Sunday, July 6, 2014

7 Vacation Missteps

Just the other week my friend, Christy Shuler, was down and discouraged about exceeding her budget on her trip to Vegas. I encouraged her to give herself grace and share what she learned with others. It is now my turn to teach others from my mistakes during my business trip/vacation. Well, do you want to avoid my missteps? Read on.
Here we go. 

1) Poor Transportation Planning: Rather than renting a car we chose to use public transportation. We prefer public transportation to avoid parking concerns (including parking costs) and to experience the local transportation.  Public transportation is fantastic but it takes some coordinating.

In Montreal (and many other cities I’ve seen) there are different rates for just a 1 way trip, day pass, 3 day pass, a week pass or even some other options. The week pass was Monday through Sunday, but it cost an extra $6 to get the card and it was Monday through Sunday, not seven days from when you buy it. Also, on the bus ride back to the airport, you can’t just use a regular pass, you have to buy a special card that cost $10 per person. So many things to consider!

Anyway, we had not planned particularly well. Had we coordinated better, we could have avoided purchasing one of the 3 day passes that we bought – for a total transportation cost of $76, instead of the $92 we actually spent. Ergh – there goes $16. There are worse things in this world, and actually some of that cost will go on my expense report.

I will note that I assumed that public transportation was cheaper than renting a car. However, I just looked it up and we could have gotten a car for $25/day, for a total cost of $75 for the three extra days we were in Montreal. After dealing with parking costs, it probably would have been pretty equivalent or worse than what we ended up paying for public transit.

2) No first meal plan: Picture this: when we (my husband and I) finally arrived at our hotel it was late in the afternoon and we had yet to eat lunch. We were starving and had no plan besides a bunch of pages I had printed from trip advisor. I think I had spilled water or something on these pages and we are in desperate need of replacing our toner, so they were not fun to look at. And short of looking up each of the restaurants by address, we did not know where they were. We go down to the concierge for a recommendation. We are in a very fancy hotel at this point, so what kind of place do you think he is going to recommend? We ended up at this place that was $30/plate for one of the cheaper meals on the menu. The ambience was contemporary and cool, but we were not dressed or mentally in a place to enjoy one of our nicer meals. It was raining outside; my hair looked like crap...that is just not the best time for an expensive meal. Also, we ended up making much better dining decisions and we often paid between $12 and $25 a plate and received just as good, if not better food. This mistake cost us 30 bucks.

To prevent this in the future we will (and you should too!) decide on several restaurants close to the hotel ahead of time and know how to get there so you don’t end up starving and desperate.

3) Left extra snacks and drinks at home: There is nothing as appetizing as prices in my local grocery store and I very easily could have taken advantage of that by bringing some pop for my soda-addicted husband as well as some breakfast for him (I had free breakfast during the conference) and snacks to help us out when we were in a hunger pinch. That could have helped us with the previous scenario as well. Paying $3 for soda every day adds up, I bet this oversight cost us 25 bucks.

There was this part of me that was planning to find a grocery store once we got there. Well, it would have helped to find out where that store actually was ahead of time, but honestly vending machines were just as cheap as the convenience store we ended up finding.

4) Disrespected our stuff: Thankfully we did not actually waste any money because of this, but we had two close calls. The first was that Scott almost lost his iphone. YIKES. Yay for the people of Montreal – someone found us looking around and kindly asked if we were looking for a phone. That could have really made our trip expensive.

The other situation was when Scott broke our large suitcase when he had the handle bar up and tried to roll it down some stairs. Don’t do that. The handle is not that sturdy and it got messed up. We thought about replacing the suitcase (the handle bar would not go down and we didn’t think the airline would take it like that). Plus there was the other obvious problem of how challenging it was to handle. We ended up breaking the metal handle bar off and tied his belt around the fabric handle. I’m sure we looked like a sorry couple dragging our suitcase around with a belt. Now that suitcase is going in the trash. Fortunately we have another large suitcase to use in the future so we will not need to replace it. But heed my warning – respect your suitcase!

5)     Ran out of cash – This one is for international travel. You may not spend much money at the beginning of the trip but you will find times where businesses do not accept your card and it sucks when you don’t have the cash. That is exactly what happened to us. At first we weren’t using it, so I started to be sure to spend it. However, very quickly we were low on cash. At one restaurant we really almost had a problem because we had already eaten. Fortunately, they accepted American dollars. By paying in US dollars, we lost the 7% currency exchange advantage. Not a big deal – but it was like we paid a further $3 because of this mistake.

The more disappointing event was on our last evening. I very much so wanted to return this one crepe place on our last night, but they only took cash. We ended up going to a restaurant that served crepes and we probably spent an extra $10 for dessert because of the tip plus inflated restaurant prices. What disturbs me the most is that I really wanted a particular crepe at that other place and we couldn’t get it. (It was a brownie raspberry delight…mmmm-mmmm).

6) Over-ordered – From other posts and tweets of mine you may have picked up that I am pursuing intuitive eating. Well, I did not respect my fullness very well in Montreal. I very rarely got super full, but there were definitely times where Scott and I could have been more strategic to avoid purchasing too much food.

He detests sharing just one dish, but we did do something that worked pretty well at one of our last meals. What we did was order two meals that were both unique and appealing to each of us, one bigger and one smaller, and we split both meals 50/50. If we had done this more often, we could have spent $50 less on dining.

7) No cost estimates by category: I actually had written out a number for the maximum we could spend. Which by the way I forgot by the time we went on our trip. I was pretty disorganized going into this and I had not taken much time to really break down how much I really expected us to spend per meal. It did not help that they had two set of sales taxes! All of this conjured anxiety that could have been avoided had I checked out some menus on-line to get a feel for what we would find. I had looked up restaurants on trip advisor with one and two dollar signs, but that is not specific enough. Everything was a couple dollars per person more than I was hoping, even in the less expensive places. We ended well under budget overall and I would not have changed where we ate (except the restaurant  I mentioned in note #2) but emotionally I would have felt better had I taken the time to investigate more ahead of time.

Now you can turn my missteps into your stepping stones to greater financial efficiency. While these are little ways to save a few dollars (it adds up to $134 of potential savings that I did not take advantage of), you will want to check out How I Saved Over $1,000 on My Last Vacation.

Will any of my lessons save you money? Do you have some stories about some money misjudgments from a vacation? Please do share and we can learn together. 

1 comment:

  1. Well I am happy you didn't incur any huge unexpected expenses on your trip! I do see what you mean by those few dollars adding up overall. That is definitely true and can be avoided by better planning, though it is difficult to have a very specific budget when you're traveling to a new place that you don't know very well. When going to Vegas, I looked up some budget-friendly meals and found a steak dinner for only $7. I was so excited to take advantage of the deal, but we ended up not even going there at all! Lol It turned out that every time meal time rolled around, we were no where near this particular restaurant. So like you said, the lesson I learned was to be a bit more organized with my vacation itinerary. On my next trip, I will taking both of our lessons learned into account. :)