Whelp… We thought November was bad at just over $5k in spending, but December snuck up on us with the highest expenses to date!
The month started with the 2nd half of our Caribbean cruise, then Disney and Universal happened, and don’t forget about Christmas. It was a perfect storm of expenses than sent our December spending through the roof.
Luckily, our gap year adventure has been well under “budget” for the year, so our pre-trip savings are more than enough to keep us on track financially.
Let’s dive into the exciting, but expensive month that wrapped up our 2018.
Lodging – $3,122.61
A significant portion of our spending can be attributed to the places we laid our head in December.
We started the month in the middle of the Caribbean on a giant cruise ship. This vacation within our vacation was a bit of a splurge, but an amazing experience. The cruise portion of our “lodging” also included food, drinks, and entertainment while aboard the ship, but I didn’t attempt to separate that out.
Lodging Breakdown by Nights:
- Hotel nights booked with points – 3
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- Hotel nights booked with a free night certificate -1
- Hilton free weekend night
- Hotel nights booked with cash – 17
- IHG – 13
- Hilton – 4
- Cruise ship nights booked with cash – 5
- Nights spent with friends and family – 5
Our hotel point balances were a little low entering the 11th month of our adventure, so we looked to maximize return on cash spending.
The 4 Hilton nights booked with cash totaled $502.48, $500 of which was reimbursed thanks to a pair of $250 Hilton resort credits on our Hilton Aspire credit cards. I don’t subtract the $500 out of our expenses for the same reason I don’t add annual fees into it. All of our credit card shenanigans are tracked separately from our regular spending for various reasons.
The cash nights at IHG all applied towards a Q4 promotion that earned us over 50k bonus points to use in the future.
Points Spent by Brand:
- IHG– 3 Nights – 33,750 points (4th night free in Jan)
Our only points booking this month took us into the new year. We switched back to points once we finished off the IHG promotion that required spending cash.
Points Earned per Brand (excluding credit card spend/bonuses):
- IHG – 106,907 earned
- 54,800 from IHG’s Q4 promotion
- 25,000 from Spire Elite benefit
- 3,375 from 10% points rebate via the IHG credit card
- 20,732 from regular earnings
- 3,000 from welcome bonuses
IHG was the hotel chain we spent the most nights at this past year, so we earned top-tier “Spire Elite” status along the way. The status boosts our regular earnings when we pay cash and comes with a 25k point bonus.
The IHG earnings above and a recent 150k Hilton upgrade bonus should provide a nice discount on lodging for the last month of our trip.
Transportation – $432.53
- Gasoline – $122.44
- Parking – $48.34
- Tolls – $24.25
- Registration (Tabs) – $210.75
- Theme Park Shuttle – $16
- Car Wash and Air – $10.75
Our transportation expenses were tame this month, even with the annual renewal of the car’s registration.
The theme park shuttle got us to Disney World from one of the hotels, but the rest of the expenses are par for the course.
- Miles Traveled – 1,601
- Gallons of Gas Purchased – 67
- Average Miles per Gallon – 23.849
- Average Price per Gallon – $1.83
During the month of December, we crossed the
Food – $1,011.44
- Eating Out – $901.29
- Groceries – $110.15
Another typical month in the food department. This breaks down to ~$5.45 per person per meal which isn’t too bad for eating out almost every meal.
Aside from the amazing food on the cruise, we also managed to find some authentic Chicago-style deep dish pizza in Florida. Another highlight for the month was the wide variety of food we sampled at Epcot!
Entertainment – $1,290.20
- Attractions – $890.18
- Disney (Magic Kingdom & Epcot)
- Universal Studios (both parks)
- Everglades Airboat tour
- Event – $85.19
- New Years Party at a Bowling Alley
- “Sports” – $162.33
- Mini Golf
- Bouldering Gyms
- 5k Race
- Cruise Activities – $130.16
- Movies – $22.34
A large chunk of our entertainment spending this month can be attributed to several theme parks in Orlando. It was Becky’s first time in any of the Florida parks, while I haven’t visited since I was a child. It was interesting to see which parts I remembered.
