I wrote before how I've been feeling overwhelmed and stressed out and in great need of a vacation, to recharge my batteries and connect with my husband without the kids around, and how I've felt the adventure missing in my life and wanted to include more of that?
Well, this vacation was exactly that.
Upon returning home, I can honestly say that it was exactly what I needed. I feel a big sense of satisfaction, like my lust for adventure was filled (for now, anyhow), and that I have more energy, emotionally and physically, to deal with what life throws our way, and to handle the kids. What, in the past, would make me lose my cool, at the moment is not. I find myself much more level headed and in a much better mood because I took care of my emotional needs and therefore now have what to give to others. This trip with my husband was pretty physically active, days pretty full, and yet I can home feeling much more rested than I did from our week long trip 3 weeks ago with the kids to a resort town where, other than a long hike one day, the rest was pretty much chilling out and doing relaxing things. That trip I felt I needed a vacation from our vacation, whereas this one despite our high activity level, I came home feeling refreshed and invigorated.
I'm not sure the best way to structure this post, but I guess first by writing the entire cost, then share what we did each day, and then give the breakdown of the expenses.
So total cost of our trip, including everything from accommodations to food to activities to transportation was $718.70, and if I include the parasailing I did on our previous trip instead of this trip, that's another $50, so a total of $768.70.
So no, I definitely can't say this was the cheapest vacation ever, but it was well worth it, and we did it as frugal as we could while still enjoying ourselves, and I think we made the most of our money.
So, what did we do on our trip?
Before we went on our trip, the first thing I did was look into accommodations. I didn't want to get stuck on one location and then find that accommodations there would cost so much that we wouldn't be able to afford to spend on anything else for our trip. I checked out AirBnB, as I;d heard you can find cheap places to stay there, and was pleasantly surprised that I could find places that looked much nicer than hotel rooms for a fraction of the cost and with many more amenities. Just for example, all the places we looked at were entire apartments with large bedrooms, kitchenettes, and one had a living room/dining room area as well. In comparison, The cheapest hotels I've ever seen in this country are $120 a night for just a small bedroom and bathroom and nothing else, and in the place we wanted to go to, city C, the cheapest hotel there was over $200 per night. I only found one AirBnB place there and it was $82 per night. Since city C was the area we wanted to go to most, because it was where I planned on scuba diving, we reserved 2 nights at the one AirBnB in that place.
Then we decided to book two more nights in city H, not so far from city C, for quite a few reasons. Since a big part of my desire for this trip was to do some touring and sightseeing, I wanted to get as much done as possible and see as many things as possible. Staying in city C would mean limiting options of what to do, as there aren't so many touristy things available there. Then there was the cost difference. In city H there were many AirBnB options, including some for only $39.50 per night. So I booked two nights there as well.
Because of rescheduling dates, I ended up speaking to Rachel, the one who ran the AirBnB in city C on the phone quite a few times when planning the trip, asking about how to get there, public transportation in the area, etc... and we hit it off tremendously. She wanted to go out of her way to make our stay as pleasant as possible, and it turned out that she was going to be in the city closest to my house the morning we were planning on coming on the trip, and she offered to give us a lift to their home. It was so sweet, and saved us so many hours of travel time, and on top of that, it meant that on transportation there, we only spent $1.71 to get to the city near our house, and then nothing else.
The beach had some extremely powerful waves, which made it extra fun to be in the water there and swim, and on top of that, the beach was framed with some ancient architecture from some ancient invaders in this country, so it had a different feel to it from the rest of the country, which fed my sense of adventure and made me feel like we went abroad even though we stayed local.
After swimming in the beach, we walked along the beach, passed a section that was lined with rock balancing sculptures (at least 30 of them), then climbed along some boulders along the beach, and then got to a fishing village.
We walked further, crossing three "rivers" as they fed into the sea (very shallow and non wide rivers- two were able to be jumped across, and one waded to a little past the knees for a few paces.
Eventually we got to a nature reserve that, being later in the day already, we didn't have much time to explore. We just sat in a pergola, drinking beer and alcoholic cider and eating chips that we brought along, and just enjoyed the view, relaxed, and refilled our water bladders before heading back.
On the way back, we collected some shells, dipped our feet in the water and let shrimp and crabs walk over our feet and fish swim near us if we remained very still, and took a lot of photos of the view. I really like how some of them came out, and plan on maybe printing some of them largely to use as decoration in our house.
