How I made travel work in 2015

How I Made

It’s hard to believe 2015 has already come to a close. What a whirlwind of a year it’s been!

My blogging has taken a hit this past year as my life has gotten in the way, but luckily my travels haven’t. I’ve visited some awesome destinations and had some amazing experiences, from biking down a volcano to drinking beers in London’s oldest pub and all sorts of fabulous things in between. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that these experiences haven’t come without a price tag and, albeit fun, 2015 has not been a cheap year in travel.

crater lake

Crater Lake, Oregon

Since this blog is all about inspiring normal full-time workers to use their vacation days and make travel a part of their lives, I thought I’d share the honest to goodness stats on how I made travel a part of my life during 2015, considering time and financial restraints.

Leisure trips:

Where 2014 was all about work travel and minimizing leisure travel, 2015 was all about the leisure trips. Rarely did a month, or even a couple weeks go past without some sort of getaway. Gluttonous would be a good word to describe the year, but oh what fun it was. Listed below are each of my leisure trips and the number of vacation days used. You can click the links on some to get a more detailed breakdown on how I saved on costs and vacation days.

  • New Years trip to Orlando and Miami – Vacation days used: 1 (in 2015)
  • Winter getaway to Hawaii – Vacation days used: 5
  • A weekend at Disney World – Vacation days used: 1
  • Italy and an Adriatic cruise – Vacation days used: 10
  • Montreal for the Women’s World Cup – Vacation days used: 1.5
  • Girls getaway in the Finger Lakes – Vacation days used: 0
  • A weekend in Portland, OR – Vacation days used: 0
  • Long weekend in Chicago – Vacation days used: 1
  • Thanksgiving trip to London – Vacation days used: 0
  • Mother daughter weekend on Amelia Island, FL – Vacations days used: 1

Work trips:

None. Zippo. Zilch. As much as I love a good paid-for work trip to a new destination, there just weren’t any possible this year. This means that all of the miles flown and days traveling were paid for out of my own pocket.

tower of london

Tower of London

Because I’m a fan of full disclosure and cold hard facts, here are my stats on exactly how all of my travels in 2015 added up:

2015 Totals

Total days spent traveling: about 46 days

Total vacation days used for travel in 2014: 20.5 days (I get 20 a year, but they roll over)

Total miles flown in 2015: 36,698

Total cost to travel in 2015: about $6,500

Total points and miles used in 2015: 839,350

Total money saved by using points and miles: about $32,500

If we just ignore that $6,500 spent, I’d say this has been a pretty successful year in travel! Ok, so $6,500 isn’t chump change. And I’ll admit, I’m paying for it now. Like many of you, my middle class salary doesn’t allow for much wiggle room outside of day-to-day bills and expenses, so an extra $6,500 in a year is a little burdensome. However, the trips I was able to take with that amount of money were extraordinary. Taking my parents on a first-class trip to Italy and the Adriatic is something I’ll never forget. And spending a week in Maui during the coldest winter on record? That just can’t be topped.

Having fun with the family in Rome

Having fun with the family in Rome

And I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t point out the savings through points and miles. In total this year, I used 839,350 points and miles to offset approximately $32,500 in travel costs. $32,500! That’s a whole lot of savings. So, yes, my out of pocket total for the year was higher than I would’ve liked, but it could have been much, much worse and completely unattainable had I not benefitted from those wonderful miles.

Mom enjoying pre-flight champagne

Several thousand dollars were saved on this flight alone by using miles!

I share these stats each year not to brag on my very fortunate adventures, but to share just how possible it is to make travel work with limited vacation days and a limited budget. Even with earning just 20 vacation days a year, I was able to travel for 46 days by optimizing weekends and holidays. And although I broke my budget a bit on a few extravagant trips (Hawaii and Italy/Adriatic), most of my travels (including Oregon and Chicago) cost me just a couple hundred dollars out of pocket by offsetting costs with points and miles. It’s possible to make all of this work, if you want it to.


A look ahead at 2016 travel plans

Travels in 2016 will likely be a little bit more budget-friendly as I look to recoup this year’s costs, but I do have a couple trips already in the works:

  • In just a few days I’ll be headed to Paris on a mistake fare for $230. You can read more on how I stay on top of these mistake fares and airfare deals here. Despite the recent horrors in Paris, I cannot wait to go back.
  • In February, I’m traveling to South Africa on a super discount fare of just $490 round trip. My brother and I will be splitting our time between Johannesburg and Cape Town for a little under two weeks.
  • I’m getting married! And as to be expected with a travel blogger, the first thing I planned, even before the wedding, was the honeymoon. This summer, we’ll be traveling around Ecuador and taking a cruise through the Galapagos. This trip probably won’t fit into that “budget-friendly” category, but it’ll be worth it.

Wherever else I end up remains to be seen, but here’s to a year full of adventure, fun, and lots of vacation days used!