It’s 3:16am and I’m wide awake. Mr PoP was too until he popped a couple of Benadryl and headed back to bed. It’s the first time either of us have experienced jet lag of such epic proportions. But we have a good excuse. We just got back from Australia a few days ago and it was a whopping 14 hour time difference from Florida. So now you know why it’s now 3:18am and I’m still wide awake.
But since I’m awake, I figured I may as well share some of the trip and what we learned while we were there.
First, the Money
This is a personal finance blog, of course.
Australia seems like a super extravagant trip for two folks as concerned with investing as we are, and it absolutely would have been if we had been the ones who paid for the whole thing. Instead, most of this trip was paid for through non-monetary compensation that Mr PoP earned through his job. Often called a sales incentive trip, it’s a pretty common performance incentive in many different commission sales environments. My sister has earned multiple sales incentive trips in the hotel industry, and when I was in elementary school, my dad (working in insurance sales at the time) earned one that sent my parents to Hawaii.
Non-monetary compensation doesn’t mean it’s entirely without cost to us, though. Since non-monetary compensation is taxable like wages, our overall tax bill will be higher, but his company is generous and provides an offset for part of the tax burden. However, we don’t know the values of the non-monetary compensation or the tax assistance until late in the year, so we end up withholding extra just in case. Realistically, we do end up paying some taxes on the value of the trip, but it’s hard to really grasp exactly how much until taxes will be done (and by then the trip will have been almost a year ago, so we won’t care much).
This year’s non-monetary compensation package paid for our plane tickets to Australia, 4 nights in an expensive hotel, a number of activities, and plenty of food and drink for 5 days. Based on previous values of non-monetary compensation for similar trips, our best guess is that the non-monetary compensation for all of this will be over $10K, quite possibly more. Definitely not the kind of money we want to spend on a 5 day trip.
You’re Kidding! How Much??
For those keeping track at home, that’s over $1K per person per day. Ouch!
On travel we pay for, the goal is 1/10th of that – $100 per person, per day – a goal that Mama PoP told me about years ago and I’ve always thought was really useful.
Increasing Our Bang For The Buck
To us, it seems a little silly to travel all the way to Australia and leave after 5 days (after all it took more than 20 hours in airplanes to get there, not to mention layover time in airports). So we extended the trip and added another 5 days – hoping to reach the $100 per person per day rule for those five days. We ran into some travel difficulties in the form of a cyclone (that’s what they call hurricanes down there), and had to cancel our original itinerary for the second half of our trip and make some last minute plans.
We are still waiting to see what reimbursements we’ll get on about $400 in prepaid expenses for services that we couldn’t use. But if all those reimbursements come through as expected, we’ll have spent ~$1,230 for a last minute extra 5.5 days (that’s $112 per person per day on average) in one of the most expensive cities in the world – Sydney. While I’m sure it’s possible to go even cheaper, we definitely treated ourselves everyday while we were there and are pretty pleased with the balance we achieved as a result.
This $1,230 covered:
- Last minute hotel booking for 5 nights in the historic (read: expensive) area called The Rocks (~$530)
- Transportation to/from lots of cool free/inexpensive experiences (think hiking in the blue mountains a couple hours outside of the city, going to multiple national landmark sites, public art exhibitions, and a couple other cool museums) on public transit (5 train rides and 5 ferry rides) (~$130)
- A souvenir ring for me, a christmas ornament, and a mother’s day gift for Mama PoP all from an open air craft market ($85) (I also kindof wanted to buy these amazing steam punk style cufflinks made from recycled and polished watch parts for Mr PoP since he always borrows my cufflinks, but the price for the watch pieces he liked was a bit higher – almost $200! – than we were prepared to spend that day and he wasn’t sure they would be worth $200 to him.)
- One expensive experience – spending the day in a world class zoo and getting to hang out briefly with a koala named Darryl and his zoo keeper, sorry for the poor videographer skills. (~$105, but worth EVERY penny)
- All meals either provided by a continental breakfast or eating out at restaurants. Mr PoP drank a LOT of great espresso while there, so didn’t miss his awesome home espresso setup at all. (~$380)
For having to decide all this on the fly since the weather turned our plans upside down, I’m pretty pleased that we came in as close as we did to the planned spending.
Where We Saved
Accommodation was definitely where we saved some money. By choosing a historic B&B with shared bathrooms (think down the hall like in a college dormitory), we saved some serious cash over other last minute alternatives and were still able to stay near to all the action that we wanted – like the beautiful botanic gardens, the opera house, a main port for ferries and access to the subway. While we were kept up a couple of nights due to the pub downstairs of our accommodations, the staff was really friendly, the museli at the continental breakfast was REALLY filling, and I was glad the big cockroaches didn’t show themselves until our last morning there.
Where We Splurged
Food and coffee. Though we weren’t eating anything too extravagant, the costs in Sydney are just really that insanely high (well, especially in the tourist district, I imagine). (And since we didn’t have access to any sort of cooking implement or fridge, we didn’t ever visit a local grocery store. Honestly, we had more interesting things to do. Do we fail some sort of PF blogger test there? Oh well.) In general, restaurant food and beverage cost about double what it would back home. (While I’m quoting the Sydney prices in AUD, the exchange is pretty close to 1-1 these days, so it’s fairly accurate to think of these as absolute comparisons.)
Some cost comparisons:
|Item||Price At Home||Price In Sydney|
|Americano (called Long Black there)||$2||$4-$5|
|Dinner for 2 at IHOP equivalent||$20-$25||$47|
|Dinner for 2 at nice cafe/mid market restaurant||$40-$45||$80-$90|
|Pint of Beer at Restaurant/Pub||$5-$9||$7-$9|
Beer was the only thing we encountered where the prices remotely resembled our reality at home, so Mr PoP made sure to take advantage of that and usually tried a new beer every night.
It’s now 4:26am and oh so clear that my sleeping schedule is a complete wreck. So what else to do but head out for a run and finish this up tomorrow when I’m hopefully on a more normal schedule.
How much do you aim to spend on vacations? Do you try and maximize vacation time and money by adding on to work-paid trips?