When we got back, I cooked up some supper and then we watched a movie together, had some more alcohol, and then headed to bed.
The path to walk there was gorgeous and shaded, and lined with sand. I think we made a wrong turn, though, because we ended up at the coast instead of the entrance to the antiquities.
We walked along the coast, enjoying the surf and the view...
...until we got to the antiquities site.
When we arrived we tried to figure out where we were supposed to pay, but no one could tell us where to pay- there was nothing there. We were in a bit of a rush because we wanted to find the place where we would be scuba diving, so figured we'd pay on the way out.
The place we were at was an archeological site that had been restored and turned into something both historical and hip and modern. Nestled together with the antiquities and 2000 year old buildings and statues were restaurants, stores, bars, and the dive site. As a coastal city, this used to be a thriving port, and because of that, many treasures were lost overboard at or near the port. The dive site, where we went scuba diving, allowed you to see some of what was discovered in the water, but because of my fears and taking a while to acclimate to the scuba diving, I didn't get to see so much underwater, but I saw some things and they were cool. One day I'd like to come back and scuba there again and really explore, but no rush. Scuba diving cost us $137 for the both of us, and was well worth it.
When we finished scuba diving, we explored the area some more. Some of the places you could only get into with an admission ticket, so its possible that you are allowed to come in without paying like if you are going scuba diving there- I'm not sure. So we didn't explore everything, just the parts that didn't require a ticket. But it really was more than enough.
After that, we ate dinner at a restaurant on the site. It was supposed to be a romantic place, and was recommended. The ambience seemed nice enough to me, but Mike was wondering why it was empty... I liked some of the food I got, but not other food, and Mike did not like his food- he disliked it so much that he felt nauseous after the meal and thought he might even puke. That meal cost us $63 dollars, and convinced us that we weren't eating out at restaurants at all for the rest of the trip- better cook our own food, since it is tastier and a fraction of the cost.
As we left, this time by the road, we finally found the admissions booth, but it was closed so we couldn't pay. I'm not even sure if we were required to pay, to be honest.
We could have walked back, but instead decided to take the city bus back. It cost us $2 in transportation.
In the evening, we drank some more alcohol and attempted to watch a movie, but were so tired that I conked out in the middle and didn't finish it!
The next morning, we had debated going straight to city H or stopping on the way at some of the wineries in the area for a tour. Our host told us that he was planning on heading to the winery anyhow (they sell wine on tap, and he wanted to fill up his bottles), so he and his wife gave us a lift to the winery, which saved us time and money, so that was sweet.
At the winery, they had told us there weren't any tours available that day, just wine tastings, so we decided to go anyhow since we had a lift, but I wasn't so sure it would be worth it. However, just as we got there, they said there was room on a tour starting exactly then, so we joined them.
As a wine maker myself, I wasn't sure there would be anything I could learn on this tour, but I was wrong. Making wine on a massive scale is definitely different from homemade wine, and the machinery used is different. I also learned about how white wine is made (peeled green grapes) vs red wine (red grapes with the peel still on them)- I thought the difference between white and red was just peel vs not, not green vs red. And I thought blush wine was made with green grapes with the peel on it, but I learned it is a mix of white and red wines.
I also learned that semi dry wine isn't wine that hadn't fully fermented, but actually, has added sugar to it.
We also learned about how the tannins in the wooden barrels leech into the wine, and in addition to giving the wine a richer flavor also cause them to be preserved long term.
After that, we saw their stills and learned about the process of making brandy.
That was completed with a wine tasting- we ended up tasting 3 different red wines and 4 different whites, and discovered which were our favorites- gewurztraminer was by far my favorite, and getting the barista (is that what the one doing the wine tasting is called?) to repeat that a few times in our attempt to be able to understand what it was called, and then finally writing it down and realizing why we couldn't figure out the name... was hillarious to me in my tipsy state... Petit verdot was my second favorite.
The wine tour and tasting only cost us $8.60 which was awesome for something so fun.
