Aside from eating way too much food and gaining weight from my recent trip to the UK last month, I thought I’d work out the total cost to see if it matched my budget and to estimate what I need to save next year to visit my parents again. Happily, so far this week I’ve already lost half of the 5lbs that I gained and I’m working on the remainder!
My random travel tips
Our flights were regular economy tickets booked at Delta.com. Their prices are more or less in line even with “cheap” online agents like www.orbitz.com, plus I’m in their frequent flyer program (I’m a Silver Medallion which is the lowest level) and I earn extra Skymiles from their branded credit card when buying tickets directly at the Delta website.
I used their trip planning tool to pick the cheapest days to fly there and back over the Thanksgiving period – the total trip time was about 10 days. The prices can vary by several hundred dollars if you can be flexible in your departure & arrival dates by a day (or three).
Two other assorted tips for flying Delta:
1) If you don’t need the additional 4 inches of legroom, don’t bother purchasing ‘economy comfort’ upgrades on an international flight – you basically get nothing else than the extra room because food, drinks & movies/entertainment are all complimentary anyway.
2) Book a seat near the front of the plane – we were in regular economy seats and the first 10 rows of economy get 110V power outlets which kept my phone and tablet happy for the 8 hour flight. Other airlines may differ so it’s worth checking your seat plan to see if you can get this convenience for free.
The movies I watched on the way there were so bad I can only remember two of the three: 300 – Rise of an Empire (Love the art style but ancient Greek ship battles at sea involving horses…really?) and Hercules (Terrible. Not even Ian McShane from LoveJoy could save it). On the way back to the US I was too tired to watch any movies on account of waking up at 4am to travel to the airport.
I always sit on the right side of the plane both going and returning for better views out the window. But I digress, let’s talk numbers!
|Two Economy Flights on Delta, DTW to LHR ($1238.7 per ticket)||$2,477.40|
|Meal at DTW||$50.73|
|Meals in the UK||$184.47|
|Coach from LHR to LGW||$78.49|
|Airport Lounge at LHR||$78.64|
|Airport Parking at DTW||$90|
So the trip cost about $3,000 all together, or around $27 / hour per day for the both of us.
Because we stayed at my parents house during our visit there were no hotel / lodging costs.
We ate out 4 times in total (as a party of 4) although my parents paid for 2 of those meals; the remaining times we ate at home. We had desserts and I had to have a pint of ale at each meal – my girlfriend and I would not normally order desserts or drinks when eating out here in the US, but we were on vacation!
It was most convenient for us to fly into Heathrow and take the bus down to Gatwick airport where my parents met us so $78 is the cost of a one-way ticket for two. They drove us all the way to Heathrow for the return flight as the traffic is a lot better at that time in the morning.
Airport parking was $9 a day at DTW and I paid to get us both into the business lounge at LHR (I lost free access to the lounge due to my less-frequent flyer status this year). We had several hours to kill and they have a great breakfast buffet, Wi-Fi, power outlets and just general quietness to relax before the flight – much better than the typical US Delta lounge with only carrots and celery to eat.
To pay for the trip, I allocated money every month this year in my Budget for “Travel”. This category is primarily for the UK trip (though last year we met up with my parents on a Greek Island for my brother’s “Mamma Mia” wedding). I also used a little of the budget for an overnight trip to Alabama to sell my old house back in May as well as paying the costs of renewing my UK passport this year.
I started the year with a -$100 deficit in the travel category, I then added $300 a month from January through April. In May, I changed the amount to $350 a month.
|Budget||Income / Expenses||Balance|
|2013 Year End||$-100|
|Overnight Trip to Alabama||-78.45||$1,706.55|
|Rental Car and Airport Parking||-72.24||$1,984.31|
|UK Passport Application and Mailing||-232.63||$1,751.68|
|UK Trip – Flights||-2,477.40||$674.28|
|UK Trip – Expenses||-482.33||$541.95|
|End of year 2014||$541.95|
The Alabama trip was paid for with Delta Skymiles and a free Marriott Hotel Night – a rental car, parking and dinner were the only expenses there plus a small charge for the plane ticket fees.
My 2014 budget was large enough to cover the $3,000 trip expenses and have some money left over.
Delta Skymiles Frequent Flyer Program
This year I will earn about 65,000 Skymiles – 10,000 from flying miles on this trip to the UK, another 15,000 from a credit card bonus and the remainder from regular purchases on my credit card ($30,000). The reason for purchasing both flights this year was that it pushed my credit card spending over $30,000 which qualifies me for the 15,000 mile bonus plus earns another 15,000 Skymiles from the ticket purchase (double miles) / actual flying miles.
A roundtrip to the UK will cost an average of 50,000 Skymiles in 2015 (it ranges from 30,000 to 65,000 depending on the time). Assuming a ticket price of $1,200, this values 1 Skymile at 2.4 cents.
So the 65,000 Skymiles I earned this year is worth about $1,500 which means that I earned an effective cash-back of 5% from the $30,000 charged on my credit card. I charge every payment I can to the card for this reason.
I actually had some cash in my wallet for once this trip which is very rare for me. At the airport I converted some Singaporean Dollars that have been lying around my house for years which turned out to be worth $55. Then while in the UK, I finally closed my former bank account at HSBC which resulted in another $500. I deposited the cash into my bank account for future investing when I got back.
The Travel budget is $500 in surplus this year and I’ll carry that balance over into next year as it’ll be $500 less that I don’t have to save up towards my next trip. I plan to use Skymiles to buy one or both tickets next year to make the budget go even further.
I’m planning to put $250 a month aside next year which is $100 a month less than this year. This will provide a total of $3,500 towards travel next year using the $500 carried forward. I’d like a little extra reserve in case we take a longer trip next year, but I can always reduce the budget half-way through the year as our travel plans firm up.
Quote of the day
No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris.