32 hours total. 18 on the road. 10 in a hotel. 4 listening to the sweet, acoustic jams of Ben Harper. And all sans baby.
That should give you a glimpse into our recent half-weekend getaway to Denver. Hopefully that’s not our new reality of vacationing, but on this particular occasion, it meant the difference in going or not going.
At first glance, it might look and sound spontaneous and a bit haphazard, but you’d be wrong. This trip was actually 20 months in the making. While we were living in Boston, I saw that Ben Harper had announced an east coast acoustic tour. Ben Harper was the soundtrack of my formative teenage years and Joanna had never seen him live, so it was an easy splurge-decision. On the on-sale date, I was able to snag fifth row general admission seats, entered my plastic digits, and did a silent fist pump at work.
So what does that have to do with the concert in Denver you ask? Welll… long story short, we moved from Boston to North Carolina, angrily sold the tickets (at a profit), and ten months later, moved from North Carolina to Utah. When I saw a west coast acoustic tour was scheduled, I purchased two tickets to his Denver show, knowing that I could always sell them if my high hopes never materialized. After a couple nights of hardcore scheming in late October, we found a way (and a suitable budget) to make it work.
I thought it’d be fun to share our total expenses from our trip, offering both a sense of how we spend our money and, maybe more importantly, how we don’t spend our money. So here’s our 32-hour vacation spending breakdown:
Unlike the Boston show, this one wasn’t general admission. And while my Ben Harper Spotify playlist was screaming at me to splurge on the $75 lower-level seats, my Mint.com account reasoned with me and I went for the $42.50 upper-level loge seats (which were still great seats, might I add). And don’t get me started on the $27 in extra Ticketmaster “fees.” They’re probably as popular as al Qaeda, right?
$112 / two loge (which is a really weird word) seats
When I was crunching the numbers, the biggest question mark was how we would get there. I started my search with Southwest, since that’s our current reward travel credit card of choice. The cheapest round trip flight from SLC to DEN was around $200/person. Kayak’s results weren’t much better, so I figured $400 total and door-to-hotel door travel time of 5.5 hours. We’d also have to rent a car which would add another $30-$40 to the total. I did some quick mental math and realized we’d pay a fraction of that cost by driving the 1000-mile round trip. And since I had recently driven the same route on my trip from NC to UT, I knew that the I-70 was one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the country. So this decision was a no-brainer.
$101 / three gas station fill ups, 37 mpg/avg., lots of time to talk about how much we missed our little girl
Using the same tactics I outlined in our How to Get Priceline Deals post, I snagged a Friday night stay at a 3-star Best Western Plus for $41 using Priceline’s Name Your Own Price feature. Pros: cheap, 10-minute drive to the downtown concert venue, free continental breakfast. Cons: they only had two-bed rooms available at check-in (which is the first Priceline booking that’s ever gone awry), $12 in Priceline fees. But since we were only there a night, we were all smiles about the dough we were saving.
$53 / one-night stay at a 3* hotel and 1.5* (free) breakfast
We’re simpletons when it comes to food. In fact, we’re probably the opposite of foodies. I still pronounce quinoa “quee-no-ah,” which I’m pretty sure is right. We’re also pretty frugal, so eating out isn’t an expensive affair. We allowed ourselves one “nice meal,” which translated to Panera Bread. Fancy, eh? We meant to find a nicer restaurant, but we opted for a quick cat nap at the hotel before the show instead. Our other meals consisted of Wendy’s, Arby’s, and 7-Eleven. We know… our bodies hate us.
$50 / a few burgers, a few regrets, but on budget
This was clearly the most crucial component of all. Could we have survived the trip with our Baby Girl? Maybe. Would we have enjoyed it? Absolutely not. We gave a road trip a test-go to Hilton Head while we lived in North Carolina. It was about half the distance as the Denver trip, and we had to stop four extra times each leg to address her needs. At the end of the trip, she cried and yelled for an hour straight. By the time we pulled into our garage, we were well beyond the point of sanity. That doesn’t mean we won’t try it again, but our wounds (and eardrum damage) is still too fresh. Lucky for us, we have wonderful, awesome family nearby that offered to watch her. One sister took a day shift, while another took over at night through the next afternoon.
$0 / best sisters evarrr!
Nada. I usually set cruise control about 4-6 mph higher than the speed limit and promptly lower it when I see good hiding spots. To date, I’ve never had an issue — knock on Highway Patrol-repellant wood.
I like round budget numbers, so we were originally gunning for $300. A few bags of sunflower seeds and an unaccounted downtown Denver paid parking lot charge put us over. But in the end, the total felt worth the cost — especially since we let our frugal flag fly in almost every possible spending category.
And as if this post wasn’t long enough already, here’s a photo and video from the trip.
This doesn’t do the I-70 justice at all.
Here’s a clip from the show (but not our seats).
So now the part that makes this blog fun: how would your trip budget be different? Would you even consider a trip this crazy and short? Where would you have splurged and where would you have cut back?