It was a great goal, make my vacations for the year cost $0 via travel hacking. It almost worked. Then an opportunity appeared where my family ended up vacationing in Barcelona.
My Specific What Now, Barcelona Spain
A few weeks ago I wrote about “now what”. During that post I mentioned that I would be spending some time away from the Finance world to do what I enjoy. What I didn’t tell you, and no one asked, was what I was going to be doing. I ended up spending 2 weeks in Barcelona Spain. (Or Should I say Barcelona Catalonia as we were there in the middle of the independence movement). This followed a one week business trip to California.
I Did Not Plan To Go To Barcelona
This was not a planned trip. In fact I had planned to be done with travel for the year. After all this year we’ve been to Martinique, Mexico, and Maine. What’s more, early on I set a goal for myself to do all that travel with no cost to us via travel hacking. I even achieved that goal, being net 0 for our travel costs with the last post.
Credit Card Hacking Not Possible
This being November it is unlikely I could pay for this trip to Barcelona with travel hacking. Typically that involves some advanced planning and time. First you need time to signup for credit cards. Then time to find the proper way to utilize points. Finally you need time to find the best deal. I will fully admit this trip was decided about a month ago so very little of that applies.
Why the Last Minute?
So, this particular trip all starts with Work. That’s right, my work sent me to Barcelona for one week. The week before Thanksgiving no less. I mentioned the possibility to my wife of bringing her with me. One thing led to another and somehow my wife and kids decided to join me after I complete work for a vacation the week of Thanksgiving. I wish I could say a lot of this was due to us choosing the cheapest week. The reality however is my sons have vacation Thanksgiving week and my wife wanted to bring them with us. This is a great reminder of how kids influence your decisions I guess.
Outside Our Budget
This trip was also outside our normal budget. We’ll explore a bit more about how I am keeping the costs down for this trip a bit later, but this trip ended up costing us $2,500. That is $2,500 in cost we didn’t plan on. Is this lifestyle inflation? Well if we make this reoccurring then yes. But as a one off unique situation hopefully not.
Is it affordable?
Well my wife’s income for the year was entirely unexpected. $2,500 is a small portion of her profit for the year. Essentially, I had a one off windfall. Ultimately, I chose to use that windfall almost entirely for savings except for a small portion on this trip. So yes, this trip is not going to have a negative impact on my finances. There is no guarantee these funds will reoccur from year to year. So, we should not setup reoccurring increases in costs as this money may not be here next year. But there is nothing wrong with enjoying a small portion of the windfall, especially if it allows you to get a much needed respite. A week vacation sounds like as good a choice as anything.
So What Did We Spend?
Well I already let some of the cat out of the bag here by prefacing the total cost was $2,500. This is actually not a bad price for a European vacation for 4. The costs were:
- $700 for an AirBNB for a week. My lodging was paid for by work for the first week. Once my family arrived we found a villa for rent in Gracia Barcelona. We did this so we could easily separate us from the kids while keeping an eye on them. If you have kids I am sure you understand why you would not want to share a room with a 5 and 2 year old.
- $1600 for airfare for 3. My flight was paid for by work, but my wife and kids needed to find transportation to Barcelona. This was the biggest cost. Also, unfortunately I booked before the unrest in Catalonia so I probably could have gotten a better deal should I have waited. Still I booked it a month out given under normal scenarios the price would have gone up. It is the offseason though so the price was still on the low side.
- We did not rent a car so all transportation was conducted using public transportation. This added about $100 more.
- Finally, we spent about $100 on museums and events. My wife did a lot of research ahead of time and found certain Museums were free on Saturdays or Sundays. We planned accordingly to keep our costs down.
What About Food?
Now you are probably asking where is the cost of food? Well my work paid for food for me for the first week. For the second week most of the time we cooked in our AirBNB. Our trips to eat out increased slightly compared to our trips at home, but the cost was less per meal. So yes we did get to experience the famous TAPAs, just not every night. As such our food costs were in line with our costs at home. The only place I encountered high costs for food were at the Newark Airport. My work paid for my trip through the airport and this that set of food. When I learned they got rid of all low cost food options at the airport I let my wife know so she could pack dinner for the kids.
What about Communication?
My work also paid for a limited monthly international cell phone plan. As such I had a working phone for low usage without cost. Add to that an AirBnB with included internet and I did not have a communication bill to contend with.
So, What Did We Do in Barcelona?
I’ve written a page on the finance aspects of the trip, but I know most of you are probably more interested in what we did while visiting. Well my family had 6 days in Barcelona and I was there for an additional 8 days on my own.
During this time we had the chance to visit the beach. My kids even went in the water. The locals probably thought they were nuts. After all the obvious way to pick out a tourist seemed to be how many winter coats a person was wearing in the morning. The locals dressed up like Eskimos for the 50 degree mornings.
We spent some time at the churches. Not only did we see the famous Gaudi designed church Sagrada Familia, but we also saw the Barcelona Cathedral and Del Mar. All were well worth the visit for those who like architecture. The Cathedral was also free depending on time of day.
We visited Park Guel, which was one of my favorite places. A park with interesting architecture and great views of the city, what’s not to like. We did pay for the pay portion of the park but honestly I liked the free portion better. We also went up in the Columbus monument for more city views.
Tapas were had by all. Our families favorite was the Pintxos, or the Basque variation of Tapas. You essentially pick items one at a time from a variety on a bar. These items are single serve attached to a piece of bread by a toothpick. Then you pay by the toothpick. Great food and an even better price if you avoid the tourist places.
Finally we visited Mount Juc and experienced the view from the fort as well as some time in the art museum. Cost savings tip, many of the museums are free on certain days of the week. The art museum on Mount Juc was free on Saturdays. So guess when we went.
Ultimately it was a great trip with a lot of walking. My phone noted I averaged 10 miles a day between subways and streets. Of course with kids we stopped every 100 yards or so for a free playground of some type. Everyone had a blast.
Did you go anywhere over the holidays?