It’s been a busy six weeks in our household! We put a small for sale sign in the yard a few weeks ago and two days later we had an offer on our house. I’ll write a post about that in a few weeks (after we get a closing date!) And to add a little more excitement to our lives, we are (quickly) planning our first retirement trip! We’ll be off to Colorado for a 16-day adventure in early September.
Did you read Mr. Money Mustache’s latest post about the MMM World Headquarters Building? Sounds like an awesome space with some really cool features! But more importantly, it has a wonderful mission focusing on community, connecting, learning, sharing, fitness, fun, and adventure. These align pretty closely with the habits I’m building this year too: Keep moving. Eat real food (drink craft beer?) Help others. Simplify. Keep learning. Explore. Choose happiness and have fun.
MMM explained that he’s ready to host his first philanthropic event at his HQ: a free 9-day course put on by the UK-based Pop Up Business School. I read the description of the course and thought it would be a great learning opportunity. We have a rental business, yet neither of us had any kind of business training. And now that I’ve left full-time work, I have a bunch of other ideas I want to pursue!
I clicked on the link to read more and that’s when I realized that we could really do this! Both kids will be off at college, the house is under contract, and we’ve hired a property manager for our rentals – so why not see if we can get tickets? I filled out the form and a minute later, we had reservations for the course! (And it filled up fast!)
And then I started second guessing it. We should be renovating our lake house (a former rental property), so that we have somewhere to live when our house sells… But we can always rent a place for a few months if we need to. Or maybe we could use our new shed as a “tiny house” until the house is ready 😉
It’s time to take advantage of opportunities! So, we’re heading to Colorado for what we hope is an awesome adventure! And it’s time to plan fast!
I thought I’d share how we plan on travel hacking and saving money on this trip and ask for your help! I wouldn’t call us beginner travel hackers anymore, but we definitely have more to learn. We stick to what works for us – so maybe you will see other places where we can save points, miles, or dollars!
We thought about driving but a 24-hour drive each way would put wear and tear on our vehicle and more importantly – on us! We have a Southwest Companion Pass, so we will be flying into Denver (less than an hour from Longmont.) We transferred 36,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (which we earn from our Chase Sapphire, Ink, and Freedom cards) to our Southwest account and booked the tickets. We used a total of 35,236 points and paid $22.40 in fees for the flights for the two of us. (This still left us with over 300,000 UR points in our accounts!)
*Important point – We could have saved about 10,000 points by taking early morning flights but that involved getting up in the middle of the night to get to the airport or staying at an airport hotel at both ends of the trip. That would add an additional cost – dollars for the hotel and in sleep – which is just as important. We chose to use more of our points to take an 11:00 am flight to Denver and a 3:30 pm flight home. We felt these were the best times for us and they are also the fastest flight options both ways (about 6 hours with one stop). Don’t always choose the “cheapest” flights. They may add hours to your travel day and cost you more in the end.
Parking at an off-airport lot is $65.00. (If we picked the early morning flight, we could have booked an “stay, fly, & park” package in an airport hotel for $99.) Uber and Lyft just started in our area too! I checked the estimate for a round-trip airport ride and it would have been about $100. We’ll just park offsite and save some money.
We’ll need a rental car too. We usually choose a compact/economy car, but we want some extra room (and seats that fold down) – so we’re thinking about a mid-size SUV. I compared the rates on a few sites and the cheapest I could find was $527. BUT I also checked the Chase UR portal and the price was $510 or 34,000 points or a combination of points/$. Since we have so many UR points, we will use points and pay $0 out of pocket for the rental!
We haven’t booked this yet because we are also thinking of a mini-van over the mid-size SUV. That would give us even more room if we had bad weather. Any thoughts on that idea? It would cost us about 23,000 more UR points BUT we have plenty of those too!
We don’t know how much gas we’ll use, but $150 should cover it.
Transportation Estimate – about $250 (plus 70,000 – 100,000 UR points)
When we thought about driving to Colorado, we figured we would camp most of the trip. After we decided to fly, we looked at AirBNB, VRBO, and Home Away. There are some great options, but then we decided that we could probably camp even if we fly (and use AirBNB’s/hotels as back-ups if needed!)
It won’t be easy – but it will certainly be an adventure! Since we are flying Southwest, we can each bring two suitcases (for free) and a carry-on. That should be plenty of space to pack what we need and we’ll buy (or maybe borrow) a few things when we arrive. I’ll detail more on this in a future post. (We’ll need to spend some money on gear and maybe some shoes – but these are things we’ll be able to use in the future too.)
We plan on camping in a great recreation area about 11 miles from Longmont. Tent sites will be $20/night the first week (in-season) and $15/night the second week (off-peak). This will be our “base camp” during most of the trip. We’re estimating $200 for camping here.
The first weekend will probably be spent exploring Rocky Mountain National Park. We may bring our gear or rent a small cabin for a night. The second weekend will likely include a night in Denver at a hotel and two nights of camping near Steamboat Mountain and Strawberry Park Hot Springs. (If you have other ideas of what we should see – please share!!) We’re estimating another $250 for the weekend nights.
Lodging Estimate – $450
This is the category where we are likely to spend the most money. And that’s not because we enjoy eating out that much. With just a cooler and a small camp stove, we will try to just keep it simple for most meals. If you have any suggestions here – share away!
There are at least 20 craft breweries in the Longmont area, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find some happy hour fun. And it’s important to support local businesses too! 😊
We are going to estimate $50/day here or $800 for the trip. And that’s more than we spend in a month for a family of four. (And remember, we’d still be spending some of this money ($200-300) if we skipped the trip and stayed home.)
Food/Beverage Estimate – $800
For the 9 days in Longmont, we’ll be spending six hours/day at the MMM Headquarters for the Pop Up Business School course. And this is free to us! (It is sponsored by MMM, Treehouse Learning, Bluehost, and Betterment Investing.)
We also plan on doing a lot of hiking and sightseeing in the area. This should all be very low/no cost. Again – if you’ve been in this area – feel free to share some places for us to visit! I know we’ll get a ton of great ideas from the local participants during the course – but we’d love your ideas too!
We may try to catch a Denver Rockies baseball game the second weekend we’re there. They have Brewfest at the park and tickets (including beer tastings and seats) are $30. A pretty reasonable night out! We’re also open to some fun summer activities at the local ski resorts. We know there will be costs to those but we’re happy to pay to do some things we’ve never done before.
Activities Estimate – $300
At this point, we haven’t really had time to think of too many things we might need to buy on or for the trip. So we’ll add $200 for this category and make notes as we think of things. (A larger Styrofoam cooler, etc…)
Miscellaneous Estimate – $200
**TOTAL ESTIMATE FOR TRIP – about $2000. Or the same amount we saved by DIY’ing the refinish of our hardwood floors last month!
Since we’ve never used a budget at home or for travel, feel free to help me with what I am missing (or over/under-estimating!) We know that camping for two weeks could be a real stretch and that we may choose to get a hotel for a night or two during the week. We have plenty of banked points/miles to cover that too.
This is going to be a great exercise in minimalism and we’re up for a fun challenge! I looked at the average weather in the area during the first part of September and it looks like sunshine and mid-80’s during the day with chilly nights in the 40’s! We’ll keep our fingers crossed because that’s our FAVORITE kind of weather!
Thanks for reading and sharing any meal ideas, travel hacks, budget thoughts, camping suggestions, or places we need to check out in Colorado! We’ll share more about our trip soon! Off to start renovations on our lake house… Not a quiet moment here this summer!
*Photo credit: firstname.lastname@example.org because we don’t have any of our own yet 😉