The highlight of our time in the various parks was easily the Magic Kingdom fireworks show. The production quality of that performance was insane!
We managed to ride nearly every ride across both Universal parks in a single day and followed it up by eating and drinking our way around Epcot a couple days later.
Visiting these parks is certainly not cheap, and there are not many ways to “hack” the price outside of sitting through a timeshare presentation (hard pass), but we made the most of the experience. Having said that, we probably won’t return any time soon.
Outside of the parks, we also kicked off the new year at a bowling alley right across the street from our hotel. We happened to find out about their New Year’s celebration when scoping out the place to bowl a game or two. A few games of bowling, a few drinks, and some time at the arcade made for a fun way to kick off 2019.
In other news, we also did our standard routine of finding local mini golf and bouldering gyms along the trip and even ran a Christmas themed 5k with family ahead of the holiday. Becky got a new personal best while I found out what happens to cardio if you neglect it for a year.
From running for 24 hours straight (50+ miles) in 2017 to struggling through a 5k one year later is about as polar opposite as you can get. Needless to say, I plan to get back into running regularly once we settle down somewhere.
Cruise activities included a visit to an on-ship Ice Bar that remains at a chilly -10° F to keep the walls, chairs, and bar from melting! We also played some bingo, darts, and billiards, but managed to stay out of the casino this trip.
Everything Else – $1,117.27
- Shopping – $53.61
- Gifts and Charity – $897.72
- Laundry – $30
- Storage Unit – $57
- Health – $4.65
- Cell Phone Plan – $74.29
The bulk of our “catch-all” category this month went to gifts and charity. Twas the season after all and we decided to send out Christmas cards to friends and family as well as give gifts to a variety of people.
The Christmas cards were hands off thanks to Postable. We designed the card and input everything online so they could ship them all out for us. We never even saw the finished product before one arrived in our own mailbox, but it turned out great!
Aside from a couple new items of clothing, everything else was fairly standard recurring expenses for us. Laundry was higher than usual because we had a pretty long stretch without access to free machines and the coin-op ones at the resort properties weren’t cheap.
The Running Total after 11 Months
At the 11 month mark of this crazy Gap Year Adventure traveling around the country (and beyond), we have spent a grand total of $40,296.
- Pre-Trip Expenses – $1,552.62
- Month 1 Spending – $3,743.55
- Month 2 Spending – $3,555.27
- Month 3 Spending – $3,796.40
- Month 4 Spending – $2,184.27
- Month 5 Spending – $2.895.11
- Month 6 Spending – $2,136.15
- Month 7 Spending – $1,605.04
- Month 8 Spending – $3,116.12
- Month 9 Spending – $3,640.03
- Month 10 Spending – $5,096.87
- Month 11 Spending – $6,974.05
As you can see from the monthly breakdown above, the last couple of months really launched our expenses into the stratosphere.
There are a number of reasons for this, but no decisions we regret making. The summer months where we kept our spending extremely low were bound to be offset eventually by other months in which exploring new areas comes at a high cost.
I expect the final and 12th month of this year-long adventure to return to more typical spending as we start making our way back west, but who knows what adventures we might stumble upon along the way.
Overall, I’m still impressed we were able to spend far less money bouncing around the country, exploring new locations weekly, compared to our typical expenses back in Seattle. This trip should end up south of $45k in total expenses whereas the lowest we ever spent in Seattle was still over $65k!
It will be interesting to transition into a new lifestyle in a new city and see what our expenses do next. We’ve discovered the benefits of having minimal possessions and living on the road, but there are also aspects of living in one place that we miss.
Only one month remaining before we begin the next chapter of our lives together!
As always, be sure to follow us on Instagram for some of the best photos from our adventure.
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We hopped on an airboat in the Everglades and got to see some alligators up close and personal. Our awesome tour guide Rick taught us about the area (not a swamp!) and we saw about a dozen gators sunbathing in the wild. We even got to hold a baby one at the end of our tour! 🐊🐢💨🚤 ☀️#cooperstownairboats #gatorcountry #evergladesnationalpark #welcometomiami #gapyear #moneymetagame