Another FIRE trip in the books! This one was not planned. We didn’t “budget” for it. We didn’t make any hotel reservations or book any venues. We basically said, “Let’s just pack up and go.” Ten days later we were off on another vacation. Freedom gave us that option. We considered all sorts of options – London (thanks BREXIT!), New York City, Florida, Argentina, etc. In the end we chose a car trip to Texas and along the way we hit New Orleans and the Jack Daniels distillery in Tennessee. Two weeks. The best part is that we were able to drive to Corpus Christie to visit our daughter for three days.
While in Corpus we toured the Texas Aquarium, the USS Lexington Museum, and numerous beach bars and restaurants. After Corpus Christie we hit San Antonio to tour the Alamo and walk the famous River Walk.
From San Antonio we dove deep into the Louisiana Bayou and landed on Bourbon Street taking in all the debauchery and 100 degree, humid heat of New Orleans. We drove a total of 3,763 miles. We did NOT use any travel rewards points or use any AirBNB overnight options. We ate at restaurants or ordered-in every day. For the most part, I used our new Citibank Costco Rewards Card to garner 3% on the restaurants and hotels and 4% on gas.
There are several reasons why we did it the way we did rather than using cheaper alternatives:
1. We took advantage of a higher stock market and sold some stock to finance part of the trip. Relax sports fans! We’re still way below the 3% withdrawal threshold for the year.
2. I’d rather accumulate credit card rewards points now when the stock market is high and spend those points on a later vacation when the stock market is lower to avoid selling stocks that may be undervalued.
3. On this trip, flexibility was important. Plans were fluid and we didn’t want to be slaves to a hotel/AirBNB schedule.
4. Had we flown to San Antonio instead of driving we would have paid about $1500 in plane tickets for the three of us or sucked down a huge chunk of flight mileage points. $1500 buys about 10-12 nights in hotels and as it turns out we spent a total of $1825 on hotels for 14 nights and didn’t have to splurge for a rental car at destination.
Add it all up and by driving we had a longer yet cheaper vacation. Although we often had the means in the hotels to cook rudimentary meals we chose to eat out/order-in every single night (I know, I know, shoot me). In the future, we’re much more likely to take advantage of the Hilton chain’s Townplace Suites or Marriott’s Residence Inn some of which offer “free” evening meals four nights per week.
It is worth noting that by leaving our place in late July that we managed to recoup some costs as well. With temperatures at home pushing 100 degrees with 85-90% humidity for most of the trip we managed to save quite a bit of money by bumping our thermostats up to 80 degrees while gone. We also saved two weeks worth of groceries and the typical family operating costs. It turns out that late July is an optimal time to be on vacation which we’ll remember for future reference.
The downside of the trip was that we did a TON of driving which can get exhausting and boring. I can see in the future taking a more leisurely pace, staying longer at each hotel, and cooking some meals on site although the last thing we feel like doing on a vacation is cooking our own meals and cleaning the dishes. The other option of course is to do an AirBNB rental and do an extended stay at a single destination and just swap living arrangements. I could see the advantages of doing it this way if we were staying in a beach resort or in a foreign city. We will do this in the future I’m sure.