Five minutes after getting to Honolulu’s airport, walking past the most incredible sunrise to our departure lounge, a voice inside me cried out ‘I am not ready for it all to be over!’
As much as I wanted to give in to that voice and catch a different plane headed somewhere new, I could hear the voice of my starving bank account also crying out something that sounded like ‘This trip is O. V. E. R. !’
A couple people asked if I might write about how to save for a trip of this length with a big-ish family.
So I will let you in to how my brain goes about the process. It may actually be easier for me than the average joe, because I am not a shopper to begin with; the temptation to spend money on stuff ( unless it is food or photography- related) doesn’t exist for me. Another advantage I have is that wanderlust pulsing through my veins; fuelling the drive to save.
How long does the saving take?
Some early half-hearted budgeting for this trip began well over two years before the trip occurred because the original plan was that we would go in December of 2017.
That plan didn’t eventuate, which was for the best as I invested in a couple of new camera lenses and then experienced the GREAT CALENDAR CALAMITY which drained about $4000 worth of savings with no return. Those calendars were of sub-par standard and I could not have them represent Kazuri Photography.
Ok- Where to start…. For us it begins with:
PIE IN THE SKY.
The big dream!
Every family member gets to nominate at least one place they REALLY want visit and experience in the area we plan to travel to. It isn’t always a place; for Flynn this time around it was a road trip in the RV ( that RV turned out to be the most costly part of the trip besides our flights, just quietly!)
Locking in those in the key, idyllic locations helps to plot the course of the trip itself and becomes the framework. It is magical watching the the itinerary kind of materialise before your eyes as those key locations are put into Google maps and; and then you begin to literally join the dots.
Sometimes the places between the dots are the actual magic. We hadn’t planned to visit Mesilla before it materialised between two planned dots in Google maps, but we found it enchanting.
THE DUMMY BUDGET
After mapping out the planned course, I work out a dummy budget, a mock-up of how much it will cost.
First, get a rough, average idea of how much it costs to fly the international legs of your trip. To do this I visit a range of flight search engines and put in as close to the actual travel dates as possible to give us a ballpark figure to work with.
I do the same with accomodation, always seeking out quality, budget accomodation in the HEART of whichever town we are going to, rather than accomodation that might be nicer but further from the action, which will rack up extra $$$ in transport.
While I am doing this, I am writing up a big list of costs in a Word document under the headings of ‘flights’, ‘accomodation’ etc for each and plugging those dummy costs in.
Once those two big elements are estimated, I add an average costing of food allowance per/day times the number of days we are hoping to be away.
Factor in internal transport too; not just the international flights! With Kenya for this trip, I added an estimated costing of a 3 day safari to the dummy budget as part of the ‘internal transport budget’.
I add at least one ‘experience’ per town to this growing budget. A key activity, unique to the culture of where we are, something everyone will enjoy, for example the swamp tour just out of New Orleans.
The best part of a dummy budget comes later when you are making bookings for REAL and you find a flight or a safari that is CHEAPER than you planned in the dummy budget and you feel amazingly savvy and clever and want to tell the world!
Add all those numbers together and then divide the total by the amount of pays you get until you leave and you have got your CHALLENGE BEFORE YOU!
SHORT- TERM SACRIFICES
Sacrifice is necessary to achieve the dummy budget. In my case, sacrifice means work more, spend less.
Work more: I open myself up to photographing weddings when I am saving for a trip. This takes me well out of my usual comfort zone but each one has grown me as a photographer, so I am grateful for every opportunity..
Spend less: For us that meant goodbye to cafe coffees, takeaway dinners ( I DID budget for the 13 year old to have a Friday fast food dinner once a fortnight) steak, meals at the school cafe, extracurricular activities and getting my carpets cleaned. It also meant hello to home-brand pasta, sausages, bread, grey mince, frozen veggies, buckets of cheap long grain rice and filthy carpets.
So worth it!!!
BUYING THE DREAM
Everyone is different but once enough savings has accumulated, I buy the framework first and then fill it in; just like when I was a kid and traced the outline of a colouring page in felt-tip first before colouring the rest in with coloured pencil.
Buy those international flights first! Get that set framework up. Once you are there, even if there is no more money you can still enjoy free accomodation from couchsurfers.com and do self guided walking tours, soaking in that travel. Seriously.😁
Purchasing on-site theme-park accomodation is next. It is the only time I go for REALLY good accomodation and this is only because of the direct perks of staying at a theme- park hotel. It can be expensive; mind you, not as pricey as an RV road trip, so I spend (way too much) time trying to find deals at Disney time-share rentals . The good deals go early so that is why I get booking as quickly as possible.
The rest of the accomodation is fun to book. My go-to is Booking.com. It provides a smorgasbord of options and you can see exactly how central any particular place is to the action. Most of the accomodation on this site can be booked, with no payment required until a week before you arrive or on arrival. AND you can book more than one accomodation at the same time, which is great while you are sorting out the best deal. This is one of my favourite things about Booking.com.
I usually book something in each location we are visiting in Bookimg.com on to ensure we have a roof over our heads, before going on to fine-tune our actual accomodation later.
With both Vegas and Mombasa, I actually had about 5 different places booked, until I worked out which was the best deal and most central to all we wanted to see.
I have literally spent whole evenings plugging different accomodation addresses into Google maps to narrow down our choices, with browsers opened to check reviews of the accomodations on both TripAdvisor and Booking.com.
Yeah, yeah, I know we have had our share of ‘interesting’ accomodation but I actually do read ( and sometimes even heed) reviews! 🤣
And hey, sometimes those dreadful reviews can be wrong. Kiwi.com ( the online travel agency company I booked that series of flights from Mombasa to Vegas with), for example has loads of bad reviews but they were PURE SPUN GOLD to us.
I then book car/RV hire early to ensure availability. Car hire isn’t can be booked without any payment up- front and us not as pressing, although if you are travelling around Christmas- time, they sell out . RV hire needs a 10% deposit and you pay the rest of it in the month before you get there.
So that is the process of how a trip comes into being if you are me. 🙂0