Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 94

Today is a big day: It's the day we finished saving for/paying ourselves back* for our vacation!  (More on that asterisk in a bit).  As such, I thought I'd write a post on my new vacation knowledge that I've gained prior to the vacation.  BTW, as much as parts of this might sound like an ad, it's not.  I highly doubt these companies would pay me to advertise lol.

First, how to afford a trip.  John and I booked this trip back at the beginning of February.  We sat down and figured out what we could afford to put away weekly (because at the time I was still temping, and therefore getting weekly paychecks).  We also looked forward at how our bills would be changing, and figured out a battle plan.  $27/week, adding $25 at the end of the month after May, when our rent dropped.  Our Virtual Wallet helped with that a lot.  It's one of the best features: you can save for specific things within the account.  We set up 2 savings areas: the money we paid out right away (deposit and flights) and the money we hadn't paid yet (the balance).  It made it really easy to track how much we still needed to save.  We paid the balance on the trip back in August, and today we finished paying ourselves back for the money we paid out right away.  Woohoo!

Part 2 of that was finding a good deal.  We're Costco members, and on top of the awesome warehouse deals, they have a great travel section on their webpage.  We found a deal that was only like, $700 for 5 days, 4 nights at an all-inclusive resort in Cancun.  It didn't include flights, but we jumped on it.  We then scoured the internet to find flights on our own, and found 2 roundtrip, non-stop tickets for only like, $600.  WOW!

*Lesson 2.  Luckily, only learned in the mildly difficult way, not the hard way, period.  And yes, now we're getting back to that asterisk.  Always, always, ALWAYS buy travel insurance.  As I mentioned, we bought our great deal plane tickets right away (February 9), and so Costco included them in the trip insurance.  On August 27, the airline ceased operations indefinitely.  Yes, they're still grounded.  We had to buy a second set of tickets (luckily, we were only out an extra $70).  We also immediately applied for a refund from the airline.  The airline said they'd "let people know" about the refund by 12/15.  By that, they mean you'll either have a refund or you won't on 12/15.  As of right now, we haven't been refunded.  Our credit card company won't help us because it's been more than 60 days since we purchased the tickets, and they won't dispute charges over 60 days old.  The insurance has been a saving grace... if there isn't a refund in our account on 12/16, they'll cover the refund for us.

I'll let you all know how that saga finishes, including with the insurance, but let me say one more time: ALWAYS BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE.  As of right now, it's looking like the best $54 purchase I ever made.

Lesson 3: Also think about the other expenses.  This is where things are actually getting really expensive for us: kenneling the dogs.  We started saving for that a couple weeks back, but between all the pre-emptive medical stuff (like vaccines we don't normally have to give our dogs, and the shockingly expensive fecal exam) and the cost of the kennel, it's actually one of our larger expenses as far as this trip is concerned.  I wish I'd thought of it a little sooner.

Lesson 4: Alert your bank early to your travel plans.  I didn't know (prior to yesterday, when I called) that it took 48 hours for the note that you're traveling to appear on your bank account.  Luckily since I did it early it wasn't an issue, but I just thought I'd let readers know in case you didn't :)

Ok, so there are all of my travel lessons prior to my trip!  I can't wait to write my trip recap!

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