In the past I’ve done a “year in review” of my travels, counting up how many countries I’d visited – but this year and last year, that number sat at a measly “two.” Compared to 2016 (six countries) and 2015 (five countries), I’m starting to look like a travel slacker. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, and if you read my post on how I’m a 29-year-old travel failure, you know that counting countries isn’t something I’m too concerned with.
I made a major move from Chicago to San Francisco in 2017, and my 2018 was pretty dedicated to wedding travel. Apparently, all my best friends got together at some point and said, “let’s all get married in the same year, preferably the year that Anna lives in the furthest and most expensive destination in the country.” It was a pricey experience but hey – everyone’s living happily ever after and now, 2019 is my oyster!
Being new to the west half of the US, I also spent a lot of time exploring the region vs. jetting off to a foreign land. There’s some pretty cool stuff here in Northern California, and in short-haul flight states like Colorado, Nevada and Utah!
In 2018, I spent $4,447.30 on travel (by “travel,” I mean accommodations, flights, car rentals and gas on trips – not daily spending on food or activities). That comes out to $371 per month on average. Not too shabby seeing as I spent 49 nights in paid accommodations and took 32 flights! (Interested in tracking and planning your own travel budget for the year? Download my tracker here).
A couple things you need to know:
- In December 2017, I qualified for the Southwest companion pass – meaning that Nick could fly for free with me on every Southwest flight I took this year. With weddingapalooza on the horizon, this was a game changer!
- The majority of the flights we took were paid for by points. We did splurge on a couple vacations, but tried to lessen the blow of wedding costs and holiday travel from the west to east coast by using all our points for family holiday and wedding flights. You’ll see that those wedding hotel costs added up pretty quickly – and that doesn’t take into account bridesmaid dresses, shoes, bridesmaid hair and makeup, wedding gifts and bachelorette activities!
- Since I haven’t tracked my spending every year I can’t be sure – but I’m pretty confident that I spent an abnormally high amount traveling this year. In a normal year, I’d have spent the points I used on wedding/holiday travel on personal trips — and it’s rare that I’d stay in expensive hotels if I’m not in a wedding party. Nearly half (48%) of what I spent on travel this year was wedding-related.
By the Numbers – 2018 Trips
- One-way flights: 32 (including 6 for work, so really I only “bought” 26 one-way flights)
- Road trips within California: 4
- Nights away from home (including red-eye flights): 90
- Nights in hotels, hostels, campsites or vacation rentals: 49
- Foreign countries: 2
- US States & Territories outside California: 11
Side note: Thinking about the fact that I spent THREE FREAKING MONTHS not in my apartment is very upsetting if you understand how much rent costs in the Bay Area. I just took a second to silently scream.
How Much I Spent on Travel in 2018: Month by Month Spending Breakdown
- January: Ringing in 2018, I was still in Michigan visiting Nick’s family over the holidays. We flew back to the Bay Area on Jan. 3. The one-way flight cost us 17,911 in Southwest miles (thanks to the companion pass, we only had to redeem enough miles for one flight) and $5.60 in fees.
- Total travel spending: $5.60
- February: In February, we visited Nicaragua for a week-long vacation. Our flights were $550 each, and we each spent $191 on accomodations, splitting a $164 Airbnb (after redeeming a $12 credit) in Playa Maderas, a $153 hotel in Granada and a $65 hostel in San Juan del Sur.
- Total travel spending: $741
- March: In March, I visited NYC for a work trip and extended my stay through the weekend to visit friends. Since I was traveling for work, I didn’t spend any money on travel (I crashed at a friend’s on the nights I didn’t have a work-covered hotel). We also visited Kings Canyon National Park in California at the end of the month. We drove there and probably split around $90 in gas. We split a $152 night in an Airbnb among a group of 5 people which came out to around $30 each (we crashed at my sister’s apartment the other night — she was staying in the area for a medical school rotation).
- Total travel spending: $75
- April: In April, I traveled to Austin for a friend’s bachelorette party. I used 20,027 Southwest points and $11.20 in fees on the flight and spend $232 on a hotel room for three nights (the hotel was split among 4 girls, we each spent $232).
- Total travel spending: $243.20
- May: In May, Nick and I visited Las Vegas and Zion National Park in Utah with my aunt and uncle, using 18,242 Southwest points (plus $11.20 in fees) on the flight and spending $105 each on a condo rental (my aunt paid for our one night in Vegas, where we all shared one hotel room). We also rented a car for $126 ($63 each). Separately, Nick and I visited the city of Chico in Northern California over Memorial Day weekend. Since it was a road trip, we spent around $96 on gas ($48 each) and split a $300 motel reservation ($150 each).
- Total travel spending: $377.20
- June: In June, I flew back home to the east coast twice. The first time, to attend another bachelorette party in Newport, Rhode Island (this time for my cousin) and the second time for a wedding at the end of the month in Plymouth, Mass. The first round-trip flight was $391 (on top of a $200 JetBlue credit for a delayed flight that I redeemed) and the bachelorette weekend house was $100 per person. For the second flight, since Nick was with me, we used Southwest to take advantage of the companion pass. We booked flights separately and redeemed 17,635 in points and spent $5.60 in fees for the flight to Boston. The wedding hotel in Plymouth rang up $367 per person. And it’s not over… June was a crazy month! We also had to attend another wedding near Shasta Lake in Northern California. We split around $90 in gas on the trip, and each spent $121 renting a cabin near the wedding venue. The cabin was split among five people.
