Myth Busters (or You Really CAN Afford to Travel)

So I think it’s time for me to set the record straight once and for all – traveling does not have to be expensive. Ever. I work for a public state-funded university and I am in grad school. Read: I don’t make a lot money. Prior to this I was a public school middle school teacher. Again, no money. And before that I was on the first rung of the corporate latter for a major shoe wholesaler. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the ladder I wanted to be on so I jumped off before I actually started making good money (more like gently stepped off as I hadn’t gotten very far). Anywho – my point is, you cannot look me dead in my face and say you “You must be ballin girl” or “I aint got it like that” or “I would go but that’s gonna be too expensive” because you probably make more money than I do!

I am constantly surprised at how much people “think” vacations cost. The estimates usually range between $3000-$5000 – and at that I’ll say, you need to stop watching Basketball Wives. So on this episode of Mythbusters, I’ll breakdown how inexpensive traveling can actually be! First let’s pick a destination. This is the first place to save some money. Pick a place where you know somebody – or you know someone who knows someone because that’s a free place to stay! You’ve already cut the cost of your trip in half right there. Just for sh!ts and giggles sake (and because I desperately need a beach in my life), we are going to Aruba from August 30-September 3 with 3 friends! 

Flights: So first things first we need to get there. You really have to make sure your timing is right – not just the timing of your trip but of your purchase. I just priced flights to Aruba over Labor Day weekend and it looks like Jet Blue and AirTran are competing for customers. Capitalism – 1, Staying in the US – 0. Flights to Aruba over a holiday weekend are $385 right now. Yes, you read that right. Which is crazy because I haven’t spent less than $400 on a flight to Memphis the last two times I went home. And I could’ve been in Aruba all that time! So now you’re asking – isn’t it because it’s hurricane season? Ah ha. Research a little more (or listen to the lady from Trinidad who sat next to you at church last week) and you’ll learn that Aruba is part of the hurricane-free great-weather-all-year-round “ABC” islands. So book that flight! Just a side note – I’d never book a flight that was over $1,000 unless it was in Asia or some parts of Africa. The costs will usually even out because of a favorable exchange rate or simply because the cost of living is so much cheaper in some of those places. But if you’re trying to get to Europe and the flights are close to $1,000 – you may need to rethink your dates because that’s highway (airway?) robbery. 

Lodging: So since we’re going with a few friends, it may be more fun (and economical) to rent a house. Benefits – you get a bigger space with a kitchen so you don’t have to eat out all the time. Cons – You have to make your own bed? Can’t really think of any but, yes, I am being biased. A quick search on airbnb.com returned a number of entire homes or 1 bedroom apartments to rent for as little as $90/night (if you only want to rent a single room it get’s even cheaper!). I spy a really nice spacious 2 bedroom 2 bathroom home for $95/night. And it’s not only cheap, but it’s really nice and has a hammock – because I know y’all are fancy.  If there are 4 of us and we’re going for 4 nights, that’s only $95 per person. So let’s add that to our total.

Food: I have no idea what the costs of meals are in Aruba. Or the exchange rate. But I can say that if you’re staying in a house you can have breakfast at home, lunch shouldn’t be more than $20 and dinner (splurging because you’re on vacation) $50. So that’s $75 bucks a day rounded way UP. Because you can also make dinner at our fancy villa and I know I don’t spend that much at every single meal. But like I said, y’all are fancy. So now let’s add another $300 for that ($75/day for 4 full days on the island – not counting the travel days since you usually end up missing a meal and/or eating at the airport).

Play money: The only thing you have left to pay for are the “extras.” Souvenirs, excursions, renting jet skis, tours, etc. This will vary from person to person but I think a safe amount of play money for a 4 day trip on an island would be about $300. Also note that when I go to an island, most of my free time is spent at the beach. Which, if you hadn’t heard, is free.

So what’s our damage? The total cost of Labor Day Weekend in Aruba is $1080! Which all at once may seem like a lot but if you look at it in terms of what you’re paying per paycheck it’s really not that much. So basically, we’re getting paid this Friday, so you shell out $385 for the flight. Easy. Next paycheck, pay your rent! But save $150 for some of your play money. The 3rd paycheck, pay  the $95 for your awesome villa and save another $150 – you’ve now paid for everything except for your food! By the time you get to Aruba (which will be the 5th paycheck from now), you’ll only need the $300 to eat with!

Now if you can’t spare $300-400 in three of your non-rent checks, we need to re-evaluate some things!

But that brings this episode of Mythbusters to a close. I do believe that I have eliminated the “I can’t afford it” argument. What else you got?

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