The last post gave the activity details of our vacation to Belize. This post will give the financial details of the trip.
Obviously, a 24 day vacation costs money, but I think we did a pretty good job of scoring some frugal wins on this trip. I should also say that we didn’t plan this trip as a super frugal vacation. We just wanted to have an international adventure together and tried to save some cash in ways that wouldn’t lessen our experience.
We decided that our budget for the trip was $3,000 all-inclusive, no questions asked. So, without burying the lead too much, here are the numbers for all 25 days of travel (24 of which were in Belize):
Housing: $814.95 + 60,000 AAdvantage points + 30,000 HHonors points
Transportation: $695.83 + 70,000 AAdvantage points
Groceries and Misc: $361.47
Excursions and Experiences: $732
TOTAL: $2897.44 (and 130,000 AAdvantage points + 30,000 HHonors points)
That’s every penny we spent in Belize. Tips, trips, booze, and shoes included. Yes, we actually bought some shoes while we were there. Mrs. Dragon’s 10 year old Chaco flip-flops finally gave up the ghost and we bought a $2 pair to replace them.
In fact, the numbers above include all the money we spent door-to-door including food and lodging during our overnight layover on the way home.
As mentioned in part four of the Travel Hacking Experiment, we used airline/hotel points to pay for six nights of our lodging and the plane tickets. I won’t bore you by repeating the details but, in case you missed it, you can find a more detailed explanation of the miles used here.
Groceries includes miscellaneous because we ended up buying a lot of things in grocery stores that weren’t exactly groceries. Things like sunscreen (surprisingly expensive in Belize), Mrs. Dragon’s flip-flops, a shirt, Dramamine, aloe, vaseline (apparently necessary for snorkeling with a beard), deodorant … you get the idea.
We ended up saving quite a lot of money by using Airbnb for most of our lodging (if you register using that link we both get $25 in travel money. Woo!). Seriously, most of the places we stayed were around $35/night. Inexpensive, safe, and comfortable.
Transportation ended up more expensive than I thought it would, mainly due to the last-minute rental car. Out of that $695.83 a full $407.32 was from the car rental. Sheesh. It ended up being worth it to us because we really did a lot in the days we had it, but I’ll have to seriously consider whether we need a rental for future trips.
Other than the car, transportation was for things like cabs, water taxis, and the taxes on the plane tickets.
We did fairly well with restaurants. We ate meals out on 15-17 out of our 25 travel days (I don’t have the exact number). Waaaaay more than we usually do, and enough that Mrs. Dragon was talking about wanting more vegetables by the third week :).
The real story here is in the excursions and experiences category. All of this stuff could have been left out if we had wanted to trim our budget a little more. But we didn’t. Like I said, this wasn’t meant to be a super frugal vacation. It was meant to be an international adventure.
Here is a list of exactly what the $732 in excursions and experiences bought us:
- A snorkeling trip to the Great Blue Hole with a leisurely lunch stop at Half-moon Caye.
- A tour of a local rum factory that included free samples of 10+ rums (I personally tried about 8).
- A full day trip to the Mayan ruin site Lamanai. This included taxi, river boat, tour of the site, lunch, and transportation back to the city.
- A snorkeling trip with three stops along the barrier reef (fun fact: the second largest barrier reef in the world is off the coast of Belize). This was the trip where we got to touch sharks and sting rays. Fresh fruit and rum punch were included.
- An hour long couples massage on Caye Caulker.
- Ziplining through the jungle canopy on a private tour.
- Cavetubing that included a pit stop halfway through the cave to go dive/swim in what our guide called “Crystal Cave” (also a private tour). This also came with an all-you-can-eat meal of stewed chicken, cole slaw, coconut rice and beans, and bottomless rum punch.
- Visiting the Mayan ruin site Xunantunich.
- A full day hiking through caves and swimming in St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park.
Like I said, any of that could have been cut out, but we stayed within our budget and it was all money spent with intention.
The trip was 25 days including the travel days on both ends. So, for all you folks out there who like the numbers, here’s the per day breakdown minus the points/miles:
Groceries and Misc: $14.46/day
Excursions and Experiences: $29.28
For reference, I think of our “base spend rate” as about $2200/month or about $73.33/day. So, considering how much we spent on luxuries, we ended up getting a pretty good bang for our buck in my opinion.