, or a national museum with free admission.
This framework really represents a dream year in early retirement in terms of travel. Not surprisingly, it’s not cheap. In fact, I estimate the total to roll-up to a little over $27K a year for these four types of trips at our standard of travel. That’s about double what we spend now, spread across 33 nights away each year.
Below is a screen grab from my spreadsheet that totals everything up. (I’ll also try to add it to WordPress as an downloadable attachment if you want to play with it). Happy travels!
Image Credits: MrFireStation.com