This post as a case study example of how we use our Travel savings account to have a fun (and not too extravagant) weekend away for a wedding and to share some photos from our weekend!
Kyle and I received a wedding invitation a few months ago from one of our very best college friends for her wedding in the Smoky Mountains. Of course we knew we would attend so we just had to decide how to get there and how long to stay for. The wedding was Saturday night but the weekend started with a welcome picnic on Friday night. Since the drive was about 6 hours we left about midday on Friday. (Kyle and I have an established driving/flying line for short trips – if a drive will take more than 13 hours, we fly.)
So several months in advance of the wedding, we already had a good idea of our major costs – two nights in a hotel and about 2.5 tanks of gas. The bridal couple arranged for discounted rooms at a certain hotel, plus the welcome picnic was at that hotel and they provided a shuttle from that hotel to the ceremony and reception location.
The final estimated budget items were meals and entertainment. Of the four meals through the weekend not provided to us by the wedding activities – breakfast and lunch on Saturday and Sunday – we predicted we would eat three rather inexpensive meals ($60). On their wedding website, the bridal couple suggested several local activities for weekend entertainment, so we thought we would probably take part in one of those activities on Saturday before the wedding ($40).
Our total estimated budget for the weekend, plus the wedding gift, was $429. We adjusted our travel savings rate down a few months ago, but made sure that the balance in April would be high enough to cover our estimates for this trip and our next one at the end of the month. We paid for one night at the hotel and the gift in advance, but the rest was put on our credit cards throughout the weekend.
We ate lunch before leaving home on Friday and packed snacks so we wouldn’t have to stop for food during the drive. The welcome picnic provided our food on Friday night and hanging out with the other guests playing lawn games and warming ourselves by the bonfire was all the entertainment we needed! Cost: $85.56 for gas, $0 for food, $137 for hotel.
Kyle and I went out for brunch at a fairly inexpensive country buffet joint, so we ate enough for breakfast and lunch so we wouldn’t have to eat again until the wedding. Cost: $19.50.
We decided to go on a light hike recommended by the bride and groom for our afternoon entertainment. We’ve been meaning to visit the Smoky Mountains since we moved to North Carolina but this was our first trip, so we wanted to spend some real outdoors time in the mountains instead of the other types of entertainment available to us. Plus, there was no entrance fee for Smoky Mountain National Park! Cost: $0.
Of course the wedding itself was wonderful and tons of fun. We had appetizers (cheese fondue) and dinner (TN BBQ) and tarts (from Durham, actually). About 10 people toasted the bride and groom, which was wonderful, and then we danced for hours! Cost: the price of the gift, if you want to think about it that way.
(No dancing pics, because they are just not flattering! (Not that eating pics are.))
On Sunday morning I went to church with one of our friends while Kyle went horseback riding with the other two! Then we all met for brunch at an excellent family-style country restaurant. Cost: $32 for the riding and $37.81 for brunch.
Finally, we drove back to Durham. We filled up the tank again but used less than a quarter of it. We didn’t stop for food but just had snacks and ate when we got home. Cost: about $10.
Our total cost for the weekend was $413, so almost exactly what I had estimated! We are currently saving $300 per month into our Travel account so it took less than a month and a half to save for this trip.
P.S. I took 900 pictures this weekend with my little Canon point-and-shoot, most of which were terrible. I take tons of pictures at events and love to share them. I really think it’s time for me to upgrade to a nicer camera. Does anyone know how to go about deciding what features I need?
Has your spending on trips recently matched your advance estimates? How do you budget for vacations? Do you have a camera you would recommend to me?