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Spending The Dough Already

Yesterday, I had a little spending spree. I finally broke down and bought plane tickets for a few more legs of the trip. Before, I'd only purchased tickets from Charlotte, NC, to Lisbon. I figured that I would watch ticket prices carefully and get them at key moments of cheapness. Well, over the past month I've been watching a slow but incremental increase in prices, and since we are only about six weeks from our departure from Barcelona to Warsaw, it seemed prudent to just go ahead and buy tickets for that flight.

Next, I bought tickets from Berlin to Istanbul. This may require a little more explanation. One reason that I haven't purchased plane tickets to most places is because I don't want to limit our flexibility of our plans. That has worked out well. For example, we've made plans to meet a few friends from Tucson on September 25 in Barcelona, which is after the date that I had initially planned on flying out, which would have prevented us from meeting them. By holding off on buying tickets, I was able to adjust our plans to accommodate something like meeting people. Now, though, plans are seeming to coalese a little bit, so I'm feeling more comfortable making more definite limitations, such as plane tickets. So, we will be in Spain now until the 26th of September, upon which date we will head up to Poland, where we will explore until we spend the night of the 3rd of October in Berlin, Germany. That is so we can catch a flight the next morning to Istanbul.

To explain this new addition to our country count, there is a nurse in the unit I worked at in Tucson, who came back after a couple of weeks of vacation. I didn't know where she'd gone, and was pretty interested in hearing about her vacation in Turkey. She really had nothing but good things to say about Turkey. I looked at a map of our route and noticed that Istanbul is en route from Berlin to Bangkok, albeit a layover, which is fine with us. Then I ran the numbers, and it turns out that adding a stopover in Istanbul only costs $50 for each of us in additional plane costs. So, we're getting a week in Turkey. Maybe even longer than that, since I haven't gone as far as purchase tickets into Thailand yet.

Since I had the card out, I went ahead and purchased a Eurail pass for the two of us in Spain and Portugal. We're planning on going some distance to see different cities, and train travel in Europe is notoriously expensive. We will only get four days of train travel with Spain and Portugal, and it still cost $300 each. That's as much as I paid for flights to Istanbul for the both of us. Seems a little ludicrous, but the alternative would be to pay anywhere from $40 to $150 each for every train ride we took in Spain, which would have eventually cost around $500 each. In that sense, it is a bargain.

One thing that I found with buying tickets for trains and planes is that it is more economical to buy them online in the US on websites based in the US. I called the credit card companies and asked what their foreign transaction fees were, which I found out to be 3%. So, it you spend $300 on flights on a foreign website, say BalticAir, you have to factor in an additional $9 in fees just with the credit cards, which makes a difference when you are crunching costs as much as possible for everything to make this trip fit in a certain budget. On the other hand, buying the same tickets through a website such as Orbitz, even with their fee attached, is often approximately the same as the costs before you added in the credit card fees.

Finally, I went ahead and purchased our travel insurance. This cost about $350 for the two of us for five full months. This is an absolute for any travelers, because not only can it save your trip when your bag gets stolen or the airlines try to screw you, but also because in any instances of injury, you will receive the best treatment a country can provide, and if it isn't enough, you will be evacuated back to the US for care. Try putting that cost on the credit card.

So, in addition to the costs we've already had, including bags, Lonely Planet guides, and those sorts of things, we've managed to spend a fair amount already. That just makes it more important to fully anticipate costs while abroad and follow a solid budget. It's possible to have a lot of fun and to not end up broke at the end. Those who know me well can attest to the types of budgets I keep, and this will not be different; if anything, it will have to be more rigorous. All part of the challenge.

Until next time, be safe.


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