We were considering staying in the area and touring the beautiful gardens in the area, but then we decided to go straight to the AirBnB in city H so we could put down our bags. We boarded the bus and bought a pass for public transportation for the day for the entire region. We should have looked up the code for the region which we wanted to pay for. Had we, it would have cost us $15.14, but instead we were charged for a greater region than we needed, and it cost us $21.40. Oh well. We took the bus to the train station, then took the train to city H, then a bus within city H, and got to the AirBnB place.
Unfortunately, when we arrived, we found out that the shower was broken, and a repairman was there trying to fix it. He wasn't successful, but ended up coming back the next day while we were out and got the entire thing fixed. The place wasn't fancy by any means. The bedroom was nice enough, but the kitchen and bathroom were kind of gross, on top of the non functioning shower. I also couldn't find the electric burner that was supposed to be in the kitchen and which would have allowed me to cook meals, so I was really bummed out about that.
There was a free tour of a nearby temple's gardens, which I was told was very unique and beautiful, but the last one for the day was very soon after we arrived at the AirBnB place, and we didn't have enough time to walk there or catch a bus, so we hopped in a cab there, which cost us $14.20 and got us there on time. We really enjoyed the tour, and after that, walked back to the AirBnB place.
Mike rested a bit while I went out, attempting to find a nearby grocery store. I didn't have much luck- the corner shops were even smaller than most corner shops I know, similar more to kiosks than minimarkets. I couldn't even find any frozen fish or chicken in any of the stores and I tried 4. But... since I didn't know if I'd even be able to cook anything, I just bought some things that didn't need cooking- salami, canned sardines, canned fruit, etc...
Fortunately, when I got back to the AirBnB place, my husband had found the electric burner (it had been put in a closet) so I was relieved to know that I had with what to cook.
We then took a bus and then a train to a highly recommended beach- one of the best beaches in our country, according to various travel sites, and enjoyed swimming, then walking along the boardwalk, having some ice cream, and then finishing off with a picnic supper and champagne. We played a fun drinking game- we took turns telling our spouse something we thought they didn't know about us, even after ten years of marriage. If our spouse did know that fact, we drank a sip. If they did not, then they drank a sip. A great way to get to know each other better, lots of fun, and yes, we did manage to stump each other even after 10 years married and knowing each other for 15 years!
I had asked on a Facebook group for that area for a recommendation for a place to grocery shop, and was suggested a place not so far from the beach, so we took a quick bus ride there, did a more thorough shopping at this large chain supermarket, and then took a bus home, by which point we were so thoroughly exhausted that we conked out immediately.
The next day, knowing they were doing construction in the area, and having the whole day ahead of us open, I decided to pack it with as much as possible. I cooked up and packed lunch and supper for us.
We bought a day pass for the city for public transportation, which cost $7.71.
We started by checking out a maritime museum, with many artifacts found underwater, models and reconstructions of ships, old anchors, an exhibit on pirates, an exhibit about our country's history with the sea, both in ancient and modern times, among other things. It was cool, I learned a lot, and we each were fascinated by different things there.
The museum was supposed to cost $22.85 for us, but the cashier was in a meeting when we arrived, so we were told to go in and pay on the way out, but again, when we tried to pay on the way out, they told us no need, our visit was free. So that was awesome.
Next, we walked to the cable cars nearby, and took them up the mountain. It was overpriced, at $18.57 round trip for both of us.
But it was fun, and an experience. At the top of the mountain, we took a short hike to a lookout point.
We could have hiked all the way down to where the cable car started, but I wanted to be able to check out another cool place I'd heard about in the area, so we just did that short hike.
We took the cable car back down, and then went into a cave that has religious significance. And then took a long bus ride across the city to another national park, known for its suspension bridges over a gorge. The ride took almost an hour, but it allowed us to see another part of the city that we wouldn't have seen otherwise, and Mike and I had fun discussing what we saw outside the window, comparing it to other cities we know, etc...
We got to the park and it was beautiful. Shaded, slight breeze, and scenic. A couple was there taking wedding photos. In fact, quite a few times this trip we came across couples taking wedding pictures, which means that we chose the beautiful spots to visit.
The bridges were cool, but nothing amazing to write home about, but still cool. The hike to the bridges were maybe 2 miles round trip. We ate a picnic supper in the park.
We took a bus back, and on the way passed another large grocery store, so we ran in to buy a few last things.
We got back to the apartment, and yes, the shower was fixed, so we were able to freshen up, and then watched a movie, drank some more champagne, and then bed.
