Denver Vacation Budget

Photo of Denver courtesy of Matt Santomarco

Originally written in April 2015

We recently got back from a much needed vacation to Denver. I love vacations and we try to take one each year. Until this year, we’d never budgeted for it. We’ve almost always gone with family and so we knew a lot would be paid for or split up by cooking at the house, etc. Not budgeting for it has always led us to being pretty short on money once we got back. Just looking at our bank account to determine how much money is in there and going from there has never worked for us. So, this time, since we were on our own, we decided to actually put away money each month for a trip.
I started putting money aside for a vacation a few months ago. We had a little over $850 saved to spend on it. While we did go over, it wasn’t nearly as bad because we’d already planned for most of it. We get paid tomorrow and more money will go in the vacation fund and cover what we overspent. While this isn’t the way I’d like to always do it, it’ll work fine this time.
We didn’t have to pay for our plane tickets because we had Southwest credits from a trip we canceled last August.
We had Hyatt gift cards to cover almost all of our hotel and we decided to stay about 20 minutes outside of downtown Denver to save over $100 a night.
A couple of days before we left we tried to win tickets to the DSTILL Expo/Showcase that was happening while we were there. Neither of us won nor were we willing to shell out $50 a ticket. At lunch when we got to Denver, Weston, who NEVER tweets, tweeted about being in Denver and the main Visitors Center (@visitDenver) tweeted him back asking how we were enjoying Denver so far. They then offered us FREE tickets to DSTILL for that night and we immediately took them up on the offer! It worked out wonderfully, and we got to try a bunch of different Scotch/Whisky/Bourbon, local coffees, local restaurant foods, and craft cocktails all for the price of parking!
We had planned to do more hiking than we did, but we weren’t greeted with the best weather. We did go to Red Rocks and hiked there one day. And our last full day we went to church with Weston’s old youth pastor and his family, went to lunch with them, and then met back up with them to hang out more that evening.
On our way home, our flight was delayed. They needed people to volunteer to take a later flight (at this point it’d only be an additional 30 minutes of waiting). They offered a $300 voucher per person plus the cost of that one way ticket ($98). We we each walked away with $398 in Southwest vouchers! We’d call that a win.
Things we’d do differently:
1. Better budgeting for parking. We were running a tiny bit late when leaving Houston so we parked in the extra close parking which was $19 a day instead of parking further out for $10 a day. Parking downtown was always expensive since most of it was done by a daily rate and we were never down there all day.
2. Spending less money on super nice dinners and more on experiences (if the weather allowed)
After it was all said and done, the trip cost us about $1250 out of pocket. If you take into consideration that we both came out with almost $400 in travel credits for our next trip, we did this trip pretty well.
What are your strategies for vacationing? Are you a travel hacker or do you just try to plan and save?

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