- Total travel spending: $1,029.60
- July: Immediately following my cousin’s wedding in Plymouth on June 28, the first weekend in July I had another wedding on the east coast in Montauk, so we worked remotely from my parents’ house during the week before road tripping to New York (around $30 each in gas). Even though we split a motel room among five people, we still each shelled out $300 for accommodations for the weekend (Montauk ain’t cheap!). Our flight back to the west coast ran up 12,068 Southwest points plus $5.60 in fees. Later in July, I visited the US and British Virgin Islands for a work trip where I didn’t spend any of my own personal money.
- Total travel spending: $335.60
- August: In August, we visited friends in Denver for a weekend. Nick used his points for this flight (plus $11.20 in fees each) since I’d paid for a few recently. I also flew back to the east coast again for a combined personal and work trip, where I stopped in Boston to attend another wedding-related event before heading to NYC. On the way home from NYC, I met up with Nick in Michigan to spend the weekend with his family. The flights from SFO to BOS and EWR to DTT were paid for by work. To get from Boston to NYC, I booked a $74 flight on JetBlue. To get from Detroit back to Oakland, we used Southwest points (plus $5.60 each in fees).
- Total travel spending: $90.80
- September: In September, we spent Labor Day weekend by the beach in Mendocino, CA. With three people, we each spent around $30 on gas. We also split a $134 HipCamp site for the long weekend ($45 each). Nick and I closed out the month by flying to Puerto Rico ahead of an October wedding in the Virgin Islands. Our one-way flight to Puerto Rico ran us 17,928 Southwest points and $5.60 in fees. Our hotel in San Juan (4 nights) was $278 each. To get from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas, I redeemed some JetBlue miles and spent $5.60 in fees.
- Total travel spending: $364.20
- October: In October, I was back in the Virgin Islands again for the wedding. Not wanting to stop in Puerto Rico again on the way home, we flew back to the west coast directly on American. I used the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book my flight (Nick had enough American miles to book directly) and redeemed 25,657 miles. The wedding hotel in the Virgin Islands (4 nights) came out to $438 per person.
- Total travel spending: $438
- November: With wedding season behind us, Nick and I took a four-day weekend for ourselves in Maui. Using a bit of a complex booking scheme – Nick booked a flight + car package and I booked my flight separately to redeem a $150 United voucher from a previous flight delay – we were able to each spend $399 on the flight and car rental combined. We also spent $314.50 each for four nights in an Airbnb (we saved $80 total using Airbnb referral credits). Then, we traveled to Michigan to visit Nick’s family for Thanksgiving on Southwest – Nick floated the points, so I spent $11.20 in fees.
- Total travel spending: $724.70
- December: In December, I went to San Diego to visit my aunt. I flew out of SFO (4,120 Southwest points + $5.60) and back to Oakland (10,288 Southwest points + $5.60). We’ll also be flying to Boston for the holidays at the end of the month. Since I’d ponied up a lot of points throughout the year other trips, Nick redeemed his points for our Southwest flight to Boston and I paid $11.20 in fees.
- Total travel spending: $22.40
What’s Next for 2019?
Well, things are looking pretty good despite the fact that our companion pass expires on Dec. 31 (sad days). In fact, I’m personally closing out the year with more than 77,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points that could be redeemed for travel through Chase’s portal, or be exchanged for Southwest or United miles. I also have a few other points here and there with airlines like Delta, United and American – not enough for a major trip, but they may pay for regional one-way flights.
Right now, I have no major travel plans for 2019. In February, I’ll be celebrating my 30th birthday with a group of friends in Lake Tahoe, which I’m so excited about since A) I get to see a lot of my friends who are flying out for the weekend and B) I’ve never been to Tahoe. And in April, my cousin and her husband are visiting California for 9 days and we’ll be planning a couple local road trips – including, hopefully, to Yosemite which I’ve been dying to see!
The reason other plans are light is that I’ve simply been too busy to figure things out for 2019. But with thousands of points burning a hole in my digital wallet and no plans on the horizon, I’m sure I’ll be booking trips in no time.
A few places on my radar include…
- West coast cities like Seattle and Portland that I’ve never been to before
- Now that Hawaii is checked off, I’d also love to visit Alaska next year!
- Outdoorsy destinations in Southern California – I want to check out Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Park
- Lassen National Park in Northern California
- Somewhere in Asia – OK, this is broad, but there are seriously so many good flight deals to Asian cities from SFO. They’re getting hard to resist!
- Prague and Budapest – I’ve been itching to get back to Europe and these are two cities that have been on my to-do list for a very long time. Who knows, maybe I’ll make it there in 2019!
If you’ve been to these destinations or have any other suggestions, give me a shout in the comments.
And if you’re currently planning your 2019 travels, I highly recommend downloading my PTO and travel budget tracker that will help you plan saving and spending throughout the year. It’s only $2!