Why a 'Cheap' Vacation Is Anything But

Why a 'Cheap' Vacation Is Anything But

Check out another great post from our friends at The Billfold:

I love to travel (everyone loves to travel). My first summer of law school, I worked my butt off at an Indian Child Welfare office and then used all my do-gooder cash to get wasted in Denmark and Norway.

The next summer I skipped the work part and just used my student loan money to go to Italy. Then I had to start paying for all the fun, and didn’t travel for ages. I have a mortgage. It’s not in my budget.

But a friend’s mom has a timeshare in Costa Rica and couldn’t go this year. Would we like to take over her week? Yes, we would. Cheap accommodations and a kitchen to make our own meals gave me an in—I could justify a vacation. It would be inexpensive!

It was not inexpensive. It was $2,723.77.

And maybe there was no way it was ever going to be inexpensive. We were not backpacking through Costa Rica. When we weren’t at the timeshare, we stayed at some pretty nice places—not Four Seasons-nice but resort-y nice (we are in our thirties, it is more comfortable).

And I’ll admit that a lot of the cash I laid out was not totally necessary (see: “spray tan” and “vacation clothes” … and “first-class upgrade”). But I had fun. Made some memories. Got a stamp in my passport. No regrets.

PRO TIP: We used a ledger system to keep track of expenses, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. There were four of us, and we split costs by taking turns. But instead of hoping it all worked out in the end, we made sure it did by ledgering everything--basically, a list on an iPad (fancy), of who paid what. In the end, one girl owed me $45, one girl owed me $30, and I owed the third dude $30. It was a great system, and it worked out pretty pretty pretty well. PURA VIDA!

The trip cost me $2,723.77, which is … a big number. Here’s where it went:

Plane ticket, $775.00. (Seemed pretty reasonable. Purchased approximately two months before travel time.)

PDX pre-flight drinks on the flight out, $18.00. (Expensive airport prices … get a double!)

First class upgrade, $118.00. (My friends did this the night before and I basically felt peer-pressured into this. BUT: I think it was worth it, though I put it on my credit card and that thing is getting up there again, ugh. We got to go to the United lounge in Houston and eat and drink for free. Also free drinks and food on BOTH flights.  So I probably got my money’s worth.)

Spray tan, $40.00. (I’m from the Pacific Northwest, which means my skin doesn’t really get any sun for approximately nine months out of the year. I’m also as pale and pasty as they come so sometimes I like to spray tan before I go to sunny places. However, I do not remember it being $40 and I was shocked when the girl rang me up for $40. I even had a coupon for a two-for-one spray tan but I found out when I got to the tanning place I couldn’t use it since I’d been there before. LAME.)

Shellac nails and regular pedicure, $35.00. (Hot pink on my nails; bright purple on my toes.)

Vacation clothes/swimsuit/chacos, $250.00. (This is a little ridiculous but it’s fun to buy clothes before you travel and I needed to get some swimsuit cover ups and Chacos for activities and I’ll probably have the Chacos forever, right?)

Share of massage for friend’s mom, $28.00. (My friend’s mom let us have her timeshare points and basically made this whole trip possible. We bought her a thank you massage.)

For more of Jill's unexpected costs, continue reading at The Billfold.


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