It has been a while since I wrote about our travels. This is for good reason. For much of the first half of the year we traveled very little. But that has changed in the last few months, so today I will give you a bit of an update on our 2019 summer travel and the costs involved.
Not Taking Vacation for The First Half of 2019
So first let’s get this out of the way. Most of the first half of 2019 I did not take my own advice. We did not use any vacation through July of 2019.
Basically things got extremely hectic with work. In addition, we did not want travel to coincide with a new placement of a child. We would feel guilty using respite (Foster Care for someone else watches the child while you are away) early on in a placement. We thought it unlikely that a brand new placement would be able to travel with us if placed a week or 2 before a trip.
Foster Parents Are Encouraged To Still Travel
Now I will add a comment here before we continue. The above is our own hangups about travel and foster care. They certainly do encourage you to continue to travel as you would in your everyday life. This is unique to how we feel about the situation, and your mileage as a foster parent will likely be different.
Anyway, starting in July we received a long term placement. That placement solidified plans enough that much of August and September we were able to travel by coordinating around the child.
Maine, Acadia National Park
So where did we go? Well in August we first spent a week in Acadia National Park in Maine. You may have noticed some pictures from that trip on the blog in the last month or so. The weather was gorgeous and we did quite a bit of hiking during the week.
This was not our first trip to Acadia, but was the first one for more than a few hours. We had a full 7 days to explore all the wonderful hikes, views, lounge by the lakes, and just take it all in. This included hiking Cadillac mountain, baby in tow. We brought the foster girl with us while our boys went with our inlays to western Maine. This not only gave us a bit of a break but also allowed us to better bond with the little girl.
Cost of a Week In Acadia
The cost of this trip was essentially the Airbnb. We spent $1500 for 7 days. Food was purchased from the grocery store and usually cooked the food on grills at park picnic areas. So no additional food cost were incurred.
We drove, so ultimately the only other cost was about $60 dollars for tolls. A note, once you get to the park there is no need for a car. They have a great bus system that travels all over the park and to many nearby towns. We were able to get the bus daily a few blocks from our Airbnb, so our car sat all week once we got there.
Our final financial cost was park access at $30. $1590 is not bad for a week at a national park.
Second Week, Western Maine
We ultimately joined our family in western Maine for a second summer travel week in August. This is the same place we go every year with no digital signal. Unlike prior years we booked a separate cabin from our in-laws. In years past our family just took a room in the cabin our inlaws rent and we slept on an air mattress. But this year with a third child we decided we needed additional space. So we rented a separate cabin at a cost to us of $1500. Beyond that, we paid $60 dollars to drive home.
What We Did In Western Maine
During the week in western Maine we did a bit of everything. I taught our oldest to fish. We hiked a mountain with all 3 kids. Baby on back, the 4-year-old and 7-year old walked. We all managed to do a 4 mile round trip with a stop at the top at a pond for a swim. And of course other activities like kayaking or swimming in the lake. The family had a blast, and of course, there were no electronics.
Fincon 2019, Rounding Out Our Summer Travel as a Free Trip to DC
The final non-work related trip was my own to FinCon. I wrote about the experience here. What I didn’t mention is the travel itself was pretty much all travel hacked. For work, I was traveling an extreme amount during the first half of the year. Those points paid for the hotel for my entire visit at the Marriott next door to the convention center.
I also took AmTrack to DC. The cost there was completely travel hacked using points, again from prior business trip accrual. However, had I paid it would have been 77 dollars to take a train from Delaware to DC. I had looked into an even cheaper option of a bus as suggested by a Twitter Follower. However, I found the bus timings were not conducive to my travel. So I splurged on the train with points.
The final FinCon cost was food. I brought snacks and other items to eat for lunch and breakfast. So I ended up just eating out one meal a day for 4 days. My family, still at home, did not go out in my absence as we normally would at least once during the first half of a week. I also generally ate pretty economical. Combine the two and I didn’t spend appreciably more on food then what we spend at home. So essentially FinCon travel was free.
A note before I leave FinCon. There was some cost to the tickets to the event itself. I bought early, so the total cost was seriously reduced. However, I do not consider this cost applicable to our travel budget. The cost was a business expense as such we will not account for it here.
So in total over 2 and a half weeks of travel we spent $3150. An ok amount to start. But what about the credit card churning goal to get us to 0?
Credit Card Hacking the Remaining Summer Travel Costs
Well, I will qualify this with the amount credit card hacked here is somewhat reduced. We have one more vacation in the works, which will receive its own post after the event. That one is fully covered by credit card points. So most of our points are directed that way to date. I will save mentioning the cards used for that trip for when that post hits later in the year since we actually used the points directly on the trip.
Still, if I account for cards not used for our next trip then we have utilized 3 cards. The first was the business credit card Chase Ink Preferred. I was targeted with a higher than normal 100K signup bonus. After paying the $95 fee this accounted for $905 in net cashback. Add to that another $50 in normal spend cashback. This offset about $955 in travel costs. You can read about travel hacking business credit cards, and other strategies, here.
A Card For The Longer Term, Discover IT
The second card we set up was the Discover IT card. This card receives 1% cashback on normal purchases and 5% back on specific categories. Finally, the card doubles first-year cashback as a signup bonus. I got this card for regular use beyond the 3-month signup bonus window times. It’s getting harder to find new cards now that we are over Chase 5×24, have exhausted many business cards, and Amex has tightened their rules. So we wanted a card we could use for a while under my wife’s name in those windows while we search for new cards after a bonus period. This was the choice. So far we have received $250 cashback on this card.
The final card we utilized was the Amex Gold Business card. The card at the time was offering a 60K signup bonus. This card was actually acquired back in November of last year before they upped the membership fee to $295 from 195. So, net after additional spending cashback we netted $400 in travel costs from this card. For those who might be wondering, why did we not go with the Amex Platinum Business Card? Fundamentally we just don’t have the 10k in 3-month normal card spend to cover the signup bonus. It’s possible we will loop back around for the platinum at some point when we have a planned amount of unusual spending.
$1550 On Summer Travel In 2019
So, net we offset $1605 of our $3150 in travel expenses so far. As noted our expenses for our upcoming final trip of the year are already separately covered by additional card bonuses. So that really just means we are $1555 short of our goal of hacking travel to 0. The addition of the cabin in western Maine really put that goal out of reach this year. We had not planned for the rental. That being said we do have one more signup bonus coming before the end of the year, so we will at least narrow the gap some more.
How has your travel hacking faired for 2019? Go anywhere interesting?