If you've managed to read all the new info here, you'll have caught this. If not, doesn't matter, because HAWAII TRIP!!
To catch you up: Found out I was pregnant and due during my husband's upcoming deployment...which is when I'd planned to move back to Hawaii. So, plans changed.
The changes lined up with finding a certification course offered in Hawaii that I've been wanting to do for a few years. There are other, closer offerings, but: A) they aren't in Hawaii, B) they actually take a year longer than the one in Hawaii, and C) the closer ones are more expensive but still require travel and hotels...so that PLUS an extra year goes pretty far towards bringing the prices of the one in Hawaii into similar territory.
Right now, it's still January of 2016. So my focus in my life is getting through this upcoming deployment and prepping for the birth of our third baby. As far as Hawaii is concerned...and this is REALLY IMPORTANT...my focus is solely on the funds. We want this trip (and the subsequent one in December 2016) to be PAID FOR before we set foot on island.
In general, I don't plan this far ahead for a trip. I normally don't know about our trips this far in advance. But, life changes, and I want to line us up to make this as easy and stress free as possible. I'll be birthing and caring for a newborn for the last 4 months before the trip, so I want to cut my future self a break!
I thought this would be a great way to show how I plan my trips--the places we want to hit when we go, how I plan to save money, timelines for planning, and general travel tips.
I have a running list of places we want to see/things we want to do when we go to Oahu:
The MONEY plan...yeah. Let's say we've got about 8 months to save up. Right now, we're starting with a bit of a deficit because of some fairly major house renovations here in Florida. Add to that the cost of having a baby. We do have insurance, but there are always extra costs associated with more kiddos! Hawaii isn't cheap, and getting there isn't either.
So I focus on cutting costs and saving where I can. Our bills (other than our credit card) are pretty much always the same: our utilities, cell phones, internet, and mortgage are the same from month to month. Then we have our credit card, school for both boys, gas/car upkeep, groceries, and the "flex" categories like entertainment, travel, dining out, etc.
The credit card is interesting because we use it to pay for EVERYTHING--then most often pay it off at the end of the month because of a decent cash back percentage at the end of the year. Right now we are carrying a balance because of our renovations. We may switch our card to one that earns air miles instead, but there's a bit of research to be done first based on how much it'll save vs. getting cash back every year.
The boys' school bills are paid for through June. We are potentially switching to a different school next year since my oldest is aging out of the school he attends now. There are application fees and a percentage down payment due at signing (it's a fairly expensive school), as well as potentially paying for a summer class to ease their transitions. I won't use a trip to Hawaii for my course as an excuse to not put money into my boys' education, so this gets moved to the non negotiable bills section.
We own two vehicles, and both are paid for. The newest is now ten years old, and we are absolutely fine with that. We take decent care of them, so I don't foresee any major issues that will need to be handled. We LOVE road trips, but being in a car while pregnant with two boys and two dogs and without my husband is probably something I won't do much of.
Our grocery bill is probably the first area where we can make any sort of major headway. We have an issue with eating out right now. My husband is crazy busy at work, and his typical schedule is 10-16 hour days, 6 days a week. He eats out at least once a day. When his schedule is a bit easier, he brings a lunch. I wish I was the kind of wife who would pack it for him, but I'm not, and he isn't a fan of leftovers. To save money here, I utilize meal planning and make-ahead meals. I can roast a whole chicken, use leftovers for casserole and soup, and we've got about three meals out of it. Also, as you can imagine, our grocery bill goes down significantly with my husband being out of the house (although he does have some expenses here as well).
So now we get to the meat of where we can save money: the "flex" categories. Eating out is OUT, minus those emergency-ish situations (yes, getting caught up in a meeting without food and then having to go straight to pick up kids at school WHILE PREGNANT is a situation for me). Luckily, with better planning, and trying to keep a few snacks in the car, this doesn't tend to be an issue. With my husband's schedule, we don't have much time (or energy) for entertainment right now, and we tend to do things like go to the beach or for a hike, which are free anyway. So we'll just keep up with that! And travel, I've mentioned already...pregnant, husband deployed...other than MAYBE a quick trip to my dad's place (about 4 hours from here), I don't see myself going very far until the AFTER.
In the interest of transparency, I need to toss in Amazon.com here. I'm an absolute addict. With SO many things, Amazon actually saves me money. The trick for me is to limit it to those things (like our dog food) and STOP THERE.
As far as actual trip planning is concerned, we will need all the usual things: plane tickets for 4 and a lap baby, rental car/transportation, accommodations...then the money for food, entertainment/activities, my course, and incidentals.
Other than checking prices on occasion, I don't do much with plane tickets this far out. I have my two top choices for airlines: Alaskan Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines, but they don't fly out of my local airport, and I'm all about simple. Also, as a military family, we have the option of using military Space-A flights, but they can be hard to organize. This MAY work for September since it's an off peak travel time, but other than getting clearance and watching available flight patterns, there's not much I can do with those until closer to the time.
Same goes for car rentals. Too far out to do anything other than check in on prices.
As far as accommodations, some hotels/rentals will take reservations this far out, but I'm not comfortable making any sort of reservations until after baby is here and hubs is home. I will probably book at a hotel AND a vacation rental, then cancel one as the trip approaches. What I look for when booking accommodations in Hawaii: safety, parking, location (I don't care to stay in Waikiki), a kitchen with a fridge and freezer, range, and sink, and at least two queen beds (or thereabouts). I like being close to activities, able to walk to the beach or restaurants, etc.
Once I register for my course, I will have the final amount owed, and that won't be until June or so.
When working on costs for food, I tend to triple what we spend while home. This gives us a buffer for eating out and treating ourselves, and covers the increase in the costs of food when in Hawaii...because food is just more expensive there in general. I add in things like sunscreen and toiletries here. I bring as much as I can, but if it's going to put us into having to pay for extra checked baggage, I buy it on island.
With entertainment/activities, I look up the actual costs of whatever we're doing and then look for discounts. I do add in a buffer here too, maybe an extra third of the total just so we have some wiggle room.
And incidentals. I think this is an often overlooked column for traveling, and includes things like medical costs or copays, emergency situations, and fraud or theft. No one plans on medical emergencies or things like that. But it does happen. Our insurance plan is valid in Hawaii, but I like to be prepared for the odd office that doesn't know how to bill our plan and decides we have to pay upfront for our services to be seen. There's also the off chance that we need to change our travel plans due to work or family emergencies, and ticket changes cost money. Sometimes you'll run into some sort of payment hold on your credit card (some rental companies do this), and it can mess with your ability to use that particular card. Or, you forgot to tell your credit card's fraud department that you're traveling, and they place a hold on it, rendering it useless. See? Incidental. Build it into your trip money!
Then, figuring out your final monetary need, add all the above. My guesstimate at this time for a 7/8 day trip is $12-$15k for a family of 5. As you can see, I ballpark high (adding in extras here and there). This isn't to say if I don't have $15k to blow, we aren't going, but I definitely prefer to not have to stress about it leading up to the trip OR while we're there. I'm not going to say no to another shave ice if my kids are eyeballing it while we're there :) Ever come back from a fantastic trip WITH money left over in the trip fund?? It's phenomenal!!