My recent UK trip – did we stay on budget?

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 Their prices are more or less in line even with “cheap” online agents like, 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!

The Costs

Description Cost
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
Total $2,959.73

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.

The Budget

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
January Budget +300 $200
February Budget +300 $500
March Budget +300 $800
April Budget +300 $1,100
May Budget +350 $1,450
Passport Photos -15 $1,435
June Budget +350 $1,785
Overnight Trip to Alabama -78.45 $1,706.55
July Budget +350 $2,056.55
Rental Car and Airport Parking -72.24 $1,984.31
UK Passport Application and Mailing -232.63 $1,751.68
August Budget +350 $2,101.68
September Budget +350 $2,451.68
October Budget +350 $2,801.68
November Budget +350 $3,351.68
UK Trip – Flights -2,477.40 $674.28
December Budget +350 $1024.28
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.

8 thoughts on “My recent UK trip – did we stay on budget?”

  1. DL,
    I really need to start creating budgets/accounts for my misc expenses that reoccur. Is there an easy way to do that in Quicken or do you track it outside in a spreadsheet? Glad your trip went well and you gained weight (good vacation).

    1. Hi DFG,

      You can track set up budgets per category in Quicken, and you can define if they roll-over from month to month or are on a per-month basis. I don’t use this feature though as I find the reports hard to visualize and I track credit card charges when they’re paid not when they’re charged. Since I’m doing charts and stuff for my posts anyway, I find it easier to just use Excel.

      If you’re interested you can see an example of how I budget / do forward projections in this excel file. The file describes the current & projected balance of a checking account for all months in the entire year, I include columns for when credit card payments are actually deducted in the same table (the credit cards are set to pay the monthly charges in full from this checking account). I use italics to determine if payments are estimates or actual amounts.

      Best wishes,

  2. Hey man, next time you’re over, we should totally do a bloggers meet-up with Huw and Weenie and me and anyone else we know who blogs fromm the UK!

    Good job on the budget. Next time, I guess you ought to lay off those Cadbury’s chocolates! It’s a good job you didn’t come over at Christmas… just imagine how much weight you would’ve put on!

    Good job on the airmiles too. I’m yet to find a credit card that gives us a better deal than my Santander one – 3% off fuel and train tickets. Not too shabby given the cost of petrol here, even with the recent dip in the underlying oil prices!


    1. Hi M,
      Yep – I’m saving my pennies for the next trip already! I think Huw’s mentioned about wanting to organize a meet up somewhere some when.
      I have a weakness for Twirls – the chocolate variety; I’m not into spinning around much! I think we got off quite lightly on this trip compared to others, and not having a big turkey dinner helped 🙂
      It’s funny that when the price of oil drops quickly it seems to take a lot longer to reach the pump prices and it never seems to quite reach the same discounted level…but when oil goes up, the pump prices go up the same time. 😉
      3% is a nice discount though and definitely worth it! Do you get any other perks from your card and does it have a yearly fee?

  3. Hi DL,

    I’m really impressed with your budgeting for your holiday. You not only had a clear set up, but you delivered on it too.

    We’re planning a UK meet up on Saturday 3rd January in Herefordshire. Weenie, The FIREstarter and I have committed to meeting and opening it up to everyone else in Stratford upon Avon in the spring. (No date just yet). You’re welcome to join, and if you’re unable to make it, drop us a line next time you’re over (if you’re free and willing!) and we can meet up then.

    I’m shocked that ‘Lovejoy’ couldn’t save Hercules by the way! 😉

    All the best!

    1. Thanks Huw!

      Have a great time at the get-together – I’m interested to read how it went on your blog! I don’t have any clear plans yet for next year’s travel but it’ll likely be in the June / July timeframe so we’ll see.

      You’d have thought that Hercules being from ancient Greece would have qualified as an antique that ‘Lovejoy’ could fix up and make a profit on, but not this time 🙁

      Best wishes,

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