The next day, we were on a time table, since we needed to be back by 4 pm for the kids. On top of that, we had our luggage to consider. So we bought a regional daily public transportation pass for $15.14, then took the bus to the beach, enjoyed a few hours at the beach, plus beer/Smirnoff Ice, and a picnic lunch, then took the train to another city. From there, we took a bus which we had to pay for, as it was out of the region and therefore not covered by the regional daily fare- $7.31, then took the bus home for $1.71.
All in all, a really amazing trip.
So, added up, here's the cost breakdown:
Travel expenses- $71.32
Food and Groceries- $271.42.
Of that total-
Of that total-
Hostess Gift to the amazing hosts at the AirBnB in city C (since they really went above and beyond): $13.11 (we got them a fancy wrapped box of chocolates)
Total for the trip-
$718.70 plus the $50 for my parasailing on our last trip that I was including as part of this trip's budget- $768.70.
Did we do this trip as frugally as possible? Certainly not. But I feel it was worth the money spent, for sure.
However, we had such a fun time on this trip, and our kids had such a fun time at Grandma's house, that I would want to go on another trip, maybe with the kids, or without... but would spend a lot less money.
We learned when we got back that there actually is a free camping ground in city C, with showers and running water and bathrooms. If we go back to city C, maybe we'd stay again at the same hosts if we'd have the budget to pay for it, since we really had such a nice time. But maybe we'd just go camping instead.
We learned not to go out to restaurants- it is such a large amount of money for a gamble. Better feel good, enjoy your food, and spend far less money on homemade or even semi homemade food. (Cheese and crackers plus pre-washed baby peppers and cherry tomatoes and baby cucumbers take zero preparation and are a fraction of the cost of a meal at a restaurant.)
I did a great job of researching things to do in the area and finding low cost activities, but in the future, I want to prepare even more, and come with a list of actual grocery stores so I don't pay through the nose for things that aren't what I'd wanted to buy anyhow. I also want to research the costs of the regional public transportation daily passes better, so that I know the correct code to tell the bus drivers so I don't spend more than necessary because he charged us for too large of a region.
And I think that's about it.
Otherwise we did pretty well.
For food, what did we eat, you might be wondering.
Proteins were frozen fish that I cooked, salami, cheese, and beef jerky that I made.
With the proteins each meal I either had a cooked veggie dish or just raw veggies. I bought some olive oil, shallots, and ginger and cooked them up with some of the following each cooked meal: frozen green beans, zucchini, snow peas, sunflower sprouts, tomatoes, or at the following raw- cucumbers, peppers, cherry tomatoes, spinach, baby greens. Also had some canned corn with some of my meals, hubby had wheat crackers with his meals. Breakfasts were gluten free cereal with milk for Mike and almond milk for myself. And for eating on the go, we bought a mix of chips- potato, tortilla, apple, and various root veggie chips.
I bought some pears, and we foraged a large amount of num nums, as well as some carob.
Oh, and can't forget the chocolate. And the alcohol.
Yes, we could have spent less money on groceries by buying cheaper seasonal produce and cheaper proteins, but I know Mike gets annoyed by how much time I spend cooking, and on our vacation I didn't want to be doing that, so I purposely stuck to things that were very quick to cook/prepare.
The point wasn't just do spend as little money as possible. If that were the case, we could have just stayed home. The point was to enjoy ourselves, while not spending more than we needed to, and I think we found that right balance.
I had said that I wanted to save up for this trip beforehand by spending less on groceries than I usually do, and set that money aside for the trip. But since timing didn't work out that way, and I only did that challenge for myself for one month, I only set aside $142 from extra work I did and $200 by spending less on groceries, so that was $342 of the trip cost already covered. That leaves $426.70 not already covered by my personal challenge until now. So my goal is to, for the months of August and September, save that much on my groceries by spending $213.50 less on groceries than I usually do each month. I am not sure if that is doable, but that is my goal. And if I don't manage to do that in two months, then by October I want to have "paid myself back".
So now- to work frugalizing!
Have you taken any vacations recently? Did you add up how much they cost you, top to bottom, breaking it down by category? How much did it cost you? How much was each aspect of the trip? Would you consider what we did a frugal vacation or not? Is your goal for vacations to make them as frugal as possible, or do you put other priorities first? What are they?