Wednesday, December 5, 2018

2019 Travel Plans & Budget

One of my favorite parts of the upcoming year is to plan out our travels, and build a budget based on our priorities.

We've discussed a lot of options this year, including having M join me on a work trip to London, and go from there to Paris. In the end, we decided we'd rather spend that money skiing with the kids, but will try to prioritize a Europe trip next year, when hopefully we'll have more time & flexibility for something like a week in Italy.

Before I finalize our plans & budget, I take stock of all of our travel "assets" (miles, points, etc) as well as predicted number of flights/year. Here's what we have going into 2019:

  • Alaska Air miles - (combined across our accounts): about 200,000 miles. A round trip ticket on peak days (when we usually need to travel due to school & work) is 40,000 miles. So, this is equal to roughly 5 round trip tickets.
  • Alaska Air companion fare - pay for a ticket, get the second one for $99. I need to use this by March (book, not travel) & I want to maximize the award value by using it for our most expensive trip. This can be hard to predict. 
  • Alaska Air wallet balance - $744 of credit that can be used for future travel
  • Southwest Air - we have a $200 gift card
  • United - I have 100,000 miles, but we don't fly United domestically, so may hold out for a trip to Italy in 2020. 
  • Marriott - 25,000 points. Not enough to do anything with yet, and we don't have any hotel stays where this would work. 
  • Hyatt - 20,000 points. Ditto the Marriott comment. 

How many flights will we take?
Similarly, I've added up all of our expected flights this year, and I'm expecting about 15 flights. (When we travel as a family, I consider that 4 flights for this purpose). My goal for 2019 is to cover all of our flights with miles/credit. Unclear if that is feasible, but we also have an Alaska credit card, so should be accruing new miles throughout the year. It will be tight, and will require us to not change travel plans, which is something one family member (*cough*, my husband) frequently does. We'll try & be better in 2019. I'm also planning to swap some of my international travel to go through an Alaska partner, where possible, so that will also help generate miles.

Here's what we're thinking for 2019:

  • January - we'll take the kids to a couple of day skiing outings. We're buying them skis as their Christmas gifts, so would like to get multiple uses out of the skis this season. 
    • Budget = $500 or so for lift tickets + gas.
  • February - I have a work trip to London, and then the kids have a week off for "ski week". We are planning to do a few nights at a hotel & skiing.
    • Budget = $2000, including the ski passes + hotel & food. Ski passes are crazy expensive. We'll be staying somewhere not fancy, so the hotel isn't the big outlier, but the ski passes. We're not quite skiing enough for season passes to make sense (right on the bubble), but want to be protected in the event the snow isn't good & we opt to cancel. As a result, we booked at a hotel vs airbnb (no cancellation charges) & didn't buy season passes. If we ski as many days as we think we will, we'll lose a few hundred dollars. However, if something comes up with our schedules, the snow isn't good, etc, we'll save quite a bit.
  • March - tentatively planning a trip to the beach/Oregon coast with my mom & sister, and/or my sister/BFF. The trip will likely happen, but as I think my sabbatical will begin in April vs March, unlikely I will combine this into one trip due to vacation time off. 
    • Budget = $250. (Miles for flight, so this will cover gas money & food) 
  • April - M & I would like to do an adult trip while the kids are on spring break. We'd fly my parents in & they'd stay with the kids. The flight for my parents is typically covered under "childcare", as the option without having my parents around would be to book a camp. So, different budget.
    • Budget = $1000. We will drive (looking at Napa), but hotels & wine tastings are expensive. Don't think there will be a hotel with points options, but will keep that in mind. 
  • May - my sister & friend will be visiting for a half marathon, but no travel plans
  • June - I will likely fly with the boys to my parents house (they participate in a big mountain biking tournament with my dad). The boys typically stay with my parents for a week of "Nana & Papa Camp"
    • Budget = $300. I'm hoping to cover the flights with miles. I'll give my parents money to spend during the week with the boys, and the budget will also cover transportation to/from the airport, etc.
  • July - we'll take a trip to the Oregon coast for the 4th of July. I'll pick up the kids from my parents. Additionally, the kids will likely be at sleepaway camp at the end of the month, so M & I may plan a long weekend. That's TBD based on cost of April trip. 
    • Budget = $1000. Gas, food, rental car, etc. I'm hoping to cover flights with miles. It will just be me + M, as the boys will already be there. 
  • August - I'll do my family relay, and Sam is likely to join me this year. 
    • Budget = $250. Gas + food. 
  • September - no trips
  • October - no trips
  • November - no trips
  • December - we'll go to the Oregon coast, and spend Christmas with my parents.
    • Budget = $500. Gas + additional food + rental car. Hoping to cover the flight with miles. 

Total predicted cost for the year = $7,300. This is a very tight estimate, so I'm hoping we can be creative with flights & other options. What about you? How do you plan & budget for your travel?


  1. You do very well with your freebie and mileage management. This year we are not going to Europe - only have one trip planned in 2019 so far to Mexico in January. In 2018 we spent the most we've ever spent on travel but we also took 4 adults to Europe for 10 days on a whopper of a trip, so planned expense and it came under budget by $150 lol. I am still putting away a good chunk of cash for future travel plans though, want to travel to Ottawa to see eldest and Future DIL and then go to Quebec, on my travel bucket list which is very nearby. Also want to travel back to Greece at some point, do trips to Egypt(2nd for me, 1st for hubby), Thailand, Germany (not in that order, depends on safety issues in Egypt as to when we go). We have enough points for our Christmas trip to Alberta next winter and 1 ticket to Europe - constantly collecting more through our ccs.

    1. Being under budget at all for 10 days & four people is really incredible! Love that you are also collecting points throughout the year for upcoming travel - it's a great way to do it.

  2. You have done such a good job accruing and consolidating your alrline mileage. I still have miles with Hawaiian, but that's it, although YaYu may be going back to Kaua'i for the summer to work (she can make so much more money there than on the mainland) and I will have enough miles to pay for half of her trip if that's what she decides.

    We have flown so many different airlines that I gave up trying to keep track of miles for this trip.

    1. Fingers crossed for you to have enough to cover part of YaYu's flight. I can only imagine how many miles you've covered on this trip! I use an spreadsheet to track all of mine. I'd definitely struggle if I were trying to track them any other way.

  3. After a dozen or so trips flying to the east coast to visit our granddaughters, we finally earned enough points for roundtrip tickets to see them again in January, so that was fun. Otherwise, though, we chase low cost non-stop flights, regardless of carrier, and have a cash back credit card that I allocate to our general travel fund.

    We set an annual travel budget, and for the most part let any good deals that come our way determine the destination. We're headed to Vietnam in March due to finding an all inclusive 12 day trip for $1500 a person (airfare included) that was simply too good to pass up. Travel is a big priority for us both, and we make financial sacrifices in other places in our budget (no cable, cook from scratch, keep our cars 10+ years, etc.) to keep that segment of our budget robust.)

    1. Wow - that sounds like a fabulous deal on the Vietnam trip. We had a work immersion there last year, and I wasn't able to go due to family commitments, but my team had great things to say about the visit.

      I'm with you on the travel prioritization. We're not quite in as flexible time of our lives, but enjoy traveling for sure. I love that you are able to let the deals determine the destination. How fun! Have you ever used Costco travel? Not sure if they have frequent truly last minute deals, but I've had great success booking things with them in the past. Their customer service is fantastic.